I spent a week trying out intense workouts because Lancs gyms were shut

I have developed a phobia of burpees


We are currently experiencing our third national lockdown – and it is clear that each lockdown has been different from the last. Lockdown one united the country, creating new trends which people could not bear to miss out on, and provided a faint glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel, as we were brought together through obsessions for whipped coffee and Tiger King. Sadly, lockdown three has seen us all lose any motivation to participate in time-wasting activities such as these, and it seems that waiting for the lockdown to end is the only glimmer of hope we have.

Inarguably, one of the biggest fads of lockdown one was the workout craze. I, myself, fell victim to the inescapable hooks of Chloe Ting’s joyful persona and repetitive royalty-free music, which is why I decided that in lockdown three, I would challenge myself into finding the best, and in some cases most difficult, workouts, to fill these dreary days.

So, I threw on my latest GymShark purchases and spent six days trying six different unisex workouts and ranked them in order of best to worst, considering factors such as difficulty, enjoyment, and motivation. Here are the results.

Mr and Mrs Muscle – HIIT at home

My first workout out of the week was found on the Gymshark Training App (which is free and accessible to both Apple and Android users). This workout consisted of a warmup, then three sets of six exercises, all of which had a 30-second break in-between. It was evident that this workout would not be filled with generic exercises that you would find in any normal regime from just the warmup. Including movements such as “seal jacks” and something called “overhead back extensions” (which made me look more like I was making a somewhat poor attempt at a dolphin impression), the warmup set the tone for what turned out to be one of the more complicated workouts of the week.

The exercises themselves were not overly tiring but definitely took some time to get the hang of. Reaching a heart rate of 188bpm, this workout definitely did make me sweat, and by the second set, I was practically jellified, but I didn’t come from it feeling like I’d achieved that much, and the only thing getting me through was the groovy music. So, Mr and Mrs Muscle, I raise my hat to you, but sadly, your workout is not for me.

Overall rating: 6/10.

BRUTAL HIIT Ladder workout – ‘FitnessBlender’

The next challenge I set myself was a ladder workout from youtube. I had never come across such a thing before, so I decided it would be good to broaden my horizons, a decision which I regretted almost instantly. I suppose I should’ve been tipped off by comments such as “By the end, I wasn’t doing jumping jacks, but waving for help…”

This workout was HARD. Consisting of six sets of four exercises, with no breaks in between exercises and a 20-second break between each set, it definitely pushes you to your limits. Being a descending ladder workout, the amount of time for which you are doing each exercise decreases each set by 10 seconds, a factor which I must admit, became the only motivation I had to push myself through to the end. Seriously, whoever decided it was okay to force people to do burpees non-stop for sixty seconds holds a special place in hell.

My notes from this workout (written in between each set) consist of entries such as “OW” and “SWEATY”, which, in my opinion, perfectly sum up my overall feelings. Another commenter wrote, “The video lies; it said I needed no equipment, but I needed a body bag after this.” and I have to agree, by the end of set four, I was definitely on death’s door. Even though the timing was consistently getting shorter, it felt longer. I really had to push myself to complete it; however, by the fifth set (in which each exercise lasted 20 seconds), I experienced a new lease of life. A sudden burst of energy that shot off inside of me like a firework, only accompanied by fewer “oohs” and “ahhs” and more grunts of pain. When I finished this workout, I felt great – disgusting and sweaty and tired and jellied – but great. My heart rate hit a high of 190bpm, showing just how much I had pushed myself during those 20 minutes of pain, and I couldn’t be more positive about it. I loved and hated this workout, but all in the best ways… apart from the burpees – I just straight-up hated the burpees.

Overall rating 9/10.

2o-Minute Intense Fat Burner Home HIIT – The Body Coach

Tuesday’s workout was a homage to lockdown one, as I took on a Joe Wicks HIIT. Drawn to this particular video from one comment which says, “that felt like the exorcism of my fat”, I decided I had to give it a go. This 20-minute regime was made up of four sets. However, unlike most HIIT workouts, each set consisted of one single exercise that you repeated five times for 30 seconds, with a 30-second rest in between. Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. Despite not being difficult exercises in their foundations, consistently repeating one particular exercise over five minutes absolutely KILLS you.

However, despite how hard this workout was, Joe Wicks made it an absolute dream of an experience. My notes from this work out describe how I was sweating like never before, experiencing a whole new level of burning, and that my arms had well and truly died, but throughout it all, I never wanted to quit – and that is solely due to the lovely Joe. He motivates you and makes you feel as though he’s more of a friend than an instructor, and one of my favourite factors is that he shows his pain, so you don’t feel like you’re the only one suffering; I cannot fault him at all. On top of all this, his video has no stupid, annoying music. I was positively dying after this workout but was once again feeling great. Thank you, Joe Wicks; I will definitely be checking out more of your videos in future.

