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How To Make HIIT Classes More Efficient

Feb 12, 2020


By Chelsey Rose

I am so excited to write this blog because it is all I can think about every time I get about 10 minutes into one of my ClassPass classes.

If you're new and don't know much about me, I am a personal trainer at a boutique private training studio in LA. I went through a 6 month internship at my gym Show Up Fitness before I got hired and since then have been training women ages 25-40 at Show Up Fitness!

I freaking love my job because I'm constantly connecting with women, hearing what workouts and diets they've tried, and then I have the opportunity to teach them why they haven't seen results.

MOST women that come to me tell me that they do lots of cardio, yoga, H.I.I.T. classes like Barry's and Orange Theory and feel like they may have lost a little weight at first but then hit a stopping point. Or they tell me that they injured themselves in class so they had to stop working out all together. Or I hear that they may have lost weight but their big goal is to build a booty and reduce fat around the thighs and hips and just can't seem to make it happen.

Girrrrrl let's talk about all of that.

Today I want to quickly remind you that you will see the best results that you didn't even know were possible once you start incorporating strength training into your weekly routine + SMART H.I.I.T classes. (DM me at @chelseyrosehealth if you're in the LA or SD area and feel like it's time for a Personal Trainer that can help you with your strength training).

I know most of you are currently doing H.I.I.T. classes though so I want to begin to help you by giving you some tips on how to optimize your current workout classes.

TIP #1:


This can be on the rowing machine, on the tread, on a bike, whatever. Rather than giving 70% of your effort all class, it would be more beneficial for you to decide that you're truly going to go all out with everything you've got, 120%, for a fraction of the class.

For example: When I take a spin class, they usually give us 2-3 sprints towards the end of class. I go in knowing that I want to hit closer to 8-10 sprints throughout class so what I'll do is glance at my watch, and when I feel ready or when my heart rate is closer to 130bpm, I'll check the time and try to go ALL FUCKING OUT for 10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds, getting my heart rate closer to 180bpm. I usually start with 30 seconds and then bring it down to 10-20 as class is winding down.

Don't bother trying to sprint for more than 30 seconds. You'll likely get through 2 energy systems by the time 30 seconds pass and I want you to try to stay within your first two energy systems.

If that's confusing, check out my blog on sprinting here. It will make more sense once you know the benefits of interval sprinting.

So why is this better than going at a steady pace all class?

Well because when we do ALL OUT explosive movements, we tap into our type II muscle fibers and those are the muscles fibers that want to GROW. Also because when we tap into that first energy system, we burn about 36 calories per minute! Typically in classes we never go ALL OUT. Like I said, we give partial effort throughout the full 45-60 minutes of class and end up burning about 10 calories per minute. NOT BAD, but why not optimize it?

Another example is if I go to a place like Training Mate where they don't have treads or when the cardio bursts are scattered throughout the workout, I focus on giving my absolute ALL during the cardio sections. This tends to be battle ropes, bike, or row. And then I make sure to pay attention to the time since in their classes, you hit one exercise for 45 seconds before break so no matter what the instructor is saying or if the people next to me go all out the entire time, I'll go at a moderate pace for the first 15 seconds and then I'll give it everything I've got for the remaining 30 seconds.

Make sense?!

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TIP #2:


I understand that in a lot of group classes, it's the instructors job to show you something new, something flashy, and something that is weirdly hard so that you are entertained, sweaty, moving, and feeling like you're getting the best workout in the world. I always used to just do exactly what the instructor told us to do but now that I understand how to get results, sometimes I switch things up a bit. Most of the time instructors won't say anything to you so don't be nervous to kind of beat to your own rhythm during class. If they ask you why you're doing something, instead of saying “I think this way is better” haha you can just say you have an injury or something idk. Whatever.

So for example – If I want to really work on my legs during class and the instructor has us doing weighted bosu ball squats, I'm going to just grab a heavier dumbbell and do my squats on the ground. Doing anything on a bosu ball might seem harder but if my goal is to lift heavy for legs so that I can tone them the EF up, then it makes more sense for me to be on a stable surface so that I can safely lift more. Not to mention – if you've never grabbed a 40-60lb dumbbell for squats and tried to do as many as you can in 30 seconds – let me just tell you – it's going to be WAY harder than doing bosu ball squats with 15 pounds.

