Facing the cardio machine doldrums? No matter how interested you were when you first hopped on the treadmill, at some point, it tends to grow old. You put in the time and effort, day in and day out, but eventually the treadmill crawl can feel like watching paint dry. In slow motion.
That's when you know it's time to crank the intensity up a notch. WBFF pro and Neon athlete Ashley Hoffmann just happens to be an expert when it comes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and she's here to share her secrets for a killer cardio workout. It'll challenge every muscle in your body and increase your cardiovascular fitness, while exciting your mind.
Here are Ashley's secrets to a great HIIT workout routine.
1. Never Use The Same Equipment Twice In A Row
Has the treadmill become your home away from home? If so, it's time to shake it up. "My HIIT cardio is constantly changing," says Ashley. "I tend to get bored using one piece of equipment, so I change it up over time."
By swapping out one piece of equipment for another, you'll keep your cardio sessions fresh and prevent your body from adapting to the same routine on the same equipment.
Remember that your muscles adapt to certain patterns and intensities, and as they do, your results will begin to slow.
2. Ditch Equipment Altogether
Too many people get in the mindset that cardio only counts if it's taking place on a machine. That's not true. Take the occasional break from stationary machines and challenge your body in other ways. "I use different approaches such as sleds pulls, 45-pound plate pushes across the floor, battle ropes, tire flips, and farmer's walks," explains Ashley.
Doing these dynamic movements will transfer into strength gains and improve your lifting. Cardio that has you acting against some form of resistance can even help you build muscle and strength.
3. Consider Your Training Objectives
As you plan out your HIIT workouts, Ashley suggests keeping your primary goals in mind. If you want to build muscle while staying lean or burning fat, HIIT is a much better choice than lengthy endurance sessions, which can work against your growth goals.
The same goes for on- and off-season training. "I reduce the number of intervals in my routine during the off-season," Ashley explains. But that doesn't mean you should let your training fall to the wayside. Just be sure to find a healthy medium.
"It's still important to keep some cardio in your program, to help maintain endurance and prevent you from becoming too fatigued during your lifting sessions, but too much cardio can mean you sacrifice your strength results," she says.
When Ashley's on-season approaches, and she needs to strip off any excess fat, she ups her intervals once again.
4. Fuel Up Wisely
Empty-stomach cardio is popular among many in the fasted fat-loss crowd, but Ashley likes to stay fueled. "I never perform any type of fasted cardio," she explains. "HIIT is very taxing on the body, so you need the energy from your pre-workout meal [in order] to perform at 100 percent maximum effort."
Ashley's go-to pre-workout meal for her HIIT intervals includes one scoop of protein powder along with oats and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
5. Boost Your Performance With Key Supplements
On the supplement side of things, Ashley knows what will help get her through. "A HIIT session is never easy, so I always use a pre-workout before I head to the gym," she explains. "During and after my session, I also always use branched-chain amino acids, which aid my recovery."
You want to treat your HIIT session almost like a lifting session. While you may not take in the degree of carbs and calories as you would after, say, a heavy leg workout, you still have to get in some post-workout protein and carbs to jumpstart recovery.
Adding in some post-workout amino acids helps amplify the recovery and growth process.
6. Never Skip Your Cool-Down
Finally, don't be in a rush to get out of the gym once your HIIT session is over. "It's very important to have at least a five-minute cool-down after any HIIT session," instructs Ashley.
"Be sure to stretch and foam-roll to prevent lactic acid buildup which, if ignored, can contribute to post-workout muscle soreness."
A cool-down only needs to take 10-15 minutes, but it will make a difference in how you feel coming out of the training session.
Ready to get started with a workout? Bust out of your cardio rut and try this HIIT protocol! There's no faster way to take your fitness up a notch while adding a new level of enjoyment to your plan.
Here's a one-week plan from Ashley that integrates high-intensity work into each session.