If you’re at all into exercise you probably know about its benefits. Regular exercise provides a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, reduces blood pressure, decreases insulin resistance, increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels, improves your mood... And the list goes on. Despite knowing all of this and possessing a natural human desire to preserve your health (paired with wanting to look your best; nothing wrong with that), somehow it’s still hard to find time for exercise.
Even the American College of Sports Medicine, who recommends that resistance training workouts include 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise for each major muscle group with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between each set and 2 to 4 sets for each exercise, admits that such a routine can be quite time consuming. Not to mention in addition to including resistance training in your routine 2 to 3 days each week, ACSM also suggests acquiring about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity) weekly for optimal health and fitness.
Research has shown these guidelines to be effective, but unfortunately for some they’re just not realistic. If only we all had that much time for exercise, right? The good news though, is that there’s a less time-consuming alternative which combines strength training and high-intensity aerobic exercise all in one workout.
If you’re a time-constrained exerciser, ACSM recommends incorporating high-intensity circuit training (HICT) using bodyweight as resistance into your workout routine. Not only is it an efficient way to workout because it saves time, but it also requires no equipment, which means you can exercise anywhere. No gym or equipment required.
Also, studies have shown that it may have a more powerful effect on fat loss. In addition to revealing a large slew of aerobic and metabolic benefits, research has shown that large muscle group resistance exercises performed at a high-intensity and in an intermittent circuit style may have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat loss and that the accrued metabolic benefits can persist for up to 72 hours after exercising.
Sounds like a win-win situation for all exercisers. Want to include HICT in your workout routine? Here’s what you need to know to create your own workout, and to help get the ball rolling a sample workout that you can try, too.
Tips for Creating an Effective HICT Bodyweight workout:
1. Order your exercises so that you’ll alternate between opposing muscle groups. For example follow push-ups with jump squats so that you’re upper body can recover before going back to work.
2. Although there’s no ideal number of exercises that you should include, ACSM recommends incorporating 9-12 exercises that will target all of your major muscles during the workout.
3. Each exercise should be performed for an amount of time that sufficiently allows for 15-20 complete reps at a relatively high intensity. ACSM recommends performing each exercise for at least 30 seconds.
4. Rest time between each exercise should be very short. (Rest intervals that are too long will undermine the purpose of the high intensity aspect of the program.) According to ACSM, in order to achieve maximal metabolic impact you should rest for no longer than 30 seconds. (Yes, less rest makes your workout harder—that’s the point—but remember, it also makes it shorter!)
5. ACSM recommends implementing a program that will last for at least 20 minutes. That means if one circuit of your workout lasts about 7 minutes, you should repeat the circuit 3-4 times.
Sample HICT Workout by ACSM
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds between each exercise. Repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times.
Equipment needed: a chair
1. Jumping jacks
2. Wall sit
4. Abdominal crunch
5. Step-up onto chair
7. Triceps dip on chair
9. High knees (running in place)
10. Alternating lunge
11. Push-up and rotation
12. Side plank