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A 10-Minute Morning HIIT Workout for More Energy and Focus All Day Long

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Brewing a big pot of coffee isn’t your only solution.

If you often find yourself feeling extra-sleepy and unfocused—even before the workday begins—brewing a big pot of coffee isn’t your only solution. You may want to consider adding a quick morning HIIT workout to your routine.

It might seem counterintuitive to work out if you’re tired and groggy in the a.m., but research shows moving your body is linked to better focus and energy. Specifically, science suggests doing high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.

In a February 2020 study published in the journal Brain Sciences, researchers assigned participants into two groups: One who did HIIT and another who did moderate-intensity continuous exercise for six weeks.

People in the HIIT group performed 15-second intervals of work at 100 percent effort with 15 seconds of recovery in between. For two weeks, they did intervals of two sets for 20 minutes each (40 minutes total), and then the total time was increased to 45 minutes for the remaining four weeks.

Meanwhile, the moderate-intensity continuous exercise group cycled at 60 percent effort for 34 minutes and then increased to 39 minutes for the remaining four weeks.

At the end of the experiment, the researchers ran cognitive tests and found that the HIIT group showed a significant increase in attention and focus, decision making, working memory, and executive function compared to the moderate-intensity exercise group.

But you don’t have to hop on a bike to get the benefits. Any HIIT workout will do the trick, so long as you’re pushing yourself to the max and taking short rest breaks.

We spoke to Miriam Shestack, CPT, a HIIT group fitness instructor at Equinox and personal run coach in NYC, for a quick 10-minute HIIT morning workout you can try instead of hitting snooze.

A 10-minute morning HIIT workout to start your day

You’ll do three sets of a HIIT sequence. Each set has two moves, and you’ll repeat each set for three rounds for a total of 10 minutes.

You’ll need one pair of dumbbells to perform some of these moves, so pick a set that feels comfortable to do both upper- and lower-body exercises. Shestack recommends choosing 10- to 15-pound weights.

Here’s the lowdown:

Set 1

  • 20 seconds of squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of reverse lunge with biceps curl, alternating legs
  • 10 seconds rest

Set 2

  • 20 seconds of push presses
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of bent-over rows
  • 10 seconds rest

Set 3

  • 20 seconds of lateral lunges, alternating sides
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of plank jacks
  • 10 seconds rest

Exactly how to do each move with good form

1. Squat jump

Personal trainer demonstrating squat jump
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or slightly outward.
  2. Clasp your hands in front of your chest.
  3. Brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
  4. Push through your feet to jump explosively off the ground. (You can extend your arms down along your sides as you do.)
  5. Land safely with your knees slightly bent.
  6. Repeat for 20 seconds.

2. Reverse lunge with biceps curl

Personal trainer demonstrating reverse lunge with biceps curl
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in each hand by your sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Step your left foot backward, then bend both knees to lower your hips. Keep your torso straight.
  3. Stop when your right knee is at a 90-degree angle and your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. As you lunge, bend your elbows to curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders.
  5. Push through your front heel to return to a standing position, while lowering the dumbbells back down to your sides.
  6. Repeat on the other leg, alternating sides with each rep.
  7. Repeat for 20 seconds.

3. Push press

Personal trainer demonstrating push press
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in each hand by your sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Lift the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and dip your hips down.
  4. Explosively extend your knees and hips while pressing the dumbbells overhead and lock out your elbows at the top of the movement.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height.
  6. Repeat for 20 seconds.

4. Bent-over row

Personal trainer demonstrating bent-over row
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in each hand by your sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at your hips, keeping your back flat and chest up.
  3. Let the dumbbells hang straight down towards the floor.
  4. Draw your elbows up toward your ribs and pull the weights up alongside your lower abdomen. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back down with control.
  6. Repeat for 20 seconds.

5. Lateral lunge

Personal trainer demonstrating lateral lunge
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in each hand by your sides, palms facing your body.
  2. Take a step to the side with your right foot, bend your right knee, and lower your body into a lunge, keeping your left leg straight. Keep your chest up and back straight throughout the movement.
  3. Push through your right heel to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the other side,
  5. Alternate legs with each rep for a total of 20 seconds.

6. Plank jack

Personal trainer demonstrating plank jack
Photo: Miriam Shestack
  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands right under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to feet.
  2. Engage your core and jump both feet out wide to the sides.
  3. Immediately jump your feet back together to return to the starting plank position. Keep your hips stable and avoid letting your lower back sag or arch.
  4. Continue jumping your feet in and out for 20 seconds.