Health Hub
Login | Not a member? Register


Using our health and fitness calculators will help you get the facts on your lifestyle.

How to work out harder and smarter

By Fitness2live

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to shed the winter kilos and get active. Read about exercise techniques to help you see results sooner, including interval training, Tabata and compound exercises, as well as the benefits of exercising outside.

It’s that time of year again – when the running track is swarming with joggers, the gym is bursting at the seams, and there’s not a spare bike to be seen at your spin class. Summer is here,  it’s time to shed the winter kilos by taking advantage of the longer warmer days to get active.

Getting out of a winter rut can be a challenge but there’s nothing as motivating as seeing results – fast. Though sticking with the same exercise routine week after week has its benefits, your body soon gets used to it so your progress starts to plateau. Never fear – there are a number of ways you can shake up your routine and challenge your body to get the results you’re looking for.

Set a goal and stick to it

The first step to getting results is to set goals that are achievable and measurable so you can see benefits along the way to keep you motivated. By concentrating on how good you feel during and after exercise, you can overcome your excuses not to do it at all. Boredom can also make goals come unstuck, which is why it’s important to try new things and challenge yourself.

Get more out of your workout

The key to getting more out of your workout is to make your body work harder and smarter. By incorporating a few simple methods into your routine, you can make your workout more efficient and see results sooner. Here we look at high intensity interval training, Tabata training and compound exercises.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is all the rage in today’s time poor society because it means you can shorten your workout if you increase the intensity with interval training. Interval training means alternating between intervals where you work as hard as you can and intervals where you recover. You can do this type of exercise across a range of activities including running, cycling, skipping and body weight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. As your fitness improves, you can increase the amount of time where you’re working hard and decrease the amount of recovery time (e.g. start out with 20 seconds on: 30 seconds off, then over time increase to 30 seconds on: 20 seconds off, 30 seconds on: 10 seconds off and so on).

So what are the benefits of this kind of maximum capacity exercise routine? By elevating your heart rate through HIIT, your body releases hormones and enzymes that are proven to help burn fat and improve fitness. Even better, it also helps improve insulin sensitivity, which makes it good for people with type 2 diabetes.


Invented by Japanese professor Izumi Tabata, Tabata Training is based on the principles of HIIT but it follows an exact formula: 20 seconds of effort followed by 10 seconds of recovery, eight times through, for a total of four minutes of intense exercise.

Confused? Don’t be. Just pick an exercise (e.g. burpees), do as many burpees as you can in 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat eight times through and that’s one set of Tabata. Once you finish the first set, pick another exercise (e.g. lunges). The great thing about Tabata is you can do as many sets as you have time for (or can manage) and you can create any combination you like to keep it interesting. And, as with any HIIT session, Tabata training keeps your heart rate high and your body in the training zone to burn fat, build strength and improve your fitness.

Compound exercises

As well as shaking up how you complete your exercise routine, the exercises you choose to do within that routine can make a difference too. Rather than choosing exercises that work single muscles, like bicep curls, compound exercises offer more bang for your buck by working several muscles at once.

What’s a compound exercise? A squat is a perfect example of a compound exercise, working the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the gluteal muscles and the lower back. You can take it even further by adding in a shoulder press with dumbbells, lowering the dumbbells to shoulder height while you squat down and pushing the dumbbells up to the ceiling as you return to standing.

Get outdoors

The good thing about all of these exercises is you can do them anytime, anywhere, without any equipment – so why not take your workout outside for extra motivation and benefits? Using the principles of HIIT, create your own high intensity circuit with a combination of body weight and cardiovascular exercises with exercises like squat jumps, push-ups, bench dips, lunges, sit-ups, step-ups, stair runs, short sprints and skipping. The sunshine, vitamin D and fresh air make for a much more inspiring environment than the gym, and exercising outside is good for both your mental and physical health. What more motivation could you need? 

Check with your doctor

While regular exercise has many benefits, if you haven’t exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Although moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people, we recommend you see your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.