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5 Essential HIIT Workout Moves and Their Benefits

by Voices Wellness 27 Jul 2021
Photo: Unsplash

From burpees to commandos, you’ve probably done these explosive moves during your HIIT session. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they do for your body. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

1. Burpees

A staple in most HIIT workouts, burpees are named after US physiologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the exercise as a quick and simple way to assess fitness. It’s essentially a movement done in four parts: Move into a squat with hands on the ground, kick feet back into a high plank position, immediately return feet back into squat, and stand up. Variants are aplenty, including adding push-ups from plank, and jumping instead of just standing back up. Standard burpees, when done in succession, work to strengthen the muscles in one’s buttocks, legs, abdomen, arms, chest, and shoulders. Over time, it builds muscle strength and endurance in both the upper and lower body, using bodyweight for resistance.

2. Mountain climbers

Sometimes known as a running plank, mountain climbers start from a plank position where you alternate bringing one knee to the chest and back out again, gradually increasing speed until you’re “running.” Despite the daunting name, this exercise is accessible to most beginners and can be made more challenging for athletes. Overall, it’s considered a low-impact workout which strengthens bigger muscle groups like the hamstrings, quads, lower back, shoulders, as well as glutes. A good form of functional training, mountain climbers can improve your coordination and even help you become more agile. To fire up the core and quad muscles even more, try sliding mountain climbers with gliding discs positioned under the feet.

3. Jumping jacks

A popular exercise in plyometrics—combination of aerobic and resistance work, jumping jacks are an efficient way of working the whole body. Start upright with legs together and arms by your sides, bend knees slightly and jump into the air, spreading legs about shoulder-width apart with arms stretched up and over your head, before jumping back to starting position. When done in succession, jumping jacks work your glutes, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Plus, they strengthen the abdominal and shoulder muscles. For an extra challenge, try the press jack, a variation that has you hold a weight, medicine ball, or even soccer ball in both hands as you do your jumping jacks.

Photo: Unsplash

4. High knees

A common exercise used in warm-ups, high knees is a cardio-intensive move that engages your core, strengthens the muscles in your legs, and gets your heart rate up. Start standing with feet hip-width distance apart before bringing one knee to the chest. Then, quickly switch to lift the other knee to chest, continuing the movement by alternating leg and moving at a running pace. A form of plyometric exercise, high knees can help to build greater cardiorespiratory fitness and prime the body for activity like long runs or a HIIT session. Advanced athletes can speed things up with a sprint-like pace.

5. Commandos

This workout goes by various names, such as the commando plank, “up-downs”, and military planks, but is mostly one and the same. Start in a forearm plank position, push up straight onto one hand, followed by the other, to come into a high plank. Then, lower back down to forearm plank. Be sure to always alternate which arm starts first. While planks are a crucial component of any well-rounded workout regime, commandos in particular help to stabilise the trunk, as well as work the arms, chest, and shoulders harder than a traditional plank. Aside from the core area, this exercise also strengthens the back, shoulders, chest, arms, glutes, quads, and calves.

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