High-intensity exercise has become increasingly popular as more people recognize the benefits of cranking it up several notches. Contrary to common belief, long, low-intensity workouts aren't the only way to get fit. In fact, a study published in the May 2013 issue of "PLoS ONE" revealed that just four minutes of vigorous activity, three times a week, can provide substantial health benefits. Reap the health benefits for yourself by throwing some intense new workouts into your routine.
CrossFit is a challenging workout that's typically done in a group environment. These workouts push the body to its limits by combining high-intensity cardiovascular exercises, such as sprints and agility drills, with functional and Olympic-style resistance training. Functional training is that which prepares individuals for day-to-day activities, while Olympic resistance training includes the competitive lifts or variations of those performed during Olympic weight lifting competitions, such as the clean and jerk. Resistance training usually is done in timed rounds, encouraging participants to move quickly to keep their heart rates elevated. Because of this, CrossFit is an incredible calorie-burner. The lengths of workouts may vary, but the high-intensity nature means they rarely go longer than an hour.
Circuit training is an intense type of exercise that utilizes different workout stations. A variety of exercises and different types of equipment can make up a workout station, creating a total body workout. For example, one station may require a participant to complete 20 pushups, and the next will have them doing kettlebell swings. A circuit-training workout typically involves completing eight to 10 stations in quick succession. The only rest occurs during the time it takes to move from one station to the next, which keeps workouts intense and challenging. A great benefit of circuit training is flexibility -- you can create a circuit training workout with any or no equipment, and participants can work at their own fitness levels.
Boxing is a fun way to punch away your stress and frustration. The explosive movements used in boxing torches calories while providing an all-over workout. If you have access to a heavy bag and a pair of gloves, a boxing instructor can lead you through a succession of kicks, punches and jabs to elevate your heart rate and help you break a sweat in no time. For those who don't have boxing equipment available, cardio kickboxing classes provide a great alternative without the contact.
Swimming is an exercise that utilizes all of the body's muscles as they work the against the resistance of water. Perform sprints in the pool to get an intense, total-body workout. Sprint workouts can be based on distance or time. For example, you could repeat longer, 300- to 400-meter distances at maximum effort, with brief 30-second recoveries between. Or, you could repeat short, timed intervals consisting of 15 to 30 seconds of maximum effort, followed by a 15- to 30-second recovery.
Always talk with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine. High-intensity exercise isn't appropriate for everyone, and it's a good idea to have a solid fitness foundation before attempting such workouts. When beginning a new program, seek instruction from a coach or fitness professional to make sure you follow proper form workout principles. Poor form and an inadequate fitness foundation training in a sport like CrossFit can lead to injury.
- PLOS ONE: Low- and High-Volume of Intensive Endurance Training Significantly Improves Maximal Oxygen Uptake after 10-Weeks of Training in Healthy Men
- CrossFit: What is CrossFit?
- AceFitness.org: Circuit Training Basics
- Muscle & Fitness: Banging the Bag
- EXRX.net: Olympic-style Weightlifting
- USA Triathlon: Sprint Swim Workouts for Triathletes