HIGH-INTENSITY interval training is so popular that it has its own acronym at a gym near you, HIIT. I’m no exception to the contingents of people who want to get workouts over with, the faster the better.
With research that supports the possibility that superfast, superintense workouts can make you stronger/quicker/healthier, we (OK, I) have even more excuses to cut our workouts short.
Cage Fitness, a high-intensity interval-training method created by a martial-arts fighter, Matt Hughes, appeals to that short-and-quick mentality. The Cage workout lasts just 30 minutes and requires you to work as hard as possible for 5-minute intervals. Five minutes? That’s nothing, you say.
I’ve done my fair share of interval-training workouts. They end quickly; if you’re trying hard, they also usually hurt. (Hello, Tabata training.)
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In addition to boosting your aerobic capacity, the trainers say, the combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise increases your metabolism.
I went to MKG Martial Arts in Seattle to check out a Cage Fitness class. The 5-minute intervals are made up of 30-second bursts of different exercises one after the other. At the end, you get a one-minute break, then start a new set. The idea is to work on basic moves for strength training, and doing them as hard and fast as possible.
Cage uses body bags (25 or 50 pounds) for strength training and for straight-up abuse during a technique called ground ’n’ pound, when students can go nuts on the bag, punching, elbowing and rolling over with the bag to hit it some more. Need to get some aggression out? This is the class for you.
Cage classes always include a warm-up, upper- and lower-body work, a combo round and core/cool down.
I sat this class out and watched as teacher Nicole Marinez took the class through some fairly intense warm-ups, such as scooting around the body bag in plank position and running in place in plank.
After the warm-up and a one-minute break, she took the class into upper body, encouraging them through pushups, biceps curls with the bags, and grabbing the bag by side handles to row with it as resistance.
In the third round, they moved to the lower body, incorporating lunges, long jumps and some intense strengthening, sitting up on their knees and leaning back while holding the bag.
She had other entertaining exercises, like a pushup bag flip, where students drop down to a pushup, get back up and flip the bag, essentially a mega-hard burpee.
This round also was the one time I wanted to jump in: slammers. Students looked fierce as they lifted the bags above their heads and slammed them on the ground.
The “cool-down” was mostly more core work, including sitting in a V and twisting the body bag side to side. Some students had to abandon their body bag at this point.
Thirty minutes may not seem long, but it was effective; students were dripping sweat and panting by the end of class.
If you’re going to bring some interval training into your life, Cage is a speedy way to go. You’re in, you get your heart rate up, you pound out your stress, you’re out. Perfect.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.