By Brandon Richey
I’m very aware that most everybody is hung up on the high intensity programs these days. Admittedly, as a strength coach, I have a love–hate relationship with this line of thinking. But one thing I’ve found is that adding in one or two HIIT workouts to your weekly routine can really rev up your fitness and even help break a variety of PRs where you feel you’re stuck.
Be smart about your progressions. Make sure you scale the intensity and volume to match your fitness and ability level.
Some training fads tend to get blown way out of proportion, and I’ve noticed a lot of recent negativity around HIIT workouts. What a lot of the critics seem to forget is that HIIT isn’t about trending or fads—it’s a form of training that’s been around for decades (think boxers and jumping rope)—it’s about building a stronger foundation of stamina and conditioning.
So the point is that there is a time for you to train for strength and there is a time for you to ramp up the intensity of your conditioning to push yourself towards your anaerobic threshold (this is what creates stamina).
The key to smart training is figuring out how to balance this approach within the fabric of your training program. In order to do this effectively you’ve got to learn how to undulate your intensity.
When I talk about undulating your intensity imagine a wavelength. In this wavelength you have high points and low points. These high and low points represent how you should manage your intensity by interspersing points in your training that involve greater volume and intensity with points that involve lower volume and intensity.
By incorporating this model on a weekly basis you will allow your body to recover so that you can achieve optimal performance. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts are great, but it isn’t something you want to implement 6 days a week with your ongoing training.
Here you would treat your HIIT workouts as the high point in that wavelength during your weekly training cycle.
So today I’m going to offer some of my favorite workouts to address some specific needs for your fitness. These workouts will serve you well for getting you into optimal shape whether you’re looking to compete in the ring, or to be in the best shape of your life!
I absolutely guarantee you that these will be a game changer for your performance. As an added bonus you can expect each of these to speed up your ability to blowtorch some unwanted body fat as well.
HIIT Workouts #1: The Jump Rope Skip Interval—Apply either a 3 to 1 Or 5 to 1 Interval
First of all, I want to preface by saying that this particular workout is not quite the HIIT interval in terms of all-out effort, but will serve your training well on a moderate level of intensity. However, this workout will serve your needs for helping you to build a cardiovascular foundation for the purpose of conditioning.
For starters, one of these reasons is that jump rope skips are a low grade plyometric and emphasize coordination and cardiovascular fitness. It’s also great for dialing in your body’s specific energy system for a variety of workouts. While you can have stamina but no energy and therefore still be able to output effort, it’s harder to do so with energy but no stamina.
That’s why HIIT training is so beneficial—it helps you create, and maintain, a higher level of both stamina and energy for greater gains.
Jump Rope Skips, Variation #1:
- Skip 3 minutes
- Rest one 1 minute
- 10 push-ups during the 1 minute rest interval
- Repeat for 10 rounds, a total of 30 minutes
Jump Rope Skips, Variation #2
- Skip 5 minutes
- Rest 1 minute
- 17 push-ups during the rest interval
- Repeat for 6 rounds, a total of 30 minutes
HIIT Workout #2: Kettlebell Swings to Sprints
As I mentioned earlier your energy systems vary across a spectrum that range from all out intensity and taper down to less intense, but longer lasting effort (read: stamina). So what about those effort demands that occur between these two spectrums?
That’s where this workout comes in. You’re working your musculature system (the swings) as well as your aerobic system (the sprints). The benefit of this is you build both stamina and strength simultaneously. This leads to an overall benefit to all aspects of training, including weight lifting. Many athletes forget that hitting a deadlift or back squat PR involves not just strength, but also how their muscles can aerobically react to the effort.
Before beginning this workout make sure to mark off 30 paces, or 30 yards of running distance.
- 20 swings with a moderately heavy kettlebell
- Sprint 30 paces/yards
- 10 rounds, for 200 swings and 300 yards in sprints
HIIT Workouts #3: 40 Yard/Paces Loaded Sprints
Obviously sprints and sprint variations are great for HIIT. For this reason I want you to try to progress up to more intense sprint work by eventually loading your body. So what do I mean by loading?
When I mention loading your body I’m referring to adding extra weight in the form of a weighted vest. With sprinting you are going to be giving all out effort for a distance you can cover up to the 10 second mark. This is so you can eclipse the peak of that ATP-CP energy system.
Note: If you’re not used to sprinting with a load, I want you to start without weight and progress towards being able to do so. Start with bodyweight only. When you can perform this workout easily with just your bodyweight, add 5-10 pounds. When that’s easy, add more weight.
However—ideally add no more than 25-50 pounds in total. Do not add on too much at once. Gradual increase prevents injury, especially to your joints.
Gauge if you’re ready to load and how much you should load by your speed. Your ability to be able to move with speed after loading is the determining factor of whether you should load or not. If you slow too much after loading then your load is too heavy. Your additional load should be matched so that the focus is on both speed and conditioning for your workout.
- Sprint 40 yards
- Rest 1 minute
- Repeat 20 times for a total distance of 800 yards
- When proficient, transition to loading
As a note, you may need to cut the distance shorter at first, then gradually lengthen.
When applying a pure HIIT workout to your training make sure you undulate the intensity to allow for sufficient recovery and to optimize your performance. I ended up including a progression of conditioning workouts here for you to essentially progress you up to a full blown HIIT workout.
One way you can effectively undulate your intensity is to cycle through workouts 1, 2, and 3 in the order I’ve presented here on your conditioning days and that will take you a long way in terms of your MMA and Combat fitness needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
Brandon also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.