(Of course the term “harder” is always relative. What may be heavy for one person may be light for another person, so always do what feels best for you).

TIP #3:


If your back hurts then take it upon yourself to stop doing 383 leg lifts at the end of class and adjust to another core exercise that doesn't hurt you. Half the time these instructors don't even ask if you have any injuries (half the time they do) but if they don't then you need to make sure that you do what's best for you because well, YOU know best.

I once went into a Barry's class so that I could do SOMETHING while I was in physical therapy for my back. I went in just wanting to move, get in some cardio and do light weights.

I was walking on incline on the tread while the instructor had everyone sprinting and he came up to me and screamed into his headset to the whole class “you just taking a stroll over here??? Pick it up LET'S GO!!!”

I just looked at him and said “I'm good – thanks!” Like wtf. I get that it's your job to turn up and get the room excited but you haven't even asked me if I have any injuries, and also have no idea if this is my first workout in months. UGH it just drives me crazy.

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So don't be afraid to DO YOU. If your knee hurts when you're jumping, stop jumping, and be confident for your reasoning. Being tired and getting a shooting pain through your kneecap are two different things so let your regression be for a SMART reason and give it your all when you can.

TIP #4:


When you're not doing your sprint intervals and you're more focused on your exercise, SLOW IT DOWN. Catch your breath, find your core, stabilize, and get in adequate reps, not quick sloppy ones.

Literally soooo many of my clients are sore from their ASSESSMENT with me which is just the basics. We do some squats, reverse lunges, step ups, push ups, and planks but they're just not used to going slow and paying attention to form and what muscles they're supposed to be working that it literally feels like a brand new workout&and in a way it is!

But the great thing is that if you pay attention, you can incorporate this method into your group classes.

The step up for example – SO easy to do wrong, and SO beneficial when you do it right.

Here's what I do:

  • I do all 10-15 reps whatever it is, on one leg first and then I switch legs, as opposed to switching feet each rep. This way I really burn out one leg and my stabilization is better.

  • If you can get a higher step up and handle it, try that! Going higher than what you're used to will engage different muscles.

  • Don't launch off the foot that touches the ground. This makes a huge difference. You're supposed to be working the leg that's doing the step up so let it work! If I'm stepping up with my left leg for example, I will press the heel of my left foot into the platform as much as I can, slightly bend at the waist, tighten my core, and push into my left foot to bring myself up. When I come back down I try to only come to my tip toes on my right foot, then press up through my left foot again.

  • Come down SLOOOOW. If we can't come down slowly from a step up then that's typically a sign that your posterior chain (glutes and hammies) are weak. We should be able to control that motion so PRACTICE! It makes such a big difference.

TIP #5:


Similar to the sprint intervals, when it comes to weights, it would be better to give your all out effort for a short period of class rather than 70% for the entire class.

Something I always hear in classes that involve weights is the instructor will tell girls to grab 5-12 pounds and men to grab 25-30lbs. Or they'll say something along the lines of “girls grab one set of heavy weights and one set of light weights” and the girls always grab a pair of 5's and MAYBE a pair of 15's.

Like I said before “heavy” is relative to the person and to the exercise. 15 pounds may not be your heavy weight for squats but if you're doing tricep kickbacks, that's probably super heavy.

Challenge yourself if you notice that you're using your heavy upper body weight ALSO as your heavy lower body weight. I swear this happens all the time. This is why a lot of women will start to see results in their arms from classes but their lower body doesn't change much. Don't be afraid or too lazy to walk back over to the weight rack when you realize you could go heavier. If I'm in class I'll grab 1 pair of light weights for high rep upper body exercises BUT I'll also grab one set of medium weights so that I can get in as many reps as I can with those weights before dropping them and going to my lighter weights.

THEN I grab 1 heavy dumbbell for leg work like a 35 – 50 lb dumbbell so that I can use it for lunges, squats, hip thrusts etc.

Too often girls just stick to their super light weights and it's just not optimal. Why are we using the same weight for our tiny bicep muscle as we are for our glutes and quads which are HUGE muscles!

Just try it next time! And remember that when you have more muscle, you burn more calories at rest and therefore increase your basil metabolic rate!

All good things!

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