The 20-minute HIIT circuit that will get you fighting fit

High-Intensity Interval Training will get you both shredded in less time than your morning commute.
hiit circuit boxing climbing
Photo: iStock

For most of us, making it through the workday is deserving of a championship belt, so spending long hours at the gym to get in shape is just not going to happen. But does that mean you have to give up your goal of six-packs abs, boulder shoulders, or bulging biceps — or at least to look good in a tight T-shirt? Absolutely not, thanks to this HIIT circuit created by celebrity trainer and former super-middleweight champion Danny Musico. It can be done in as little as 20 minutes a day, so there really are no excuses to finally achieving that leaner, more powerful you.

Musico, a South Jersey native, has worked with NFL stars such as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and newly acquired New England Patriots wide receiver Kenny Britt as well as Hollywood stars such as Hilary Swank, Demi Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio. They all have packed schedules, like you, but he helps them get in shape in slivers of time by incorporating HIIT circuit work.

Ok, I’m sold. So what is HIIT, and what is a HIIT circuit?

HIIT —  high-intensity interval training — is a combination of high-octane bursts of intense exercise followed by low-intensity short rest. According to the Academy of Sports Medicine, the benefits of HIIT range from lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure to lowering body fat and maintaining muscle mass. A 20-minute workout such as Musico’s can burn as many as 250 calories, and with HIIT’s ability to raise metabolism levels, you’ll burn fat long after you’ve taken off the gloves and gone back to checking your work emails.

A combination of upper-body and lower-body movements in this HIIT circuit make it an effective full-body workout. Even better, it offers plenty of potential variation by mixing in different exercises and equipment. Don’t overthink it: Even a “rock and a stick,” will work, according to the former IBF super-middleweight champion now based out of Los Angeles.

Musico’s HIIT circuit: What you’ll need

This HIIT circuit from Musico is a five-round routine. Although you can mix in exercises and equipment when you’re used to how it works, this is what he wants you to start with:

 

— a pair boxing gloves

 

— a heavy bag

 

— a high-incline treadmill, like True’s Alpine Runner

 

If you’ve never seen this machine before, it’s a treadmill that goes up 30 percent incline — nearly twice as much as most treadmills — giving your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes a feeling as if they’d reached the summit of Mount Everest. If your gym doesn’t have one, you can use a regular treadmill with the incline cranked up as high as it will go.

hiit circuit climbing

Boxing is simply one of the most effective and physically demanding full-body conditioning workouts out there, which makes it perfect for this HIIT circuit. “It’s not about getting on a treadmill and just running on and on anymore,” Musico said recently at Manhattan’s New York Sports Club.

What you need to know about this HIIT circuit

It’s simple, according to Musico: “It’s about fat-burning techniques.” And who doesn’t want more of that? “These fast, explosive intervals use fat as energy, while at the same time helping you to build lean muscle mass,” he explains. “This is what boxing drills and the Alpine Runner workout were built for.”

It’s also flexible. If you’re game, you can always add time or rounds, but getting it done at your pace is key. There’s are only a few rules: When punching, keep the hands moving — either slowly or as fast as possible, but don’t stop. For hiking, keep it moving and challenging and keep the incline increasing each round. You can run, jog, hike, as fast as possible or slow as fast possible or slow, but keep moving so you can go the distance.

“Each round is about challenging yourself to keep the pace,” Musico says.

Musico’s HIIT circuit

Perform each boxing drill at a 30-seconds on, 30-seconds off pace twice per round. Move to the treadmill, where you’ll either jog or climb for 2 minutes. Take a 30-second rest in between rounds. The total time should be about 23 minutes. For more of a challenge, you can either add a minute to each circuit or go through the circuit for another round (or two).

Round 1:

Straight Punches: Imagine punching through a square placed chest-level on the heavy bag. Make sure to keep your hands up, with each punch going through and back from that imaginary square. There are no lazy punches here. Go all out as much as you can. “Speed creates power,” Musico says.

Alpine Jog/Run/Climb (2 min): Start at a moderate incline and either run, walk or jog at a moderate pace. You’ll be increasing the incline each round so begin conservatively.

30 seconds rest

 

Round 2:

Upper Cuts: With your knees bent, punch as fast as you can — between chest and waist level — using your legs, back and arms. Give it everything you have for half a minute, but maintain a smooth, consistent rhythm — no wild, flinging punches.

Jog/Run/Climb: Increase elevation by 3 to 5%

30 seconds rest

 

Round 3:

Left and Right Hooks: This movement will help develop arm and shoulder power. Keep your knees bent. and with a strong rotation at the waist, keep your punches between chest to head level. You’ll also feel the burn in your core and midsection.

Alpine Jog/Run/Climb: Increase elevation by another 3 to 5%. If you can, moderately increase your speed.

30 seconds rest

 

Round 4:

One, Two, and Three-punch Combinations: Throw a jab, straight right, left hook, then with a slight pause, reset and go again. Keep the punches as fast and accurate as you can, creating a snap at the end of every punch.

Alpine Jog/Run/Climb: Increase elevation by another 3 to 5%. If you can, moderately increase your speed.

30 seconds rest

 

Round 5:

Four-punch Combination:  For the final round you’ll throw a jab, straight right, straight left hook, then finish with a right hook. Go all out, this is it.

Alpine Jog/Run/Climb: Increase elevation by 3 to 5%. If you can, moderately increase your speed.

FINISH

 
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