Did We Create The Perfect @ Home Workout?

Exploring Intensity

Did We Create The Perfect @ Home Workout?

Seven years ago when we started working on Cardio High, our goal was to create the same workout as a high intensity sport like squash or running a 5k at top speed… but without the risk of injury.

We conducted a couple years of research trying every workout that seemed to raise the heart rate. Each workout had components that seemed to be effective, but most of them carried too much injury or impact to the joints. We selected safe movements or modified high-impact movements and created programming around short bursts of high intensity with brief rests in between.

This style of exercise is known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

HIIT works well in a studio with fan bikes and Woodway treadmills that help people quickly and safely raise their heart rates. But at home, during livestream workouts, we’ve been struggling to maintain 80+% of Max heart rate (hr), which correlates to being quite out of breathe. Most clients using monitors reported burning about 80-85% of the calories at home versus in the studio.

Until this week.

On Monday morning we did a workout that matched a good squash match. We burned 330 calories and had 18 minutes of 80+% heart rate max. The feeling at the end of the workout matched that of playing squash or Ultimate Frisbee.

What did we change?

We added a non-stop 24-28 minute round aiming to maintain 80+% max hr for the entire round. After doing a 10-minute warm-up and two rounds of slow to moderate strength and dynamic range of motion exercises, we launched into a 27-minute round of non-stop high cardio (low-impact) movements. Each movement was held for approximately 30 seconds. But if we saw our heart rate drop from the yellow zone (80+%) down to the green zone (70-80% of max hr) we would cut the movement short.

We noticed that once the body was warm and the heart rate already up we could do simple movements like running arms with 5 pound weights in stagger stance. This is a simple exercise that feels easy to do, and yet it helped maintain a high heart rate. If we needed to get the heart rate back up, we would go to a simple sure-fire exercise like running high knees while leaning on the back of a chair.

We closed the session with corrective exercise, yoga poses, a round of core and static stretches like figure 4. We repeated the same workout the following day, and thought we might be too tired or sore to do it again. But on day 2 we burned even more calories (345) and hit 21 minutes of 80+% of hr max.

Are we doing HIIT with this format? It feels more like steady state, but it’s healthier than jogging or riding a Peloton because the movement is so varied.

We should note that this style of using a long round in the middle of a workout is great for those who struggle to elevate their heart rates. We have plenty of clients who hit 80+% of max hr with a speed walk or even a squat to press. For these clients, their calorie burn will not change much as they would hit the higher (out of breath) zones in a regular 4-minute round of Tabata or other timing sequence. We noticed one client even burned a little less with this format as the ramp up is a little longer than just jumping into a Tabata round after the warm-up.

For a client who can hit the high zones easily, starting with a higher cardio round after the warm up will create a higher calorie burn by the end. But the middle marathon round is perfect for people who don’t easily get out of breathe and who want that elated, heavy breathing feeling from exercising at a high tempo.

This is a rough list of the high speed movements that we did for 27 minutes:

  • Lateral skip with ground tap
  • Chair lean butt kicks and hops
  • Squat to tippy toes
  • Mtn climbers on sliders
  • Carioca
  • Shadow tennis with 5-pound weight
  • Beach towel slams
  • Mid-weight speed curls
  • Upper cuts
  • Lightweight runners
  • Heavyweight piston rows
  • Dips
  • Hundreds
  • Push-ups
  • Step-back burpees
  • Hopping burpees
  • Chair lean high knees
  • Reverse lunge with rotation
  • Throwing motion
  • Crawls
  • DB swings
  • Nordic ski swing

Join us and let us know what you think.

-Mark G.