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20 Minute HIIT Workout for Heart Health

Looking for a quick and effective way to improve your cardiovascular health for American Heart Health Month and all year-round? Check out this 20 minute HIIT workout to get your blood pumping and place you well on your way to a happier, healthier heart.

What is HIIT?

As American Heart Health Month comes to a close, there is still time to think about ways to improve your cardiovascular health. One approach might be incorporating high intensity interval training or ‘HIIT’ style exercises that include short, intense and unsustainable bursts of physical activity paired with short rest intervals. There are a host of health benefits associated with performing HIIT workouts several times per week. HIIT workouts may increase metabolism, reduce insulin resistance and you guessed it, improve cardiovascular function.

HIIT can feature a variety of movement types, interval duration and overall length making it a dynamic style of exercise that will encourage body adaptations and changes in composition. HIIT can utilize bodyweight movements, cardio bursts and strength training among many other possibilities. A popular approach is to perform a movement for 20 seconds on: 10 seconds off for anywhere between 4-8 sets per move, however, you can adjust intervals as well as the number of sets for the specific function of your workout (1 minute on: 1 minute off for more complex strength training exercises, for example).

HIIT and Heart Health

Since this workout is inspired by American Heart Health month, we should take a closer look at the relationship between HIIT and cardiovascular health specifically. Aerobic exercise has been clinically proven to mitigate the risk of cardiovascular disease. When compared with traditional continuous cardio exercises such as jogging, HIIT was demonstrated to amplify the positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Reported benefits of HIIT workouts include improved serum lipid profiles, blood pressure and inflammatory markers as well as reduced risk of stroke, acute coronary syndrome and overall cardiovascular mortality.

20 Minute Heart Health HIIT Routine

The goal of this 20 minute HIIT routine is to focus on building cardiovascular stamina as an effort to improve overall heart health. For this workout, the only equipment you will need will be a set of dumbbells at a light, working range for your current fitness level. There are 5 movements, 8 sets each, :20 on, :10 off. You may want to download a tabata stopwatch app to facilitate your HIIT workouts and there are free options available.

1. Burpees

Proper Burpee Technique (for a visual demonstration click here):

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Squat down and touch the floor with your hands.

Jump or walk your feet back so that you are in a push-up position.

*Optional: perform push-up or lower to the ground.

Stand up by jumping or walking your feet forward and pushing off the ground.

2. Dumbbell Thrusters

Proper Dumbbell Thruster Technique (for a visual demonstration click here):

For this workout, pick a set of dumbbells that you can comfortably move at an accelerated rate with.

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height with one dumbbell in each hand floating just above shoulder.

Dip down into a squat, maintaining elbows and dumbbell in upright position. Make sure your back is as straight as possible and that your chest is not hinging forward.

With power, push out of the squat and raise arms straight over shoulders to push dumbbells directly over shoulder.

Drop back down into a squat with control and bring elbows in line with shoulders and dumbbells floating over shoulders again. Repeat movement.

3. Mountain Climbers

Proper Mountain Climber Technique (for a visual demonstration click here):

Begin exercise in a plank position, hands under shoulders, body in a straight line without any sagging or exaggerated rising of the hips. Activate thigh muscles.

Bring right knee in towards the chest or right elbow.

Alternate movement to the other knee and bring into chest or left elbow.

Perform movement at an accelerated pace to increase cardio strain.

4. Dumbbell Pushup and Row

Proper Dumbbell Pushup and Row Technique (for a visual demonstration click here):

Start this exercise by selecting dumbbell weights that will allow you to move at a controlled, accelerated pace.

Come into a plank position with one dumbbell in each hand directly underneath your shoulders. Engage your core, glutes and thighs.

Lower to your degree into a pushup, somewhere around half way. Return to plank position.

Starting with the right arm, with control bend your arm at 90 degrees so that the dumbbell is in line with your chest. Do not overextend here. With control, return arm to floor underneath shoulder.

Repeat Step 4 on the left side.

Start the movement again with a push up, alternating right and left arm rows, and then beginning with a push up after both sides are complete.

5. Jump Squats

Proper Jump Squat Technique (for a visual demonstration click here):

Start with feet shoulder-width or slightly wider apart. Make sure your back is as upright as possible and that your feet are firmly grounded.

Lower into a squat position, maintaining an upright quality to your back. Try to get your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Bring hands into prayer position in the center of the chest.

Explosively jump up, straightening the arms and pushing them slightly behind you.

Land back in the squat position. Repeat movement.

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