MANHATTAN — As 2012 kicks off, I've been bombarded by questions about the best way to get fitness results in the shortest amount of time.
My answer? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) — my personal specialty — because it accommodates busy New Yorkers who want to get in, get fit, and get going.
If you're ready to get started, here's a simple yet challenging at-home interval workout that requires nothing more than a chair and the stopwatch on your phone. All moves are described with a special focus on proper form to prevent you from injuring yourself, and can be modified to make them low impact. And, like all new exercise routines, be sure to listen to your body and if you ever feel a strain, stop, rest, and resume when you're ready.
Even though it's only a 15 minute HIIT workout, it is sure to be fairly challenging for most people. Try to do this no more than three times a week, taking at least one day off between each workout to let your body repair.
1. Squats for 60 seconds:
Stand with your feet hips width apart and a chair or sofa behind you. Sit backwards into your heels so that your behind touches the chair or sofa very briefly and lightly, and then stand back up. Repeat this move for 60 seconds. Make sure to keep your knees behind your toes and fully straighten your legs on the way up.
2. Push-ups for 30 seconds:
Go down to the floor and place your hands on the floor so that the middle of your palms are in line with the middle of your chest. Straighten your legs all the way back so that your back is parallel to the floor and your knees are off the floor in a plank position. Focus on a point in the floor about 3 feet in front of you to keep your neck in line with your back, and lower your whole body as a single unit, keeping your stomach pulled in. Stop when your arms are bent into a 90 degree angle, and be sure your hips don't drop below the chest before you push back up into the plank. A modified version can be done on the knees.
3. Squats or Jump Squats for 45 Seconds:
Same as No. 2, this time you can add a little hop on the way up if you’d like to make it more challenging.
4. Triceps Dips for 30 Seconds:
Sit down on the chair or sofa and place your hands behind you, palms down and fingers facing forward, so that the sides of your hands are alongside your hips. Push the heels of the hands into the chair/sofa and straighten your arms so that your hips lift up above the surface. Move your lower body slightly forward and then bend your elbows so that they form 90 degree angles with your shoulder in line with your elbow, lowering your behind toward the floor while your back brushes the chair. Straighten your arms again, repeating smoothly for 30 seconds. To increase intensity, straighten out your legs.
5. Jump Squats for 30 Seconds:
This is your third set of squats and because it is the shortest, it is also the hardest. Try to move even faster and jump even higher when you straighten up from the squat. If you need to stay low impact just move as fast as you can and keep your arms over your head to get an extra calorie burst!
6. Plank on Floor for 30 Seconds:
Go back to the floor on your hands or your forearms. If you are on your hands, make sure that your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in a straight line. If you are on your forearms, your elbows should be directly under the shoulders. Step your feet back about hip width apart and hold your body in a straight line so that your hips and shoulders are on the same plane. Never let your hips drop below your chest to prevent injury. If this is too challenging, the same move can be done on the knees.
7. Jump Squats for 30 Second:
Same as No. 5. You can stay low impact if necessary.
8. Tripod Plank on Floor for 15 Seconds:
Go the floor on your hands or forearms into a plank, but this time take your legs wider than your hips. Try to reach your right hand and bend it behind your back without moving or lifting your right shoulder or hips. Imagine you have a cup of water balanced on your tailbone and you are trying to keep it from spilling.
9. Jump Squats With Heel Clicks for 30 Seconds:
This is the final set of squats and the most advanced! You will sit back into your heels the same as you have on the last three sets, but on the way up you will click your heels together in the air. If this is too challenging, stick to regular jump squats or low impact.
10. Tripod Plank on Floor for 15 Seconds
Go to the floor on your hands or forearms and repeat the same tripod plank you just did, but this time take your left hand behind your back without lifting your left shoulder or hips.
11. Jumping Jacks for 45 Seconds:
Do standard jumping jacks for 30 seconds, switching to star jumps for the last 15 seconds — those are regular or low impact jacks with an anaerobic push at the end where you jump higher or faster.
12. 10 Pushups with Wide Grip
Go back to the floor with hands wide and head up and count out 10 pushups. This can be done on your toes or knees.
13. Jumping Jacks for 45 Seconds:
Switch to star jumps for the last 15 seconds, same as before.
14. 10 Push-Ups with Narrow Grip (triceps pushups)
This pushup is a little more challenging for most people. This time you will place your hands close to your body so that the sides of your palms are brushing your ribcage. Relax your shoulders and lower your body towards the floor as if you were doing a chatarunga in yoga class, then push yourself back into a narrow grip plank. This move can be done on your knees or with hands on a chair of sofa to make it much easier.
15. Jumping Jacks/Star Jumps for 45 Seconds:
Same as No. 13.
16. Triceps Dips Using Chair or Sofa for 30 Seconds – Sitting back on chair or sofa, repeat the same set of triceps dips you just did in the beginning of the workout. Bend and straighten your arms, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
17. Squat Thrusts (Burpees) for 90 Seconds:
Squat thrusts are my all-time favorite move because they can be done so many different ways, with so many different modifications and they’re always hard! Go into a regular squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are behind your toes, then place both hands onto the floor just inside your ankles. Jump or step both legs back into a plank, and then lower into a pushup if you’d like. Hop or step both legs back into the sides of your hands and stand all the way back up into the start position. Repeat this move for 90 seconds. One way to make this much easier is to place hands on your chair or sofa instead of on the floor and step back and in instead of jumping back and in to keep it low impact.
18. Plank on Hands or Forearms for 30 Seconds:
Same as No. 10. Don’t forget to breathe!
19. Squat thrusts for 60 seconds:
Same as No. 17 — with or without a pushup.
20. Plank for 60 Seconds:
Hold the plank again after your last squat thrust.
21. Squat Thrusts for 30 Seconds:
Final set of squat thrusts!
22. Plank for 90 Seconds:
23. Bicycle Crunches for 60 Seconds:
The most effective abdominal exercise you can do without equipment. Lay on your back on the floor and bring your legs into a tabletop position, place your hands behind your head but keep your elbows wide and lift your head off of the floor. Now extend your right leg and take your right elbow to your left knee, glancing over at your left elbow. Then switch — extend your left leg and bring your left elbow to your right knee. Go back and forth at a moderate pace for one minute.