Overall rating 10/10.

No Equipment Intense Full Body Crusher HIIT Workout – ‘growingannanas’

On the surface, workout number four was just a bog-standard HIIT workout: warmup, followed by three sets of eight exercises, with a 10-second break between each exercise/set. However, what was intriguing about this particular video was that each set targeted one specific section of your body (i.e., abs), and no two exercises are the same. Somewhat naively, I began this workout thinking that the lack of repetition would make it easier. It turns out I was wrong… again.

For me, this workout was not dissimilar to that of Mr and Mrs Muscle: showing an affinity for ‘out of the box’ exercises, this workout once again provided obstacles as it was not only challenging me to DO the exercise but also to work out what exactly it was that I was meant to be DOING. I frequently began doing a movement only to look back to the screen and discover that I was doing pretty much the polar opposite to what I was meant to be. In addition to this, the exercises themselves were so so SO difficult! Honestly, how on earth anybody can hold themselves in a low press-up position for nearly an entire minute baffles me.

I truly feel as though I spent more of this workout collapsed on the floor than actually doing the exercises. Because of this, I didn’t complete the workout feeling too great about myself, and unless you’re extremely coordinated and agile, I believe it would be a challenge for you, too. My heart rate barely hit 160bpm, showing that I wasn’t working hard, and with a lack of communication from the instructors, I was entirely unmotivated. Having said that, this workout was definitely a challenge, and if you fancy testing the ability of your whole body, I highly recommend it. As a general HIIT, though, I didn’t love it.

Overall rating 5/10.

Nike Training Club Intermediate HIIT Challenge

My penultimate workout was from the Nike Training App, which is free and easily accessible once again. Found under the ‘all workouts’ section of the app, this workout consisted of a warmup, followed by three sets of six exercises; however, there were no scheduled rests. I personally was a fan of this since it meant that I could take it at my own pace. Besides, this workout was not measured in time. Instead, you are challenged to do a specific number of reps (e.g. 40 mountain climbers) and only move on once that number has been achieved. Of course, the benefit of this is that no matter how long it takes you, you’re definitely doing a good number of reps. All of the exercises were doable, meaning that I wasn’t stumbling over myself trying to complete a movement. Instead, I could focus all my efforts on actually pushing myself into doing each exercise with maximum effort.

I overall feel very positive about this workout; I worked up a nice sweat. Still, I didn’t feel completely worn out by the end of it (such as with workouts two and three), and for me, the lack of a time limit really made me push myself more to try and do each set as quickly and intensely as I possibly could. I wasn’t constantly staring at the clock thinking, “this is the longest forty seconds of my life”, instead I was concentrating on my form and getting the best results. Also, having no set soundtrack meant I could put my own workout playlist on, which is obviously more enjoyable than the copyright free music you’re usually forced to endure.

Overall rating 8/10.

30-Minute HIIT Cardio Workout Abs At Home with Warmup – SELF

I finished off my week with a final YouTube jobby, a HIIT workout which promised to be a tough one from comments such as “At this point, I can’t tell if I’m crying or sweating out of my eyes”. It has four sets of seven exercises, taking a pretty standard form, no breaks in between the exercises, but a 60-second rest between each set and gives us a cool down. Similar to the first workout, the warmup set the tone for the rest of the workout, and let me tell you, this one was going to be tough. Focusing on cardio and endurance, the workout was pretty much nonstop, chock full of exercises that test your stamina to the limits and make you push yourself from the get-go. I personally really enjoyed this one.

The exercises were easy to grasp, meaning I didn’t find myself flailing about like a fish out of water, and from the very first set, I was worn out and sweaty but never ran out of energy or motivation to keep going. The sixty-second plank at the end of each set proved to be the hardest part, and whilst it could be slightly concerning that a plank was the hardest bit to do, I found that it was a perfect complement to the rest of the cardio-filled set. Also, and very important to note, the instructors were hugely motivating and majorly increased the enjoyment element. My heart rate was once again up near 190bpm, which proves that this workout is hard work, but still leaves you feeling great.

Overall rating 9/10.

To conclude, my week full of workouts and whining produced a clear front runner, that of the one and only Joe Wicks. This regime has everything I could want from a HIIT workout and truly left me feeling good. Workouts two and six also left me feeling great, but who can really compare to the wonderful Joe. It was definitely a challenge to drag my achy body into a new workout each day, but I’m thoroughly glad I did it and challenge any of you who consider yourselves fitness fiends to do the same.

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