A HIIT Workout from MMA Fighter Chael Sonnen

High-intensity interval training exercises to help you build strength and increase metabolic activity

December 14, 2017
Stability ball stir the pot
Matthew Brush

Adapted from MMA superstar Chael Sonnen’s new book The Four-Pack Revolution: How You Can Aim Lower, Cheat on Your Diet, and Still Lose Weight & Keep It Off 

Most of us spend more time thinking about losing fat than we do about gaining muscle. Luckily for us, the body is designed to burn fat—it just needs the right environment to do so. There are a few myths when it comes to burning fat and losing weight. The most misunderstood is the “fat-burning zone.”

Your body burns a combination of carbohydrates and fat; it’s almost never just one or the other. At 50 percent of your maximum heart rate, you will be burning fuel at a ratio of 60 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrates, in the form of glycogen that is stored in the body. When you increase to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, the ratio drops to 35 percent fat and 65 percent carbs. Therefore, it may seem logical that workouts done at a lower heart rate would make the most sense for those looking to shed a few pounds. But in reality, you burn more total calories by working harder. So even though the ratio of fat-to-carbs is lower at higher intensities, more total fat and calories are expended.

New research is published every year demonstrating the benefits of intense exercise. Magic happens when you get your heart rate up and feel your chest pounding. Short, intense interval training workouts are beneficial because much of the physiological benefits of exercise come when you really push the pace, even if it’s only for a minute or two. If you don’t have access to gym equipment or are short on time, then a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout with body-weight exercises such as squats, burpees, and jumping jacks can still deliver amazing results, all in the comfort of your own home. No gym membership, no weights, no excuses.

More: How to Get More From Your Bodyweight Workout

Perform these strength and metabolic exercises as a circuit. Be sure to follow the prescribed work and rest times.

Equipment Needed: 2 dumbbells, kettlebells, stability balls
Estimated Duration: 40 mins – 2 rounds  |  60 mins – 3 rounds

Matthew Brush
DB Squat

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing the sides of your legs).

2. Position your feet in a shoulder-width stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times, as looking down can put you off balance, and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position. 

3. Slowly lower your torso by bending your knees and sending your butt backward, as you maintain a straight back and keep your head up. Continue down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

4. Raise your torso by pushing the floor away through the heels of your feet as you straighten the legs and return to the starting position.

Squat Jumps
Matthew Brush
Squat Jumps

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.

3. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep. Land as softly and in control as possible.

Michael Brush

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds 

1. Get into plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders.

2. Lower your body until your chest touches or nearly touches the floor. As you lower, keep your elbows tucked into your sides, pulling them close to your body so your upper arms form a 45-degree angle when your torso is in the bottom position of the move.

3. Pause at the bottom, then push back to the starting position. Keep your core braced the entire time and do not let your hips sag at any point during the exercise.

4. If placing your hands directly on the floor hurts your wrists, find a pair of dumbbells with flat surfaces (like hex dumbbells) and place them where you would position your hands. Grasp the dumbbells’ handles and keep your wrists straight as you perform the exercise.

Mountain climbers
Michael Brush
Mountain Climbers

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds 

1. Begin in a pushup plank position, with your weight supported by your hands and toes.

2. Bend your right knee and hip, bringing your leg under you until your knee is approximately under your right hip (think of a sprinter start position). This will be your starting position.

3. Explosively reverse the positions of your legs, extending the right leg until it is straight and supported by the toe and lifting the left foot and bringing the left knee toward the left hip.

4. Repeat in an alternating fashion for 20 to 30 seconds.

Stability ball glute bridge
Michael Brush
Stability Ball Glute Bridge

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Rest your head and shoulders on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and heels resting on a stability ball.

2. Make sure that your knees are stacked over your ankles.

3. Keep your arms folded behind your head or against the floor and press the hips toward the ceiling. Don’t let your thighs and butt sink back toward the ground. Keep everything tight and pressed upward.

4. Slowly lower your hips down to starting position.

Kettlebell swings
Matthew Brush
Kettlebell Swings

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Stand over the kettlebell with feet shoulder width apart, chest up, and shoulders back and down. The kettlebell should be about 8 to 12 inches in front of your feet, forming a triangle with your two feet and the kettlebell.

2. Send your hips backward, keeping your body weight in your heels. Reach down with long and loose arms and grip the kettlebell with your palms facing you and thumbs wrapped loosely around the handle. Keep your shoulder blades back and down and tighten your core.p

3. Once you have tension throughout your body, hike the kettlebell back between your legs.

4. Driving through your heels, explode through the hips to send the weight swinging upward by tensing your glutes, keeping your core tight, and generating power from your hips. Aim for chest height, keeping the arms extended.

5. As the kettlebell begins to descend, let the weight do the work as you ready your body for the next rep. Shift your weight back into your heels while hinging at the hips and loading both the hamstrings and glutes. Receive the weight by allowing the kettlebell to swing back between the legs.

Rest 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Rest 2 minutes between circuits.

More: Why Exercise Boosts Your Weight Loss

Bent-over row
Matthew Brush
DB Bent-Over Row

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds 

1. With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing your torso), bend your knees slightly and bend forward at the waist. As you bend, make sure to keep your back straight. Bend forward until your back is almost parallel to the floor.

2. While keeping your torso stationary, lift the dumbbells to your side as you breathe out, keeping the elbows close to the body. Do not curl the dumbbells or exert any force with the forearm other than holding the weights.

3. At the top of the row, squeeze your back muscles and hold for a second.

4. Slowly lower the weight again to the starting position as you inhale.

Medicine ball slam
Matthew Brush
Medicine Ball Slam

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds 

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, and hold a non-bouncing medicine ball overhead.

2. Throw the ball down to the ground in front of your feet with as much force as possible. Exhale during the movement and contract your abs.

3. If possible, catch the ball as it bounces from the floor. If there’s no bounce at all, keep the ab muscles engaged and pick the ball up from the floor.

Alternating lateral lunge
Matthew Brush
Alternating Lateral Lunge

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. From standing, step far out to the right with your right leg.

2. Bend your right knee and sit back to lower into a side lunge, keeping your back flat and chest up.

3. Press through the right foot to return to your start position and then repeat on your left leg.

Skater hops
Matthew Brush
Skater Hops

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Stand on your right foot with your right knee slightly bent and your left foot slightly off the floor.

2. Dip your knees and lower your body toward the floor, then bound to your left by jumping off your right foot.

3. Land on your left foot and at the same time allow your right foot to travel behind you and your right arm to cross in front of you.

4. Reverse the movement, landing on your right foot.

Curl and press
Matthew Brush
DB Curl & Press

Time: work 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be hanging at your sides. Look directly ahead, keeping your chest up.

2. Initiate the movement by flexing the elbows to curl the weight to your shoulders. Do not use momentum or flex through the shoulder. Use a controlled motion.

3. Execute the pressing movement by extending your arms as you press the weight above your head. You should finish the press with your palms facing either inward or forward.

4. Pause at the top of the motion before reversing to return to the starting position.

Stability ball stir the pot
Matthew Brush
Stability Ball Stir the Pot

Time: work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds

1. Position a stability ball in front of you and rest your knees on a mat.

2. Place your forearms on the stability ball. While bracing through your core, raise your knees off the floor. You are performing a plank on the ball. Your ankles, hips, and shoulders should form a straight line. Do not let your hips sag.

3. Use your forearms to move the ball in small circles in a “stirring” motion.

4. Perform half of the recommended repetitions circling clockwise, then switch to perform the other half counterclockwise.

Rest 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.


Find more workouts in Chael Sonnen’s book The Four-Pack Revolution.

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