Whether you're working out first thing in the morning or after a long day of work, jumping into a high-intensity workout may not seem too inviting. But structuring your high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into a ladder is one way to ease into tougher sessions.
Built by Carolina Araujo, certified personal trainer, this 20-minute ladder workout starts with 3 reps of each exercise, followed by a 20-second rest. Then, you'll do each move for 4 reps, followed by a 20-second recovery. After that, you'll do 5 reps and so on until you hit the 20-minute mark.
As your total number of reps gets higher, feel free to extend your rest intervals by 5 or 10 seconds, Araujo says. "But remember, the goal is to keep your heart rate up, so don't let your rest periods get too long."
For bonus points, jot down how high your reps got. Then, next time you perform the workout, try and beat your record.
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Move 1: Body-Weight Squat
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to squat down. Focus on lowering your body as if you were going to sit on a chair.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor or as low as you can go comfortably while maintaining good form. Your knees should be over your toes and your gaze should be straight ahead.
- Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
- On an exhale, reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing.
- As you stand, lower your arms back to your sides.
Move 2: High Knees
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Drive your right knee toward your chest and quickly place it back on the ground.
- Follow it immediately by driving your left knee toward your chest.
- Continue to alternate knees as quickly as you can.
For this exercise, raising your right and left knee counts as one rep, Araujo says. So, technically, you'll be doing 6 high knees total, followed by 8, followed by 10 and so on.
Move 3: Mountain Climber
- Start in a high plank, balancing on your palms and toes with your body in a straight line from heels to hips to head. Keep your palms under your shoulders and your back in a neutral position.
- On an exhale, engage your core and drive your right knee up toward your chest.
- Return your right knee to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side, driving your left knee to your chest.
- Alternate between right and left as quickly as you can while maintaining the plank position.
As with high knees, driving both knees forward (right, then left) counts as one rep.
Move 4: Burpee
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and letting your butt drop down into a squat.
- Reach your hands forward, placing them on the floor shoulder-width apart.
- Kick your feet back to come into a high plank.
- Lower your chest and belly down to the floor, performing a push-up.
- Press through your hands to quickly push your body back up.
- Jump your feet back in, making sure they land wider than your hands.
- Lift your hands and press through your heels to stand.
- Jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead.
- Land gently and immediately lower into your next rep.
"If you want to make this exercise tougher, you can add a tuck jump at the top of the movement," Araujo says. Or to modify, take out either the push-up and the jump or both.
Move 5: Bear Crawl
- Start kneeling on the ground, palms in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
- Raise your knees a few inches off the ground, contracting your core.
- Step your right hand and left foot forward a few inches.
- Bring your left hand and right foot a few inches forward, too.
- Move in the forward direction for the total reps, then repeat in reverse.
To complete all your reps, you'll want to take three steps forward and three steps back, followed by four steps forward, four steps back during the next round.