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bodybuilder posingby: Jonathon Fass

I’ve noticed a trend in cardiovascular exercise, and High Intensity Interval Training specifically, that I like to call ‘The Forrest Gump’ approach. When a discussion of interval training comes up, the same advice is always given: run, Forrest, run.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this, of course. Running and sprinting are fantastic forms of exercise, and they fit like an Under Armour glove when it comes to high intensity intervals. But honestly, it’s pretty boring, too! Sure, it beats the hell out of the unimaginable monotony of performing countless hours of steady state jogging, but in the end it’s still just running in a straight line. There’s just got to be a more interesting way to burn a little fat, right?

Case in point: a recent research study looked at the changes in body composition of NFL players (specifically, the Indianapolis Colts) from the start of mini-camp to the start of summer camp over a 12-week period. The researchers found that even though these were already highly trained athletes, by following careful nutritional guidelines in conjunction with their strength and conditioning workouts, the players were able to lose body fat while gaining muscle! And here’s the catch: although their conditioning program certainly included HIIT-like speed work, sprinting was not the only thing that they did for their conditioning. Along with their sprints, these players practiced all kinds of agility drills to improve their ability to cut, shake, and spin their way out of the path of oncoming defenders. After all, an NFL offense doesn’t just run in a straight line as fast as they can until someone comes along and tackles them! Well, maybe the Texans do, but we’ll ignore that for the time being.

Even if you don’t have Tony Dungy running your plays, you can still incorporate speed and agility drills into your cardio sessions to mix things up and gain valuable improvements in athleticism that are not found in simple sprint training. Not only do you get a fat burning, gut-busting, sweat-dripping-in-your-eyes kind of workout, but you will improve your quickness, agility, balance, hip mobility and even flexibility, all in a few simple-to-learn exercises.

The beauty of the following drills is that you don’t even need a lot of room: a basketball court or even half of a tennis court is all that you should need, along with a few items that you can use as markers. Anything will work, from cones or medicine balls to rocks or even some rolled-up towels. Perform each drill for 15-20 seconds, then take a 30-60 second rest before repeating the drill. Perform 10-15 total ‘sets’ for each session, and end it off with some simpler intervals for a total, multi-faceted approach. So grab your stopwatch, do your best Barry Sanders impersonation, and get ready to have fun again in your workouts!

Alterna-HIIT #1: Lateral Suicides
1. Place 4-6 cones/markers in a straight line about 3 yards apart.
2. Turn your body so that your right arm faces the row, and assume an athletic stance (like a guard on defense in basketball, or a tennis player waiting for a serve).
3. Starting at the first cone, ‘side-sprint’ to the second cone by shuffling your feet, rather than crossing over your feet, and then side-sprint back to the start.
4. Repeat for each cone/marker in the row.

Alterna-HIIT #2: Weave In/Weave Out 
1. Place 4-6 cones/markers in a straight line about 3 yards apart.
2. In between each pair of cones/markers place another cone about 3 yards to the left, forming a zig-zag pattern.
3. Sprint from one cone to the next, touching each one with your hand.
4. Make sure to take quick side steps around the markers, rather than turning to face the marker and running forward.

Alterna-HIIT #3: Box Drill
1. Use 4 cones/markers to mark out a square 5 yards on each side.
2. Sprint around the square while always facing forwards. This will cause you to sprint forwards, side-sprint to the right, backwards, and side-sprint to the left during every trip around the box.
3. Make sure to shuffle the feet, rather than crossing over your feet, maintaining a low athletic stance.

$AD$

Alterna-HIIT #4: Lateral Sprint Shuffles
1. Place 4-6 cones/markers in a straight line about 5 yards apart.
2. In between each pair of cones/markers place another cone about 3 yards to the left, forming a zig-zag pattern.
3. Start at the first cone/marker and sprint forwards to the second cone/marker
4. Side-sprint to the third cone/marker. Continue until the end.
5. Turn around and repeat in the other direction, leading with the opposite foot.

Alterna-HIIT #5: Forwards/Backwards Weave
1. Place 4-6 cones/markers in a straight line about 5 yards apart.
2. In between each pair of cones/markers place another cone about 3 yards to the left, forming a zig-zag pattern.
3. Sprint to the first cone.
4. Quickly change direction and back pedal to the next cone, repeating at every marker.
5. Make sure to accelerate powerfully out of the corners.

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