It’s a HIIT!
Necessity is the mother of innovation, as they say. In our case, the necessity was to stay motivated to continue doing cardio training while cooped-up on COVID-19 lockdown with barely any exercise equipment. And the innovation birthed from necessity’s nasty nether-regions was a new, fun HIIT workout:
The Pantathlon involves strategy, unlimited variety, competition, and even some basic arithmetic. It pushes us to exhaustion, but we haven’t gotten tired of doing it multiple times a week. And we can do it anywhere with whatever equipment we choose (or lack thereof).
It’s not complicated, either. Here’s how to participate in your own Pantathlon HIIT workout.
The Pantathlon is a fun HIIT workout in which you choose 5 different exercises, decide a target number of reps for each exercise, then race to complete them all in any order you choose in 2-minute-on, 1-minute-off intervals.
How to Run a Pantathlon
Choose 5 of your favorite HIIT exercises. Check out our extensive metabolic exercise library (AKA “toy box of toil”) for inspiration. Search Google, Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram for an endless number of more ideas. Or start with our sample Pantathlons below.
Target. For each of your 5 exercises, set a target number of reps depending on your fitness level and how long you want your Pantathlon to last. (See the F.A.Q. below for more guidance.)
Write. Make five columns on a blank piece of paper. Write the 5 exercise names and target reps at the top of each.
Get your tools ready:
- Your paper with the exercises and a pen or marker to write with.
- An interval timer app set for 2 minutes on and 1 minute off.
- Whatever workout equipment you need.
Warm up. If you don’t know what to do to warm up, do your Pantathlon exercises. Start slow and easy, steadily working up your pace until you start to sweat. And as you’re warming up, start strategizing your Pantathlon plan of attack.
For 2 minutes, do as many reps of whatever combination of your 5 exercises you choose. For example, do 5 burpees, 10 sit-ups, 20 squats, and 5 more burpees. Or do the same exercise the whole 2 minutes. Mix it up every interval. It’s up to you and your strategy.
When the 2 minutes is up, you have 1 minute to write down the number of reps of each exercise you did on your paper, catch your breath, and think of what to do on your next 2-minute interval.
Continue with these 2 minutes on, 1 minute off intervals until you’ve completed your target reps for each exercise.
4. Recap and Recover
Note down the total time it took you to complete your Pantathlon. Keep a record so you have a target to beat if you try doing the same again.
Cool down. Think about how you could change your strategy to complete the same Pantathlon faster next time. Or consider changing it up for next time. What exercises would you add, remove, or set higher or lower target reps to have a balanced, challenging, but fun HIIT workout?
Sample Pantathlon HIIT Workouts
The beauty of a Pantathlon is the endless amount of permutations and the flexibility to do it wherever you are, with or without equipment.
Here are some sample Pantathlon HIIT workouts to get you started. Try them out, then use your creativity to make up your own.
Unconventional Route Classic
|Back lunges||200 (100/leg)|
|Squats to bench/chair||200|
|Mountain climbers||250 (100/leg)|
Barbell Pantathlon HIIT Workout
Beginners use a dowel, intermediates can try 45-75lb, and advanced can go for 95lb+.
Jungle Gym Pantathlon
|Toes to bar||80|
|Box or bench jumps||150|
|Pistol squats||100 (50/leg)|
|Clean and press||100 (50/arm)|
|Oblique side-to-side touches||250|
Instead of 2-minutes on, 1-minute off, do 1-minute on, 1-minute off. Make that 1 minute extra intense.
|Oblique side-to-side touches||250|
✓ Balance the Exercises for a Full-Body Workout
Try to pick a collection of exercises that work a variety of muscle groups. For example:
- 1 compound exercise (e.g., burpees)
- 1 upper body exercise (e.g., push-ups)
- 1 core exercise (e.g., crunches)
- 2 leg exercises (e.g., squats and lunges)
This way, when one muscle group gets tired, you can keep your heart pumping by switching to another exercise that works a different, better-rested set of muscles.
✓ Make It Competitive Across All Levels
Adjust the target number of repetitions for each member of your group to make the Pantathlon a more even race.
For example, since I have a stronger upper-body than Kim and have an easier time with double-unders than her, we might do a Pantathlon HIIT workout like this together:
✓ Strategic Advice
I find I complete my Pantathlon HIIT workouts fasted by getting the most exhausting exercises (like burpees) out of the way earlier on and saving some of the not-quite-as-intense ones (like air squats) for later.
Also, try to balance your exercises so you don’t tire out your muscles before tiring out your heart. For example, unless you’ve got perilous pecs, don’t do burpees and push-ups sequentially. Save your chest, shoulders, and arms by doing burpees following by an ab exercise and push-ups followed by a leg exercise.
Pantathlon HIIT Workout F.A.Q.
We were inspired by the HIIT workout structure Martin Gibala proposes in his book, The One-Minute Workout (one of my 15 favorite “Sledgehammer” books). His studies have shown that this type of work-hard, rest-hard structure is more time-effective for cardiovascular training than keeping a constantly high heart rate.
Plus, the 1 minute rest time gives you a chance to write the reps you did, calculate what remains, and strategize your next intervals.
But feel free to play with the interval timings. The shorter the work intervals and the longer the rest, the more intense.
That obviously depends on how long you want your HIIT workout to last for.
As a rough rule-of-thumb, we determine roughly how many reps of each exercise we can do in 30 seconds (i.e., 10 burpees, 20 push-ups, 20 air squats), and do 10-times that. That means you’ll be doing about 5 minutes of each of the 5 exercises for a total working time of 25 minutes. Adding in the 1-minute rests, the whole HIIT workout will take about 40 minutes.
Adjust according to your time, fitness, and energy limitations.
Kim and I use a free app called Tabata Timer (iTunes, Android). I like that it has a 3-second countdown before and at the end of each interval.
There are tons of other apps that do the same thing. Use whatever works for you.
Leave a comment and we’ll reply as soon as we’re finished and recovered from our own Pantathlon.
Next time you’re looking for an intense but fun HIIT workout, try a Pantathlon. Hopefully it will become your favorite HIIT workout format as it has become for us.