Swap Those Ankle Weights for a Weight Vest and Sculpt Your Legs With This HIIT Workout

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Weight vests can make any typical HIIT workout more challenging.
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In just about every home, hidden in a closet or garage, you can find a retro pair of ankle weights that've been in the family since the '80s or '90s. And while ankle weights have a time and place, you'll definitely want to keep them out of your cardio workouts.

Ankle weights have gotten a pretty bad rap when it comes to exercise safety. But if used properly, ankle weights can be safely incorporated into your training routine. Instead of strapping them on for a run, though, treat ankle weights like dumbbells and use them for strength workouts.

When you want to add some resistance to your HIIT workouts, a weight vest is the way to go. But before buying just any weight vest, look for an adjustable option, says Mathew Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness on the NEOU App. You'll want to be able to adjust the vest until it sits snug against your body.

"Keep in mind is that the weight is loaded on your torso," Forzaglia says, "so your upper body will be heavier than your lower body, making you slightly off balance. Always remember to keep your chest up and core braced with a neutral spine."

Weight Vests We Like

Now that you're familiar with the basics behind the weight vest, give this HIIT workout a try.

Do: each move for the given number of reps. Rest 15 seconds before going into the next move. Repeat the circuit 3 times total.

Move 1: Step-Up

Move 1: Step-Up
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 16
  1. Start standing in front of a stair or bench with your arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your right leg up onto the stair and step up, keeping your core engaged and torso upright.
  3. Step back down.
  4. Next, step up with the left leg, keeping your shin vertical.
  5. Return back to the ground.
  6. Resume stepping up, switching the leading leg for each rep.

Move 2: Air Squat

Move 2: Air Squat
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 15
  1. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your chest up and shoulders down as you shoot your hips back.
  3. Bend your knees to 90 degrees.
  4. Then, press into your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.

Move 3: Pendulum Lunge

Move 3: Pendulum Lunge
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 12
  1. Begin standing tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
  2. Step your left leg forward about two to three feet. Bend the left knee to 90 degrees and lower the right knee toward the ground.
  3. Without pausing too long, press into the left heel and bring the left leg back alongside the right.
  4. Then, step your left foot back two to three feet into a reverse lunge.
  5. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees and lower the left knee toward the ground.
  6. Press into your right heel to return to standing and bring the left foot back to the starting position.
  7. Once you do all your reps (12) on the left leg, switch to the right.

Tip

You want to move between front and reverse lunge as fluidly as possible. To make this move more difficult, don't return to the starting position between lunges, Forzaglia suggests. Instead, move from forward to reverse lunge without touching the ground, balancing on your standing leg.

Move 4: Broad Jump

Move 4: Broad Jump
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Start standing in an athletic stance with feet shoulder-width apart, a slight bend in the knees.
  2. Swing your arms behind you, then swing them back up in front of your body to shoulder height.
  3. Using the momentum from your arms, press into your heels and jump forward as far as possible.
  4. Land with knees bent.
  5. Then, rebound quickly and repeat the motion into the next jump.

Tip

If you don't have enough room to do several broad jumps in succession, you can do one, turn around, then jump back in the direction you started from.

Move 5: Good Morning

Move 5: Good Morning
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 15
  1. Stand tall with a soft bend in the knees, feet hip-width apart and shoulders back, arms at your sides.
  2. Push your hips back as if you're touching an imaginary (or real) wall with your glutes.
  3. At the same time, lean your torso forward with a flat back until your upper body is parallel to the ground.
  4. On an exhale, reverse the motion and drive your hips forward to return to standing.

Tip

As you move through this exercise, think about pushing your hips back more than leaning forward. This will help activate your glutes and hamstrings.

Move 6: Box Jump

Move 6: Box Jump
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com/MathewForzaglia
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand facing a box or sturdy bench with feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Swing your arms back behind you.
  3. As your arms swing forward in front of your body, use the momentum to jump up onto the bench.
  4. Straighten your legs and come to standing.
  5. Then, step back to the ground with control, knees slightly bent to absorb the impact.

Tip

Before you start box jumping with a weight vest, make sure you can perform a box jump with no weight at all, Forzaglia says. Once you feel comfortable jumping with no weight, then you can try a few reps with the vest.

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