From dieting

I Did a Plank Every Day for 3 Months With My Husband—and It Helped More Than Just My Core

My daily planking habit had an improbable start: a tweet. The post is lost to the flow of the feed, but in my memory, it was simple—a woman sharing her trick of adding just five additional seconds to her plank time each week.

Easy, right?

I sit hunched over my desk all day, a vision of poor posture, so the idea of planking—developing my core strength, and, bonus, possibly preventing some of my persistent lower backache—is appealing. And when I mention the woman’s trick to my husband, Jason, he’s intrigued too.

We agree to try it out together. And really, what I thought would happen next is that we’d plank for a day or two. Maybe a week—maybe. But to my surprise, here we are, months later, casually asking each other every day: Hey, want to plank?

Here are seven things that I realized as Jason and I created and maintained this daily planking habit.

RELATED: This 30-Day Plank Challenge Will Transform Your Core in 4 Weeks

Want to succeed? Make it easy

This goal is almost comically achievable. Our first week, we plank for just 30 seconds a day. And that, I think, is part of the key to our success. When Jason asks if now is a good time to plank—even if my five-minute reminder about a meeting just flashed on my screen—there is indeed enough time. And keep in mind, planking is a zero-equipment move. All you need is a floor. I’ve planked in PJs, in tights, in office outfits, and most of all, in everyday jeans. No need for a costume change to plank it out.

Our planking routine is simple: At a random time we lie on the floor. One of us sets a timer for the week’s time (plus three seconds), hits “start,” then does a 3-2-1 countdown. Each week, we add five seconds to our total daily plank time. (It’s not always doable—more on that later.)

And grab an accountability buddy

Some days, it’s me that suggests planking. Far more often, it’s Jason. There’s no question in my mind that if planking were a solo operation, it would’ve fizzled out long ago. Like paying in advance for a yoga class or signing up for a 5K, an accountability buddy gives a nudge that encourages commitment.

RELATED: 8 Secrets of People Who Never Miss a Workout

Bring in a neutral party for form critique

The first time we plank, we lie parallel on the floor, staring at my iPhone screen. We watch three YouTube videos in a row, full of spandexed, confident instructors who share tips: Don’t hold your breath, keep your head in position, try these variations, and so on.

We’ve planked before, of course, but it’s been a while. My form is not perfect. But it turns out, getting that feedback from my husband only makes me cranky. He may well be right that my head is too far down or that my lower back has collapsed, but the comments make me uneasy and I rudely tell him to keep his eyes on his own planks. (Since Jason’s an artist, accustomed to constructive critiques from peers and outsiders, he’s far more appreciative and open to feedback.)

Keep it going, even if you backslide

Once, during a trip to visit his family, Jason and I plank together over FaceTime. But we’re not always that diligent. Sometimes we flat-out forget. We plateau for weeks at 50 seconds, then again at a minute. Each five-second increase gets more and more difficult. I wish our planking routine was flawless—I’d love to have a streak sans interruptions. That’s not the case, but I figure, better to have planked for the majority of days in the past three months than none of ’em.

RELATED: 6 Tips for Working Out With Your Partner

Of course, the cat gets involved

Do you have a cat? Have you met one? Then you won’t be surprised that our cat, Cashew, is a frequent participant in our daily planking. At first, she’s confused why we’re on her level—the floor’s her zone, not ours. Then she seems certain it’s a new game: She runs under our held-up bellies as if we’re playing limbo. It makes me giggle (an extra workout).

Once we hit 50 seconds, planking is particularly challenging, and Jason gets in the habit of calling her over midway through the session for a fuzzy distraction. We’re months in now, so Cashew’s less intrigued—and sometimes snoozes through our plank time—but often, she’s an active participant, winding her way under and around us.

There’s a side benefit to our relationship

Planking with Jason makes me feel close to him. It’s the most manageable of projects—easier than hunting for a new apartment, caring for our cat, dealing with work issues, illness, family drama, or so many other things we’ve done through the years. But it is still something that just the two of us are doing, and doing together.

Also: Sometimes at the end of our planking, it’s conversation time. Most are small-scale. (As in, “Wow, have you noticed how dusty it is under the TV stand??”) Sometimes though, we talk through weekend plans or even bigger topics. It’s nice, even if it sometimes means the planking portion of the day sometimes stretches beyond the ding of the timer.

