TO COUNT OR NOT TO COUNT. THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Most people have probably heard the term HIIT before. In case you haven't, it stands for High Intensity Interval Training. A very solid method of training particularly for fat loss. In fact, some studies have actually shown that it can be up to 3 times more effective than steady state cardio.
Not that anything is wrong with steady state cardio, but for maximum efficiency HIIT wins. Of course this concept is hardly new. A round of boxing is interval training as well. 3 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest. And of course, as an alternative to timing your work, it can also be done by counting reps or by measuring distance. The 400 Meter Dash is a perfect example. The constant is the distance. The goal is of course to decrease the time.
The big question is when should you use each method and why. The exercises you choose will determine this as will your goals. As a general rule, technical lifts such as Deadlifts, Squats, Overhead Presses, any of the Olympic style lifts, etc. should be counted for reps. Rushing through them is not the answer as it will encourage bad form and believe me, your form must be impeccable on these if you want to obtain the maximum benefit as well as reduce the risk of injury.
As for exercises which can be timed, more of the cardio or calisthenic based movements work well for this. Burpees, Jumping Jacks, Bodyweight Squats, Pushups High Knees, Crunches, Mountain Climbers, etc. work well since form is not quite as crucial and the nature of the movements is much quicker.
And for exercises for distance, they would need to be a combination of cardio/calisthenic type workouts as well as exercises which cover ground. The most basic would be running. Also exercises like walking lunges, Bear Crawls, many martial arts training exercises work well for this.
Ideally, your HIIT workouts will include a combination of all of these to have the most balanced AND fun workout! Just make sure to use the right tool for the right job. Also sometimes, two methods can be combined. You can for example have 3 exercises of 10 reps each and give yourself 1 minute to finish them all and rest before starting again. There are some workouts out there on the web such as HERE to give you an idea about the different ways to structure HIIT workouts. I use these same methods with my clients as well as some others.
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