Get more from your workout in a short amount of time with HIIT, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup

THE basic concept for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is that you exercise as hard as you can in a short period of time — perhaps one or two minutes — or for a limited number of repetitions, followed by a period of rest. You then continue with another exercise routine while adhering to the same approach for 30 minutes to an hour.

HIIT focuses on your cardio and the point here is to get your heart rate up quickly, so you’ll burn more calories. There’s a lot of freedom in what you actually do to achieve that, so different exercise tutorials or gym instructors will have you do different things depending on their speciality, or your fitness level.

“HIIT will boost your metabolism. But you need to know your own pace so you’d hit the right window to benefit. Something that’s intense enough to make you push your body during a workout, but not too intense that it causes injury,” says Elangkis Paranthaman or Kish, an instructor at the Babel Fit gym in Menara Ken TTDI, Kuala Lumpur.

HIIT workouts can be done without any equipment, but Babel Fit’s HIIT class incorporates a mix of dumb bells, kettlebells, barbells and skill mills into its routine. This is accompanied by fast, energetic music to help you along.

Some trainers may opt to use barbells. Photo by Nurul Syazana Rose Razman.

My HIIT class at Babel Fit was a full-body workout that started with a series of mobilising exercises. It’s basically a fancier way of stretching, using what Kish calls a joint-by-joint approach.

We went from ankle to neck so that each part of the body is loose and warmed up, by doing jumps, squats and planks. This routine also helps to get the blood pumping so that your cardio system is good to go for the next phase – training

The first part of this phase uses dumb bells for added intensity. We got to pick our own preferred weights to accompany the usual drill of floor exercises, and it’s one of those moments when you need to be realistic about what you’re capable of.

So if you think planks are tough, they’re tougher when you need to lift an arm with a hand that’s holding a 5kg dumb bell. I picked a 2kg dumb bell, and I still found it hard.

In some instances, Kish and his colleague Ridz would show us how to execute an exercise without the dumb bells, but in a way that still works out the arms and strengthens the core.

Floor exercises using the dumb bells add intensity to the workout. Photo by Nurul Syazana Rose Razman.

We then moved on to the Skill Mill. The machine is similar to a treadmill, but the walking plank is curved – which is apparently kinder on the joints – and it’s powered by the user’s movement.

Unlike a treadmill where you set the speed and elevation, this machine only has a resistance toggle and the rest is up to you. Because it uses your own body weight and movement, you only need to follow your own pace. The faster you move, the faster it will go, and vice versa.

There’s also a screen that tells you how you’re doing — how far you’ve moved, how long you’ve been on, how many calories you’ve burnt, etc.

That said, the machine doesn’t stop automatically when you do. It will maintain the momentum for a few seconds, and that can really trip you up. At one point, I needed to stop and I found it easiest to simply jump off the moving tread. I’m not sure if this is the sanctioned way of using the equipment, but it gets the job done.

However, once you’re used to it, the Skill Mill is more than just a cardio machine. There are handles in the front and on the side, as well as straps that you can hold on to. Having these additions will vary your workout on the machine, and you can do more than walk or run.

This is what makes the machine a functional training tool, because it allows us to exercise based on the body’s functionality.

So we ran forwards, backwards and side to side. We did pushing and pulling movements using the straps and handle bars, as well as lunges and squats, which is disorienting when you’re on a moving surface. So apart from cardio and core, this routine is also a good balancing exercise.

Side to side workout on the Skill Mill. Photo by Nurul Syazana Rose Razman.

We ended the session with a floor routine that utilised yoga movements such as downward dog. It helped slow the heart rate down and was effective in letting the body relax and recover after an intense session.

“HIIT is about continuum. You are either progressing or regressing, and there’s always room for improvement. With squats you can go lower or carry heavier weights. It’s all a matter of practice,” says Kish.

HIIT is one of those things that some people enjoy and others don’t. I’m more of the latter, mostly because despite all my efforts, I still have terrible cardio and so will always struggle in a high effort exercise class. But the Skill Mill and other equipment do make it more interesting.



WHERE: Rooftop, Menara Ken TTDI, Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

WHAT: HIIT class using weights and Skill Mill machine

FEE: Gym membership starts at RM250 per month excluding other fees

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Can be toned down for beginners or levelled up for those more experienced

TRAINING ESSENTIALS: Gym clothes and shoes

DURATION: 30 minutes

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