RELATED: This 10-Minute Resistance Band Ab Workout Will Work Your Entire Core

I feel ready for more

Most days, when the timer goes off, I collapse downward immediately. Lately though, I’ve been trying to hold the position just one more second, or swooping into downward facing dog. I’ve resurrected my seven-minute workout app on my phone, have big plans for my warm-weather jogging, and am pondering the best time to sign up for a swim class.

Having this just-over-a-minute plank in my day makes me think more about fitness and what bigger, more challenging goals I’d like to go after next. And even if there is no noticeable difference to my abs, I feel stronger, more capable, and just a smidge more fit.

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How to Be a Stronger Runner in 8 Easy Steps

You know that to be a runner, you’ve got to, well, run. Many think that’s enough, but if you want to be a strong runner, incorporating other exercises into your routine is a must. That’s where this workout, created by Stephen Cheuk, founder of S10 training and S10 recovery in New York City and Health Advisory Board member, comes in. “This routine has an emphasis on balance and joint mobility and will help you become a stronger, more mobile, and more efficient runner,” says Cheuk. So go on, give it a try—your runs and your body will be better for it.

RELATED: 3 Essential Strength Exercises For Runners

Banded hip flexor stretch 

Attach a medium resistance band to a sturdy object, such as a squat rack. Step the left leg into the band, allowing it to rest where your butt and hamstring meet, and then step the left foot far enough back so that the band is taut (A). Keeping your back straight, lower into a lunge as you raise arms (B). Push into left foot to return to start; repeat.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Be a Better Runner for Life

Hip cars (controlled articular rotations)

Start on all fours with hands underneath shoulders, knees underneath hips, and core tight. Bring right knee forward (A), and then rotate it out to the side so that thigh is parallel to the floor (B). Continue rotating until your knee is pointing down and your foot, flexed, is up (C); return to start. This is one rep. After desired reps, reverse motion.

RELATED: 3 Reasons You Need to Warm Up Before Running

Ankle rotations

Sit tall on a step or bench with left ankle over right knee, or to more mimic running, pull knee into chest with foot facing ground. Rotate ankle and foot clockwise (A, B, C), until you return to start. This is one rep. After reps, reverse direction.

RELATED: This One Exercise Helps You Become a Better Runner

Single leg box squats

Stand tall with your back facing a bench or step, a slight bend in knees, and hands out in front of chest; lift right foot, extending right leg out in front of you (A). Slowly lower down to bench (B). Keeping torso upright, immediately push through left foot to return to standing; repeat.

RELATED: Dumbbell Box Step-Overs Will Give You Your Tightest Butt Ever

Single leg Romanian deadlifts

Stand tall with a 10-pound dumbbell in left hand, and lift left foot off the ground (A). With back flat and abs tight, hinge at the hips, lowering the weight down, allowing the left leg to float up behind you (B). Once the weight reaches mid shin, push through the right heel to return upright; repeat.

RELATED: Learn How to Properly Engage Your Glutes During These Key Exercises

Weighted Bulgarian split squats

With the end of a 10-pound dumbbell clasped between hands and in front of chest like a goblet, stand a couple of feet in front of a step or bench. Extend right leg back, placing your foot on the step (A). Bend knees, and, while keeping shoulders down and back, lower down until right knee is hovering over the ground (B). Pause, and then press through left heel to return to start; repeat.

RELATED: The One Squat Variation You Need to Be Doing for a Perkier Butt

Barbell hip thrusters

Sit on the floor with your shoulders against a bench, your spine neutral, and a barbell— loaded or unloaded—directly over your hips (A). Brace your core as you drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes to lift hips (B). Lower hips back down; repeat.

RELATED: The 7 Best Strength Exercises You’re Not Doing

Standing resistance band core pushes

Loop a medium resistance band around a stable structure, like a squat rack. Stand with the left side of the body to the rack. Grab band with hands, holding it at chest height. Take a few lateral steps away from the rack, until band is taut (A). With a slight bend in knees and core tight, extend arms straight out (B); pull them back in. This is one rep; repeat.

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How This Former Ballerina Is Revolutionizing Home Workouts

“I spent my teens and early 20s as a professional ballerina, dancing with companies in New York City and Montreal. After retiring in 2008, I went into the boutique fitness field. At first, the only space I could afford was a 500-square-foot room in a church, which meant there was no room for traditional equipment. I had to figure out: What can you do in a small footprint that gives people the benefit of a total gym? I came up with a high-intensity circuit that toned the full body. When I brought in mirrors, people loved them. They found the visual feedback inspiring and also helpful in keeping their form correct.

