This HIIT Leg Workout Will Double as Your Cardio

5 days ago
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If you’re not into running or riding, getting in your cardio can be difficult, especially since many gyms are now closed again. But this HIIT leg workout—which you can do right in your living room—can play double-duty as a strength and a cardiovascular workout.

Choosing explosive, compound movements and doing them with minimal rest is key to turning typical “strength” moves into a cardio workout, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF.

“This not only gives you a quicker workout, but it’ll also get your heart rate up,” she says. That kind of aerobic exercise is important for a host of reasons—it improves blood flow through your body and your lungs, increases oxygen in your blood, and releases feel-good endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In the workout below that Fagan created, you’ll work your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings with high-intensity programming. You’ll start with explosive moves, like jumps and fast side-to-side movements—to really tax your muscles and get your blood pumping. By beginning with these difficult moves, you’ll be able to tackle them when your body and mind are fresh, making it less likely for your form to falter, Fagan says.

Then you’ll go into strength work, which presents a different kind of challenge by focusing on unilateral moves. Plus, since you’ll be working each side separately, your overall work period will be longer, which can really provide a solid dose of cardio.

All of these moves are challenging—this is more of an advanced-level workout—so maintaining proper form is super important, especially during the explosive work, says Fagan. If you feel your form start to falter, take the difficulty down a notch by performing the traditional versions of the exercises rather than the explosive versions (more on that below). Also, since this workout does involve high-impact jumps, you should talk to your physical therapist or doctor before trying it if you have any kinds of injuries to your hips, knees, or ankles, Fagan says.

Ready to cross off your cardio box with a HIIT leg workout that takes less than 15 minutes? Here’s what you need to get started.

The Workout

What you need: An exercise mat for comfort, a pair of moderate-weight dumbbells, and a bench or a step (or even a couch).

The Exercises

Superset 1

  • Alternating jump lunge

  • Skater hop

Superset 2

Directions

Complete the exercises in superset 1 for 35 seconds each, going from one to the other with minimal rest. Complete 3 rounds total.

Complete the exercises in superset 2 for 45 seconds on each side. Rest for 30 seconds between rounds. Complete 3 rounds total.

Demoing the moves below are Lita Lewis (GIF 1), a trainer and health coach; Amanda Wheeler (GIF 2), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength; Shauna Harrison (GIF 3), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; and Jeanette Eng (GIF 4), a NASM-certified personal trainer and actress based in New York City.

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