Calisthenics and HIIT have been two of the biggest buzz words in fitness over the last few years.
Both claim to be able to maximise the results you can achieve, one for strength and hypertrophy gains, the other for cardiovascular conditioning and weight loss, while also being fun and engaging.
With people always looking for new and exciting ways to keep their workouts fresh and achieve results in a more efficient fashion, this has led to both methods becoming extremely popular.
The question is, what if you could combine both styles of training into a single workout, to create the ultimate, all round fitness experience that most have always considered a myth?
Well, in today’s article, we are going to look at how you can do exactly that.
How Do Calisthenics And HIIT Fit Together?
Calisthenics and HIIT (high intensity interval training) both hold significant potential as efficient training methods to enhance your physical function and performance.
HIIT revolves around using multiple different exercises in short bursts, keeping intensity high and rest time low. This allows it to provide a full body workout in a much shorter space of time.
It is also regarded as being the optimal way to burn fat, due to how your body reacts to the stimulus.
This makes HIIT a style of training that is ideal for people who have limited free time to dedicate to exercise or working out, as well as those who want to achieve maximum results in weight loss or cardiovascular conditioning.
Calisthenics, on the other hand, focuses on exercises that rely on using gravity and the weight of your own body as the resistance against which you train. This can be particularly useful for anyone dealing with issues like injuries or poor levels of pliability.
As bodyweight workouts have always been known as one of the most effective forms of resistance training, this makes calisthenics ideal for those looking to make gains in both strength and hypertrophy.
The lack of a need for any additional equipment also makes it a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to pay for a gym membership or simply desires the freedom to be able to work out anywhere, and at any time.
While calisthenics and HIIT are both incredibly effective when used independently, it is possible to create a workout that combines principles taken from both styles of training.
Mixing the two will provide a workout that sees you perform calisthenics exercises in high intensity intervals.
This means you will be able to burn fat, build muscle, tone up, and improve your cardio, all at the same time.
Even better is the fact you will be able to do it wherever you are, without any equipment, and in a reasonably short space of time.
Maximizing Reps With Calisthenics
The most important thing to realise about calisthenics is that form is incredibly important in each and every rep.
As there are no outside resistances, you need to completely focus on each movement, ensuring you are in full control of your entire body the whole time.
For example, when performing a pull-up, don’t let your body hang loose or jolt to create momentum. Instead, maintain tension throughout each rep.
This will help to create a better connection between you and your muscles, while also working muscles not directly involved in the current lift.
This is the best way to progress to more challenging exercises, as it works parts of the body that are difficult to train with more traditional lifts.
It also maximises the benefits of the entire workout, as you know there is no wasted motion or energy at any point throughout the duration of your session.
Benefits Of A Calisthenics HIIT Workout
One of the main issues with HIIT workouts is that people are so intent on pushing through as fast as possible that any thought about form goes out the window.
Now, while working at break-neck speed can have great benefits for cardiovascular conditioning and weight loss, it also means the individual muscles are receiving very little resistance and are unlikely to develop much, if at all.
By combining the two, you can still achieve all of these benefits, while also stimulating the muscles effectively enough to produce results in that department as well.
This makes a HIIT calisthenics workout one of the most efficient uses of your time available.
Are There Risks Involved?
There are always risks involved in any workout, however they may be slightly less in a calisthenic session.
This is because you won’t be lifting any weights that you could drop on yourself if you get too tired or off balance.
The main risks involved in a HIIT workout are caused by the fact that you are pushing your body to its limits, as well as working at a high speed.
This can increase the risk of injuries like muscle pulls or tears occurring, as well as the likelihood of accidents such as falls.
To mitigate the risks as much as possible, make sure to warm up your entire body before you begin and ensure you have plenty of space to work out in.
Can Anyone Do A Calisthenics HIIT Workout?
Most of the exercises involved in a calisthenics HIIT workout are common and straightforward. This means competency wise there is no reason that anyone can’t perform this sort of workout.
However, the workouts are quite intense, meaning a reasonable level of fitness is going to be required in order to complete the routine.
If you are unsure if you will be capable of completing the workout, perform one circuit of all the exercises at your own pace.
Whether or not you are capable of completing this should give you a good idea of if you will be able to complete the actual routine.
Complete Five-Round Calisthenics HIIT Workout
A HIIT session that incorporates calisthenic movements needs to include a range of activities and exercises, to ensure each of the major muscle groups in the body is targeted during the workout.
Most exercises should be performed for the maximum number of reps you are capable of in each set, while still keeping the speed up, as this is what keeps the intensity at its highest.
This differs from a traditional HIIT workout, where the intervals are determined based solely on time.
That said, your first session or two can be done at a slightly easier pace, as you acclimatise yourself to the style of training and work out what your own individual limits are.
The workout is fairly simple and easy to follow, using exercises that are common, which most people will have either seen or performed before.
In the beginning, there is seven exercises for you to follow, which will increase to eight as you progress.
Push-ups are one of the oldest and most iconic exercises around and are a fabulous method for working your chest.
Start off by positioning yourself on the floor facing downwards, supporting yourself on your hands and toes, with arms fully extended, torso straight, and hands shoulder width apart.
Bending only at the elbows, lower yourself until your chest is just a few inches from the ground.
Squeeze the pectoral muscles as hard as you can and use them to push yourself back to the starting position.
Chin-ups are a great way to work the back and the biceps.
Begin by gripping a bar above your head with an underhand grip, with your hands roughly a head width apart.