Fast-forward to 2016, which found me running three fitness studios across New York City. Getting to my own workouts was hard, especially because I was pregnant at the time. Biking or running on a treadmill in my apartment just didn’t appeal. I tried workout apps, but they weren’t immersive enough to hold my interest.

RELATED: Use This 10-Minute Leg Workout to Get Toned While Channeling Your Inner Ballerina

RELATED: I’m the Worst Dancer, but I’ll Never Quit Taking Dance Fitness Classes—Here’s Why

I started thinking how I could bring that small studio experience into my home…and thought back to the mirrors I’d put in that church years ago. I came up with Mirror, an interactive home gym that hangs on your wall.

In the early days, when I didn’t have a physical prototype, people couldn’t understand what the experience would be like. Then once it was made and they could experience it, I heard, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t think of this!’

Variety’s a key component of a good workout, so Mirror users can choose from live and on-demand classes in cardio, strength, yoga, barre, boxing, HIIT, and more… without leaving their home. I’ve heard from parents who say that for years they’ve struggled to find time to get out of their house and work out—and then felt guilty once they did. Being able to work out at home isn’t just a solution for them, but helps their whole family.

RELATED: 10-Minute Cardio Workout You Can Do at Home

Many wellness-based goals are focused on future rewards—like making you stronger one day. Or thinner. Or healthier. That makes it really challenging to be successful. If you enjoy the experience now, future rewards will come. So that’s another mental shift I’m hoping Mirror will bring. Many people look in their mirror at home and spend time criticizing their body. I want this to help them celebrate what they’re capable of.”

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This Full-Body Workout Uses Only Things in Your Kitchen

The world is full of opportunities to exercise, if you know where to look. I’ve exercised with a pumpkin, a snow shovel, and even while sitting on a couch. I’m the kind of person who thinks this is a compelling reason to have a baby.

In the kitchen, I’m usually more focused on what I’m going to eat next than how I’m going to sweat. But let’s face it, there’s plenty of idle time while you’re waiting for water to boil or the oven to preheat.

So I visited a kitchen that’s near and dear to my heart at God’s Love We Deliver, a New York-based nonprofit that delivers nutritious meals to folks living with severe illnesses. I’ve been a weekly volunteer at GLWD since January 2009. Most Monday nights, you can find me scooping meatballs, dicing onions, or peeling carrots, which is almost like a workout.

RELATED: This 10-Minute Resistance Band Ab Workout Will Work Your Entire Core

But recently, GLWD let me run wild (OK, not that wild; I still had to follow important kitchen safety rules like covering my hair) for some legit kitchen exercise. (P.S. Despite the name, there’s no religious affiliation at GLWD.)

While the kitchen in the video above probably looks a little different from yours (it’s a heck of a lot different from mine!), you can still try these moves at home with a few simple gear substitutions. Here’s how to exercise in your very own kitchen.

Sandbag squat

Cradle your weight with both arms at your chest. I’m using 50 pounds of carrots—but you can grab a bag of flour, dried beans, or frozen produce if you have some handy. Sit back and down into your squat with your body weight in your heels, then push through those heels to return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat for three sets of 12 if your weight is lightish or three sets of eight if you’re holding something heavy.

RELATED: This 30-Day Squat Challenge Will Transform Your Butt in 4 Weeks

Reverse fly

How much more fun would exercise be if you could use giant tubs of sprinkles as weights?! You can grab bottles of sparkling water or cans of beans as well for this move. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your hips to lean over about 45 degrees. Open your arms wide to the sides, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, palms facing in. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top, then lower back down with control. Repeat for three sets of 12.

Overhead press

With those same weights in hand, hold your hands above your shoulders, elbows bent. Press your weights up and over your head, coming nearly together at the top to take you through full range of motion. Lower your hands down with control, and repeat for three sets of 12.

Triceps extension

Next I grabbed a big ol’ can of roasted red peppers; you could try this one with a gallon of milk. Hold your weight in both hands above your head. Bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head, trying your best to keep your shoulders down and your upper arms close to your ears. Repeat for three sets of 12.

