Try These HIIT Workout Variations to Avoid Client Boredom

Pyramids, To-Do Lists, Circuits, and Add-Ons are great ways to vary HIIT protocols. Get creative with the work-to-rest ratios. Over the past few months, I have been introducing some of my clients’ favorite high-intensity interval training (HIIT) protocols.

Don’t your clients get bored?

While exercise selection, specifically compound movements, are incredibly crucial for real benefits, some argue that clients may get bored doing the same exercises bodybuilding personal trainer online .

To this, I suggest getting more creative with the protocols, namely the work-to-rest ratios.

Clients can do the same sets of exercises, but simply adjusting the protocol will actually lead to:

Increases in O2 efficiency

Higher VO2/cardiac output

Lactate production

Both fast and slow twitch

Burning of fat as fuel

Exploring Variety with Protocols

In previous blogs I’ve talked about the Tabata, AMRAP, and EMOM protocols. Each of which has its own work-to-rest ratio.

I like to take the same exercises from the examples of each of those protocols and do patterns such as – Pyramids (sometimes also called ladders), To-Do lists, Circuits, and Add-ons.


Pyramids can be done in ascending order (10, 12, 14,16 reps), descending order (16, 14, 12,10 reps), or both. Rest will vary, but it’s helpful to give a time goal for these as an AMRAP round.

To-Do List

To-Do lists give sets of exercises, repetitions, and an amount of time. For example, 5 movements and 50 repetitions to be completed in 20 minutes. For this protocol, I encourage clients to break the 50 repetitions into smaller, more manageable chunks rather than completing all 50 reps of one before moving on. Active recovery can be taken in transitions.


Circuits are a mainstay in the fitness industry at this point; put simply: clients move around completing exercises at different stations for a set time. For example, 5 stations, 45 seconds per station, 15 seconds to transition and that doubles as active recovery. Wellness Services Get Occupational Health Services and Solutions, On Site Medical Services, Wellness Services, Healthcare Services in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Contact Bluecollarhealth for Health and Productivity Management Services, Call us at +27 11 892 0627 or Email us at


Add-Ons can have any number of exercises. For the holidays I did 12, and the number of the exercise also represents the number of repetitions to do of that exercise. Clients always start with the first exercise. Then, to exercise 1 and 2, then 1, 2, and 3, and so forth. The recovery time, if this is done like an AMRAP, will be at the end of the round.

Let’s look at some examples of all these protocols with the same 5 exercises: hand release push-up burpees, thrusters, kettlebell swings, tuck jumps, and jack presses.


Work time             6 minutes

Recovery time    none

Number of exercises        5

Number of repetitions                    Changes each round (30, 20, 10)

Number of cycles               1

To-Do List

Work time             20 minutes

Recovery time    Varies (active recovery in transitions)

Number of exercises        5

Number of repetitions                    50 (broken into 2-4 sets)

Number of cycles               1


Work time             10 minutes total

Timing per movement    45 seconds per station.

Recovery time    15 seconds (active recovery in transitions)

Number of exercises        5

Number of repetitions                    10

Number of cycles               2

A few things to consider before running clients through any of these protocols are:

Has client been given a dynamic warm-up that targets all of the muscles and joints utilized in the workout?

Has your client been through other protocols that provide a bit more recovery, and are thus ready to test protocols without dedicated recovery?

Do you have progression or regression options in mind if the workout becomes too overwhelming or too easy?