Is 30:30 the ideal HIIT format?

Find your sweet spot with this total-body routine.

While experts agree on the effectiveness of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), there’s no consensus on the optimal ratio of work to rest. That may be because the formula is different depending on your goals, says Anthony Scarlett, a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox in Santa Monica, California. When incorporating HIIT into strength sessions, Scarlett suggests 60 seconds work and 60 seconds of rest (60:60) with a light load for low-intensity intervals; 20:40 with a very heavy load is his go-to for high intensity; and 30:30 with moderate resistance hits the ideal middle ground. You rest just enough so that you're able to really give your all when it's time to push.

However: “During any kind of training program, it’s important to vary your intensity,” explains Scarlett. “Your work-to-rest ratio is just another way of doing that.” In other words, just as you vary your rep scheme (sometimes lifting heavier weights for fewer reps or lighter weights for more) and your equipment, you can use different interval formats to keep your body guessing.

Below, Scarlett demonstrates a plan that strengthens every major muscle group, but takes just 14 minutes to complete. A review of studies published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews revealed that people who did 14-minute workouts that included HIIT made similar fitness improvements as those who did half-hour sessions at a steady effort.

Do the routine up to three times a week, taking at least a day off between sessions to recover.

You’ll need two kettlebells and a medicine ball.For both, choose a weight that's moderately challenging. Do each move in Group A for 30 seconds in order, resting for 30 seconds between exercises. Repeat 5 times, then perform the same 30:30 intervals for 5 sets with the Group B moves. Finally, do the finisher for a 30:30 interval, and repeat 4 times. To decrease the intensity of the workout, use a 60:60 interval with lighter weights; to increase the intensity, utilize a 20:40 scheme with heavier weights.


Offset Kettlebell Squat

With feet shoulder-width apart, hold a kettlebell in right hand in front of right shoulder, palm facing left. Extend left arm to shoulder height out to side, hand in a fist. Squat deeply, then rise up to start position and repeat. Switch sides (hold the kettlebell in your opposite hand) halfway through each interval.

Rotating Plank Reach

Place a kettlebell on the ground. Get in plank position with right hand beside the kettlebell, hands aligned under shoulders and feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping body aligned from head to heels, reach left arm behind right arm; pick up the kettlebell with left hand, then extend left arm out to left side and place kettlebell on the ground. Return left hand to start position and repeat the entire sequence on the opposite side. Continue, alternating sides.

Single-Arm Floor Press

Hold a kettlebell in left hand and lie faceup with knees bent and feet on the ground. Place left elbow on the ground so kettlebell is above left side of chest, palm facing right. Extend right arm at shoulder level beside you, hand in fist. Extend left arm, pressing kettlebell straight up. Bend elbow to return to the start position and repeat. Switch sides (hold the kettlebell in your right hand) halfway through each interval.


Single-Leg Deadlift

Hold a kettlebell in each hand at your sides, palms facing each other, and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Shift weight to left foot, then bend forward from hips, lowering kettlebells toward the ground as you raise right leg behind you. Rise up to the start position and repeat. Switch sides (raise opposite leg) halfway through each interval.

Weighted Dead Bug

Hold a medicine ball with both hands and lie face-up on the ground. Extend arms overhead and bend knees 90 degrees, raising calves until they’re parallel to the ground, feet flexed. Lift head and shoulder blades, then extend right leg and lower it until it nearly touches the ground. Return leg to start position and repeat. Switch sides (extend left leg) halfway through each interval.

Bent-Over Single-Arm Row

Hold a kettlebell in right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than hips. Bend knees and bend forward from hips until back is nearly parallel to the floor. Extend right arm toward the ground, palm facing left, and raise left arm to shoulder height, hand in fist and palm facing the ground. Bend right elbow straight back, drawing kettlebell toward the side of your waist. Extend right arm to the start position and repeat. Switch sides (row with opposite arm) halfway through each interval.


Windmill Ball Slam

Hold a medicine ball with both hands in front of hips and stand with feet wider than shoulders. Pivot to the left as you raise arms overhead; then slam the ball down on the ground, catch it as it bounces up, raise arms overhead again, and pivot to the right. Repeat, slamming and catching the ball and then pivoting to the opposite side. Continue, rotating from side to side.

Photography by Sam Kweskin. Art direction by Kathryn Marx. Hair and makeup by Paige Smitherman.

Anthony wears compression pants from Wolaco, and shorts and top from Rhone, available at The Shop at Equinox.

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