Sandbag lunge

Grab your bag of beans again or another floppy weight (like my 25 pounds of flour) and drape it over one shoulder. Step the opposite leg back and lower into a lunge until both legs form 90-degree angles. Make sure the knee of your front leg stays over your front foot, not in front of it, and keep your body weight in the heel of that front foot. Press up through that heel to standing and repeat. Aim for three sets of eight reps on each side.

RELATED: 6 Simple Exercises You Can Do While Cooking Dinner

Suitcase carry

This is one of my favorite functional movements. Imagine you’re lugging your suitcase through a crowded airport—but instead, it’s a giant jug of balsamic vinegar, a gallon of milk, or anything else heavy-ish in your kitchen with a grabbable handle. Walk back and forth across your kitchen for 30 seconds, then switch hands and repeat.

Incline push-ups

The beauty of incline push-ups is you can do them anywhere—not just on a cart carrying 500 pounds(!) of carrots. Prop yourself up on your kitchen counter or wall with your hands under your shoulders. Bend your elbows so your upper arms slide right along your torso until your chest just about meets the counter. Keep your whole body, including your head and neck, in a straight line. Press up through your hands and repeat. Start with 10—push-ups are hard!—and build up to three sets of 10.

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5 Easy Barbell Exercises for Beginners

Cardio is great—in fact, it’s a must. But there’s another beneficial component to physical fitness that many women are ignoring: weight lifting. And we’re not just talking about picking up those little 2-pound weights and doing a few bicep curls (though there’s nothing wrong with that). Hitting the weight room—and more specifically, using a barbell—challenges your body in a way nothing else can. “A barbell forces your body into a fixed position, which is biomechanically beneficial because it creates stability on the weight load. This, in turn, gives your muscles more stability to push and pull from, and that helps them stay more engaged,” explains Holly Perkins, CSCS, a Los Angeles–based celebrity trainer and author of Lift to Get Lean.

Lifting heavy becomes even more important as you age. “Women lose muscle mass and gain an average of five pounds of fat per decade,” says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, a senior clinical professor of sports science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. “In other words, even if your body weight stays the same, if you don’t lift weights to maintain your muscle, you will lose about five pounds of muscle every 10 years and gain about five pounds of fat, which is not good for the heart or our bones.” Still not sure about entering that weight room? Read on for more benefits—plus a few strategies that will turn you into a lifting pro.

RELATED: 5 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Start Lifting Weights

4 Major benefits of barbell work

It Improves Your Overall Health. You’ve heard the saying that health is wealth, right? Keeping with that, let’s just say weight lifting is equivalent to winning the lottery. Research shows that it slashes your risk of ailments like stroke and heart disease and drastically improves bone and joint health. According to a 2018 University of Michigan study, people with stronger muscles are 50 percent more likely to live longer. And let’s not forget the mental benefits. “Strength training is really powerful for women,” notes Perkins. “It improves self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence, and it builds resilience on a personal and emotional level.”

It Boosts Your Metabolism. When you lift heavy weights, your body releases human growth hormone and testosterone, both of which help you develop lean muscle, says L.A.-based celebrity trainer Ashley Borden, creator of the AB Fit app. And having more lean muscle will naturally keep your metabolic rate fired up. “Muscles are much more metabolically active than fat,” explains Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and chief of orthopedic sports medicine at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. “This means they take more calories to function, whereas fat doesn’t burn much energy.” In other words, when your muscles are built-up, you are torching more calories whether you are exercising or just chilling.

RELATED: The 7 Best Strength Exercises You’re Not Doing

It Bulletproofs Your Body. A strong body is about more than just scoring a chiseled frame. Being weak leaves us susceptible to falling and injury. “Lifting heavier weights forces you to use more muscles, including your stabilizing and balancing muscles,” explains Olson. Plus, as Dr. Wright notes, maintaining lean muscle gives us a 20-year advantage over those who don’t. Translation: An 80 year-old who lifts and maintains muscle is as strong as a 60-year-old who doesn’t.

It Challenges You. For women, developing strength and maintaining lean muscle isn’t a cinch. We are naturally more suited to endurance activities, whereas men, because of their testosterone, are more suited to strength work. In order to have a holistic fitness routine, we must do those things that test our abilities, advises Olson. For women, that means picking up a barbell. After all, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

RELATED: You Don’t Have to Do Cardio to Lose Weight (But There’s a Catch)

5 Beginner moves to try

Start off strong with moves from certified personal trainer Ashleigh Kast, who designed this routine exclusively for Health readers.

