How to Build Muscle and Boost Cardio with Just 120 Seconds of Work

We’ve all been there; a hint of sunshine and suddenly a post-work trip to the pub garden feels a lot more tempting than your evening kettlebell circuit. If beers and barbecues are dealing a blow to your gym goals this summer, your smartest move could be to give up the struggle – and learn to achieve just as much by doing a whole lot less.

A recent study by the University of Texas found a HIIT-style workout built around short bursts of intense cycling is sufficient to bring about improvements in body composition and heart health. Subjects in the trial were asked to pedal furiously for four seconds, then rest for 15 to 30 seconds. This was repeated 30 times for a total of 120 seconds of work.

Study author Dr Edward Coyle found those who used this technique three times a week had improved muscle mass in their legs and better aerobic fitness after eight weeks of practice. And all in less time than it’ll take you to get served at your local on a sunny Friday.

Now, we’re not suggesting you sack off the gym for the season. But on those days when you don’t fancy lifting anything heavier than a beer, having a lightspeed back-up plan is a smart idea. If you’ve time for a morning pitstop at the gym, dedicate 5 to 10 minutes to mobility then blast through 30 intervals on the AirBike or SkiErg; or head to your local park and follow the same protocol for 30 sprints (harder than it sounds). The rest of the day is yours.

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