HIIT Strength Workout

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Get better, faster results with this high-intensity interval training routine that builds lean muscle from head to toe.

If you tried the interval cardio workout, you know intervals can help you maximize your workout time. The strategy: You push yourself hard briefly, and then you ease up to recover. Keep up this on-off, push-recover rhythm, and you’ll burn more calories and work more muscles in a short amount of time.

Good news: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) also works for building lean muscle efficiently. With cardio intervals, you’ll walk or bike faster and then slower. With strength intervals, you’ll do common exercises—curls, planks, squats—and then rest.

Want better, faster results from your muscle-building sessions? Try this HIIT strength workout.

How the HIIT Strength Workout Works

You’ll need a cable machine, set of dumbbells, and bench. If you don’t have access to a cable machine, try the suggested alternatives. And if you’re not sure which dumbbells to use, choose the lightest ones you can find. You can always go heavier if the moves feel too easy.

Warm up with at least five minutes of walking or this warmup routine. Then perform the workout below, which consists of three groups of exercises. Cool down with deep breathing and stretches of your choice.

During your workout, prioritize good form. Set up properly before starting any movement, move smoothly through the exercise, and continue to breathe. Even though it’s called “high-intensity” exercise, you never want to sacrifice form for speed or push yourself beyond your limits.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

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Circuit #1

Do 2 rounds

Perform the three exercises below in order, resting 30 seconds in between. After your first round, rest as needed. Switch sides as instructed, and repeat. Aim to do two rounds total.

Exercise #1A: Cable Press

Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds

Start with your left hand. Grab the high pulley handle of a cable station with your left hand, and face away from the machine. Stagger your feet with right foot forward, and hold the handle at chest height with your left arm bent and tucked to your side. Hold your right arm in front of you, and brace your core. This is your starting position.

With your left hand, push the handle forward in front of you. Pause, then slowly bend your left elbow to return to starting position. As you push your left arm forward, pull your right arm back to touch your right hip. That’s one rep.

Do as many reps as you can with proper form in 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. On the second round, grab the high pulley with your right hand, and stand with your left foot forward.

If you don’t have a cable station available, you can tie a resistance band to a sturdy anchor point at about shoulder height.

Exercise #1B: Cable Row

Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds

Start with your right hand. Attach a stirrup handle to the cable station, and grab it with your right hand. Step away from the machine so that your right arm is straight in front of you, and position your feet in a staggered stance with your left foot forward. Brace your core. This is your starting position.

Pull the handle to your right side, keeping your elbow tucked to your side and your shoulders down and back. Pause, then reverse the movement back to starting position. As you pull your right arm back, extend your left arm in front of you. That’s one rep.

Do as many reps as you can with proper form in 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. On the second round, grab the stirrup handle with your left hand, and stand with your right foot forward.

If you don’t have a cable station available, you can tie a resistance band to a sturdy anchor point at about chest height.

Exercise #1C: Goblet Squat

Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds

Grab one dumbbell. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and brace your core. Hold the dumbbell at your chest, cupping one end with both hands. Your elbows should point down to the floor. This is your starting position.

Push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower your body toward the floor, not letting your knees cave in as you do so. Pause, then push through your heels to return to standing. That’s one rep. Do as many reps as you can with proper form in 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds or longer if needed.

Make it easier: Skip the dumbbell, and perform bodyweight squats. If needed, use a bench for support. Check out tips to make the squat work for you.

Circuit #2

Do 2 rounds

Perform the three exercises below in order, resting 20 to 40 seconds in between. After your first round, rest as needed, and repeat. Aim to do two rounds total.

Exercise #2A: Cable Triceps Extension

Work for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds

Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Stand facing the machine with your feet about hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Holding one end of the rope in each hand, bend your elbows more than 90 degrees. Tuck your upper arms next to your sides, and brace your core. This is your starting position.

Without moving your upper arms, push the ends of the rope down until your arms are straight. Pause, then slowly return to starting position. That’s one rep. Do as many reps as you can with proper form in 20 seconds, then rest 20 seconds.

If you don’t have a cable machine, you can try a triceps kickback with a dumbbell.

Exercise #2B: Hands-Elevated Plank Taps

Do 20 taps, rest for 40 seconds

Stand facing a bench. Place your hands on the edge, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your knees slightly bent, move your feet back until you are at a comfortable angle. Your arms should be straight and perpendicular to your body. This is your starting position.

Holding your plank position, lift your right hand to tap your left arm, and return to starting position. Next, lift your left hand to tap your right arm, and return to starting position. Continue alternating for 20 taps total, then rest 40 seconds.

Make it easier: Skip the taps, and keep both hands on the bench to hold a plank for 20 seconds.

Exercise #2C: Cable Biceps Curl

Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds

Attach a straight bar to the low pulley of a cable station. Stand facing the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width, underhand grip, and hold it at arm’s length. Brace your core. This is your starting position.

Keeping your upper arms still, bend your elbows to curl the bar as close to your chest as you can. Pause, then lower back to starting position. That’s one rep. Do as many as reps as you can with proper form in 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds or longer if needed.

If you don’t have a cable machine, you can try a biceps curl with dumbbells.

Finisher

Choose a realistic number of reps between 10 and 30 for each of the following exercises. Complete each exercise in order, moving as quickly as you can—with proper form—for every rep. You only need to complete one round, and then you can cool down and stretch on your own!

Finisher Exercise #1: Hands-Elevated Pushup

Do 10 to 30 reps

Stand facing a bench. Place your hands on the edge, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Move your feet back until you are at a comfortable angle, keeping your arms straight and perpendicular to your body.

Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the bench, pause, and then press back up to straighten your arms. Keep your body straight throughout the entire movement, making sure to engage your abs and squeeze your glutes. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 30 reps, moving as quickly as you can with proper form.

Make it easier: Perform your pushups against the wall.

Make it harder: Perform your pushups on the floor. Or adjust your speed by lowering your body slowly and pushing yourself back up faster.

Finisher Exercise #2: Power Squat

Do 10 to 30 reps

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Raise your arms straight above your head, finding length.

Push your hips back into a squat as you lower your arms down and behind your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor, knees out, and chest up as you squat.

Pause, then push through your heels to return to standing as you raise your arms above your head. If you can, come up on your toes when you stand up. Do 10 to 30 reps, moving as quickly as you can with proper form.

Make it easier: Go slower, don’t squat as low, and only raise your hands as high as comfortable.

Finisher Exercise #3: Dumbbell Squat to Press

Do 10 to 30 reps

Grab a pair of dumbbells in each hand. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, and brace your core. Hold the dumbbells by your sides with palms facing in. This is your starting position.

From here, lower your body into a squat. Pause, then push your body to a standing position as you curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders and then press them directly over your shoulders. Keep your palms facing in during the entire movement. Make sure to push the dumbbells in a straight line above your shoulders, not letting them travel forward or toward each other as you press up.

Pause, then reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 30 reps, moving as quickly as you can with proper form.

Make it easier: Go slower, don’t squat as low, and only raise your hands as high as comfortable. If the overhead movement isn’t comfortable for you, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, but skip the overhead press.

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