Barbell deadlift

Stand facing a loaded or unloaded barbell with feet a little wider than hip-width. Bend knees, hinge at hips, and lower chest down slightly; grab barbell with an overhand grip, placing hands shoulder-width apart (A). Keeping arms straight and core tight, stand up tall, lifting barbell as you rise; push hips forward and squeeze glutes at top of movement (B). Lower barbell back to “A” for a 3-second count. This is one rep; do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

Single arm landmine row

Place one end of the barbell in a landmine anchor, which typically can be found at any gym. (No anchor? Wedge barbell into a corner.) Load the other end with your appropriate weight. Stand next to barbell with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent; hinge at hips and lower torso until it is almost parallel to floor. Grab the weighted end of the barbell in right hand with an overhand grip, allowing arm to hang naturally (A). Squeeze back and pull the barbell up to chest explosively (B), and then slowly lower it back to “A” for a 2-second count. This is one rep; do 10–12 reps per side.

Landmine reverse lunge

Place one end of the barbell in a landmine anchor, which typically can be found at any gym. (No anchor? Wedge barbell into a corner.) Load the other end with your appropriate weight. Grab the weighted end of the barbell with the right hand (both, if you feel more comfortable), holding it to chest with elbow bent. Step left foot back, resting on forefoot (A). Lower left knee down until it almost touches the ground (B). Press into right heel to return to standing. This is one rep; do 10–12 reps per side. If using one hand, switch hands when moving to opposite leg.

Barbell benchpress

Lie faceup on a bench holding a barbell loaded with your appropriate weight with arms fully extended and over midline of chest; hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart (A). Allow elbows to bend as you slowly lower barbell straight down to chest for a 3-second count (B). Push barbell back up to “A.” This is one rep. Do 10–12 reps.

Single side barbell bus driver

Place one end of the barbell in a landmine anchor. Load the other end with your appropriate weight. Kneel in a lunge position with left foot forward; grab and raise the weighted end of the barbell straight up with both hands (A). In a sweeping arc, while keeping arms straight, rotate barbell and torso to the left, bringing barbell across body to left hip (B). Reverse motion to “A.” This is one rep; do 10–12 per side.

RELATED: Eva Longoria Is Adding Intense Weight Training to Her Post-Pregnancy Workouts

3 Common misconceptions about pumping iron

MYTH: It’s easy to injure yourself

TRUTH: Any sort of physical activity can lead to injury when not done correctly, but it’s no easier to injure yourself weight lifting than it is in yoga or on a treadmill. “Injuries are usually due to overdoing one activity,” says Olson. “And weight lifting makes your soft tissues and bones stronger, which actually helps to protect you from getting hurt.” To lessen the chance of injury, form is key. “That means stack our joints, keep knees over ankles, shoulders over elbows, and a flat back,” advises Dr. Wright. When you first start out, it’s a good idea to consult a pro at your gym or take a basics class, says Lauren Powers, a fitness coach and co-owner of Total Fitness Revolution in Mableton, Georgia.

MYTH: It makes you bulky

TRUTH: Many women steer clear of lifting heavy because they assume it’s just for guys who want to look beefy. News flash: It’s actually incredibly difficult for women to develop bulky muscles from lifting. “Our high levels of estrogen make it easier for us to store fat, which is why we have to work very hard with weights to even maintain muscle, let alone build it,” says Olson. To truly get jacked, you’d have to not only spend tons of time in the weight room but engage in a dedicated strength-building plan as well.

MYTH: Cardio helps weight come off faster

TRUTH: If strength training properly, the calorie expenditure during your workout is going to be about equal to a similarly timed cardio session. Added to this is the fact that strength training stimulates your metabolism, says Perkins. That means that the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) after weight lifting will be greater than cardio, resulting in more calories burned in a 24-hour period.

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You Can Now Do Outdoor Yoga With Lemurs—and It’s as Magical as It Sounds

Move over goat yoga, alpaca yoga, and dog yoga. Lemur yoga is about to take the world by storm.

According to The Metro, the Armathwaite Hall Hotel and Spa, near the Lake District Wildlife Park in Keswick, England, is now offering “lemoga,” also known as doing yoga outdoors with lemurs.