Using only your arms, bend at the elbows and pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Keep your body straight the entire time, with your core tense.
As soon as you complete the move, lower yourself back down until your arms are almost completely straight and begin again.
Bending your knees to keep your feet tucked up near your buttocks can be helpful to stop you swinging and for taller users who would otherwise struggle with their feet hitting the floor.
Bench dips are primarily aimed at working the triceps but also hit the lower pectorals as well.
Sit on the edge of a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grip the edge of the bench with an overhand grip and shift your weight so it is supported by your arms, with your hands behind you.
By bending at the elbows, slowly lower yourself towards the ground, going as low as you can without overstraining.
At this point, squeeze the triceps as hard as possible and push yourself back to the starting position.
Hold this contraction for a second before repeating for the desired number of reps.
Calf raises are an incredibly simple exercise for working your calf muscles.
Simply stand on one foot and raise yourself up and down, on and off of your tiptoes. If necessary, you can use something like a wall to help you balance as you get used to the exercise.
For an additional challenge, these can be performed on a step or elevated platform, with only your toes supported and the rest of your foot suspended in the air.
This lets you to go below the point where your foot is flat, allowing a deeper stretch and ensuring you work the entire muscle.
Glute raises are a good option for working both your gluteals and your hamstrings.
Position yourself in a reverse plank position, with your feet flat on the floor and your shoulders resting on a bench or flat surface.
Your body should be parallel with the floor and there should be a 90-degree bend in your knees.
Keep your feet and shoulders where they are and lower your buttocks to the ground by bending at the waist. Upon reaching the bottom, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and drive your hips towards the ceiling.
Hold and squeeze at the top for a second before performing again.
Single Leg Squat
A single leg squat is designed to work your upper leg, particularly your quadriceps.
Begin by raising one leg out in front of you and try to keep it as straight as possible. While keeping your upper body straight, you lower yourself down by bending the knee on your standing leg.
Aim to bring your buttocks as close to the ground as possible, making sure you go at least below the point where your upper leg is parallel to the ground.
Hold for a second before pushing yourself back to an upright position by contracting the muscles in your leg.
After completing the desired number of reps, switch legs and perform the same number again on the other side.
While it is best to do the exercise unaided, you can use something to help you balance in the beginning, while you are still building up strength.
Crunches are one of the simplest, yet most effective methods of working your abdominal muscles.
Begin by laying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands beside your head for balance but make sure not to make the mistake of pulling it forward.
Flex your abs and raise your upper body towards the ceiling, bending across the middle of your abs, as opposed to at the waist.
Ensure you keep your neck straight at all times and try to bring your elbows as close to your knees as possible.
Make sure to really squeeze your core for a second before returning to the starting position.
Sets & Reps
Each exercise in the workout should be performed back-to-back, with a 90 second break between them, until you have completed a full circuit.
This constitutes one set, at which point you will rest for a period of three minutes. You will then repeat this a total of five times.
On each set, you should perform every exercise to failure, although make sure your speed doesn’t drop too low, as this can cause the intensity to dip.
Additionally, crunches should be capped at a total of 25 reps per set, as otherwise you may find you spend too long on a single exercise.
As you progress and build strength, you will eventually add an extra exercise into the routine, that being handstand push-ups.
These should ideally be placed at the end of each circuit, although can be added wherever you feel most comfortable.
Begin adding them in gradually, only including them in the first set to begin with.
Add an extra set whenever you feel confident enough, until you are performing five like with every other exercise.
Handstand push-ups are quite a tough exercise and are incredibly effective for working the arms and shoulders.
Begin by executing a handstand, supporting all of your weight on the palms of your hands.
Your hands should be shoulder width apart, while keeping your body completely straight, with toes pointed towards the ceiling.
Slowly lower yourself towards the ground by bending your elbows, until your head is almost touching the floor.
Push back out as soon as you reach the bottom, as holding too long can make it difficult to complete the movement.
If necessary, you can perform the exercise with your heels resting against a wall to help you balance until you are comfortable with the movement.
Understanding Rest Periods And Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the body’s method of building muscle, and a good understanding of this process is essential for people who are attempting to build lean mass.
This means you need to be aware of all factors that effect putting the muscle in a hypertrophic state, not just the exercises themselves.
One of these factors that is often overlooked is rest periods. With some regular calisthenics’ programs, rest periods can last for up to five minutes before the next set begins.
While this can be great for strength gains, it is counterproductive for hypertrophy.
This is where the combination of HIIT and calisthenics comes into its own.
HIIT workouts rarely feature rest periods longer than a minute between exercises and three minutes between circuits.
By reducing resting periods, the person keeps their muscles engaged more effectively.
This helps to provide a more significant level of hypertrophy and keeps your heart rate up, contributing to enhanced lean mass development, muscle growth, weight loss, and cardiovascular conditioning.
A calisthenics HIIT workout is a fabulous, full body exercise routine, which provides everything from cardio and weight loss to strength and size.
It is a great option for anyone struggling with limited time to workout or people who hope to accomplish a number of goals at the same time.
While the exercises are all relatively straightforward enough that everyone should be able to follow them, the intensity of the workout means a reasonable level of fitness will be required for anyone hoping to complete it.
That said, at its most basic level, there is no reason anyone can’t get themselves in a place where they can utilise it in a reasonably short space of time.
So, with that in mind, why don’t you give it a go yourself today? Who knows, it may completely change the way you think about working out.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.