The lemurs already live in the nearby wildlife park, and they’re apparently very friendly and social, so they’re practically perfect yoga buddies.

RELATED: I Tried Snow-Ga and Don’t Ever Want to Go Back to Regular Yoga

“When you watch lemurs they do some form of the poses naturally — that typical pose warming their bellies in the sunshine,” said Richard Robinson, manager of the Lake District Wildlife Park, to the BBC. “It seemed to be a really good combination to encourage people to have a go and spend time with a lemur.”

RELATED: 15 Stretches You Should Do Every Day

The class is part of Armathwaite Hall’s “meet the wildlife” wellness program, which includes walking alpacas around hotels 400-acre grounds, meet-and-greets with meerkats, and special sessions with zookeepers.

RELATED: 10 Yoga Poses to Do at Your Desk

The hotel says “lemoga” is a good way for guests to “feel at one with nature, at the same time joining in with the lemurs’ play time.” They also claim the class is good for stress and reducing blood pressure, especially when lemurs are involved.

We challenge anyone not to get distracted by these inquisitive animals while they’re trying to perfect their downward dog. Frankly, these creatures are so irresistibly cute, we expect there could be more “lemoga” classes elsewhere around the world in the future.

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The Best HIIT Workout—and Why It Burns So Many Calories

When it comes to working out, longer isn’t always better.

Wait, what?

Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of (comforting) research supporting shorter, more intense workouts—for both performance and health benefits, including weight loss, Pete McCall, a personal trainer and author of Smarter Workouts: The Science of Exercise Made Simple, tells Health.

While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is not new—interval training has been around for decades—there is a recent surge in using this approach for fitness and weight loss.

“In the last 20 years, HIIT has been studied for its effects on boosting performance and its high caloric burn,” McCall says.

When it comes to HIIT being a better workout for caloric burn, McCall gives this analogy: HIIT is city driving, while longer, slower workouts are highway driving—and calories are your gas.

“With city driving, you’re starting and stopping a lot, and you’re burning more gas,” he says. “On the highway, you’re maintaining a steady pace and you’re much more efficient.”

So how do you choose the best HIIT workout? The bottom line, McCall says, is to not make your working intervals too long and your rest intervals too short.

RELATED: This 20-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout Builds Speed and Stamina

What to look for in a HIIT workout routine

If you find a HIIT workout that’s 45 minutes, run away. It’s way too long, McCall says.

“The biggest mistake people make is thinking a 45-minute HIIT workout is great. But it should be 15 to 20 minutes,” he says.

In fact, you can reap benefits from just four, yes, four minutes. McCall cites the popular, effective Tabata method, which is a four-minute workout: You work at your max capacity intensity for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat eight times.

“Four minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re doing it right, that last minute really sucks,” McCall says. “When it comes to high intensity, less is more.”

If your work intervals are longer than 30 seconds, you’ll run out of energy and be unable to complete the workout. Alternatively, if your rest intervals are too short, your body won’t have enough time to recharge for the next work period.

McCall also cautions against doing more than two HIIT workouts a week. Your body needs about 48 hours to recover from the wear and tear, he says.

RELATED: Find Your Perfect HIIT Routine With These Top Workout Videos

Why does HIIT burn more calories?

The short answer is it takes energy to burn energy. When you push your body really hard for 20 or 30 seconds, you’re expending a ton of energy, McCall explains. And during your recovery interval your body is taking the byproduct of that burn—lactic acid—and turning it back into energy your muscles can use, called ATP.

When you exercise for longer periods of time at a lower intensity, you still expend energy—but not as much as during that high-intensity burst.

That said, people tend to think they burned more calories than they did, leading to overeating and weight gain, McCall says. The sustained calorie-burn from a HIIT workout, for example, is about 100 to 200 calories, which is not insignificant. But a post-workout Starbucks muffin is about 400 calories.

RELATED: 7 Tips for Exactly How to Eat Before and After a Workout

Try these HIIT workouts

McCall has two go-to HIIT workouts he recommends.

Lateral ice skaters

Stand with your feet hip-width apart.

Step your right foot to the right, then step your left foot to the right. Repeat the motion to the left side. Continue to repeat the motion for 30 seconds at a comfortable pace.

Then, increase your effort for 20 seconds. Repeat the motion like you’re ice-skating.

Finally, increase your effort for 10 seconds of explosive movement, like you’re speed-skating.

Repeat this entire sequence for five to seven minutes.

RELATED: Try This 30-Day Squat Challenge for a Stronger, Perkier Butt

Copenhagen protocol

McCall recommends following this routine on a bike, rower, or self-powered treadmill. (While it can be done on a normal treadmill, it takes precious time to adjust the speed, he says.)

Warm up for five minutes.

Move easy for 30 seconds; your feeling of effort should be about a five on a scale of one to 10.

Move hard for 20 seconds, about an eight on a scale of one to 10.

Move as hard as possible for 10 seconds.

Repeat the entire cycle for five minutes and then cool down.

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J.Lo and A-Rod Are Doing ‘Fasted Cardio’—but Is It Safe?

The idea of waking up crazy early, skipping breakfast, and dragging our butts to the gym or spin studio is enough to make us want to hit the “snooze” button, throw the duvet over our heads, and Seamless an egg sandwich to our beds.

Believe it or not, there are many people who swear by early workouts without fueling up first, because they believe that “fasted” workouts are better for you and could actually burn more fat.

Heading up the “fasted cardio” club? Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, the fittest couple in Hollywood, of course.

“Another beautiful day in New York City, about to go do a little fasted cardio,” A-Rod said in his Instagram Story on Wednesday, walking alongside J.Lo. “That means cardio before breakfast. This is from our trainer, Dodd.” (“Hi, Dodd!” J.Lo playfully adds.)

But is fasted cardio really a good idea? We asked expert trainers to weigh in on if it’s safe to exercise on an empty stomach, and whether or not you should. Here’s what you need to know.

RELATED: 9 Times J.Lo Showed Off Her Insanely Defined Core and Proved She’s the Queen of Abs

What is fasted cardio though?

Fasted cardio is cardiovascular training performed when the digestive system is no longer processing food, which can happen four to six hours after eating or in the morning after you’ve woken up, explains Vince Sant, co-founder and lead trainer for VShred.com. In other words, it’s doing cardio without any food in your body.

People who practice intermittent fasting have a schedule that is more accommodating to fasted training, since they’re restricting calorie intake for a few hours or don’t consume any food at all for a full day or longer, which by the way is not totally recommended by nutritionists. For most, early morning workouts after your body has been fasting during sleep is the best way to experiment with fasted cardio, says Sant.

The benefits of fasted cardio

Fasted cardio might help you burn more fat throughout the day, trainer Danielle Natoni tells Health. The idea is that when you work out when you haven’t eaten recently, you are burning fat—aka stored energy—versus the energy from the food that you just consumed, she explains.

Fasted cardio is actually Natoni’s preferred method of exercise. “On the rare occasions where I find I have to exercise no longer fasted, I feel slower and more sluggish,” she says.

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Wait, will you actually burn more fat faster?

Maybe. Small studies have suggested that cardio in a fasted state can burn up to 20% more fat. But other research suggests that the difference between fasted and fed training is minimal as it relates to calories burned or fat loss, Sant notes. It really becomes a question of what is sustainable for you, he says. And what your goals are: Fed training may improve exercise performance, according to research comparing fed and fasted workouts.

Is fasted cardio safe?

As long as it’s not taken to an extreme, fasted cardio is safe. Just keep in mind that your body needs fuel to function, so an intense, two-hour cardio session after eight hours of sleep might cause side effects of low blood sugar like lightheadedness. That could pose a serious safety risk when running alongside traffic or using heavy equipment at the gym, Sant says. You might also be more likely to get dehydrated during fasted training.

Should you try fasted cardio?

To see if fasted cardio is for you, start out small. First try eating something light like a banana or a piece of toast pre-workout and see how you feel, Natoni suggests. If you feel good, next time you can try exercising right after waking up in the morning. Just be sure you consume enough water before working out and do light to moderate work instead of something really intense, she adds.

Remember that every body is different, so whether you plan on working out fasted or fed is up to you and what works for your body. And ultimately, the key to weight loss is maintaining an overall caloric deficit through a well-balanced program encompassing diet and exercise, Sant says. In the grand scheme of things, when you eat probably has less to do with weight and fat loss than what you are eating and how much effort you are putting into your fitness regimen—not to mention that your genes, metabolism, and age also influence your weight, he points out.

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