Pant-athlon: The New, Fun HIIT Workout That Keeps Us Coming Back for More

It’s a HIIT!


Necessity is the mother of innovation, as they say. In our case, the necessity was to stay motivated to continue doing cardio training while cooped-up on COVID-19 lockdown with barely any exercise equipment. And the innovation birthed from necessity’s nasty nether-regions was a new, fun HIIT workout:

The Pantathlon.

The Pantathlon involves strategy, unlimited variety, competition, and even some basic arithmetic. It pushes us to exhaustion, but we haven’t gotten tired of doing it multiple times a week. And we can do it anywhere with whatever equipment we choose (or lack thereof).

It’s not complicated, either. Here’s how to participate in your own Pantathlon HIIT workout.

Pantathlon Overview

The Pantathlon is a fun HIIT workout in which you choose 5 different exercises, decide a target number of reps for each exercise, then race to complete them all in any order you choose in 2-minute-on, 1-minute-off intervals.

How to Run a Pantathlon

Writing down the Pantathlon plan for another fun HIIT workout
Pick 5 exercises and a target number of reps for each.

1.Pick

Choose 5 of your favorite HIIT exercises. Use whatever equipment you have on hand and search Google, Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram for an endless number of ideas. Or pick from our sample Pantathlons below.

Target. For each of your 5 exercises, set a target number of reps depending on your fitness level and how long you want your Pantathlon to last. (See the F.A.Q. below for more guidance.)

Write. Make five columns on a blank piece of paper. Write the 5 exercise names and target reps at the top of each.

2. Prepare

Get your tools ready:

  • Your paper with the exercises and a pen or marker to write with.
  • An interval timer app set for 2 minutes on and 1 minute off.
  • Whatever workout equipment you need.

Warm up. If you don’t know what to do to warm up, do your Pantathlon exercises. Start slow and easy, steadily working up your pace until you start to sweat. And as you’re warming up, start strategizing your Pantathlon plan of attack.

Doing sit-ups during HIIT workout

3. Pant

For 2 minutes, do as many reps of whatever combination of your 5 exercises you choose. For example, do 5 burpees, 10 sit-ups, 20 squats, and 5 more burpees. Or do the same exercise the whole 2 minutes. Mix it up every interval. It’s up to you and your strategy.

Writing down number of reps done in the last interval
Recording the reps I did as the timer counts down until the next work interval.

4. Rest

When the 2 minutes is up, you have 1 minute to write down the number of reps of each exercise you did on your paper, catch your breath, and think of what to do on your next 2-minute interval.

Doing a burpee

5. Repeat

Continue with these 2 minutes on, 1 minute off intervals until you’ve completed your target reps for each exercise.

Exhausted after completing the HIIT workout
We suggest a more active post-Pantathlon cool-down than this.

4. Recap and Recover

Note down the total time it took you to complete your Pantathlon. Keep a record so you have a target to beat if you try doing the same again.

Cool down. Think about how you could change your strategy to complete the same Pantathlon faster next time. Or consider changing it up for next time. What exercises would you add, remove, or set higher or lower target reps to have a balanced, challenging, but fun HIIT workout?

Sample Pantathlon HIIT Workouts

The beauty of a Pantathlon is the endless amount of permutations and the flexibility to do it wherever you are, with or without equipment.

Here are some sample Pantathlon HIIT workouts to get you started. Try them out, then use your creativity to make up your own.

Unconventional Route Classic

ExerciseReps
Running10x ~300m.
Push-ups150
Skipping1000 skips
Hollow rocks150
Burpees100
Kim doing mountain climbers.

Beginner Bodyweight

ExerciseReps
Back lunges200 (100/leg)
Squats to bench/chair200
Jumping jacks300
Mountain climbers250 (100/leg)
Elevated push-ups120

Barbell Pantathlon HIIT Workout

Beginners use a dowel, intermediates can try 45-75lb, and advanced can go for 95lb+.

ExerciseReps
Deadlifts250
Bent-over rows75
Back squats150
Presses75
Ab rollouts100
Kim working out outside in Valenica
Toes-to-bar as part of the Jungle Gym Pantathlon HIIT workout.

Jungle Gym Pantathlon

ExerciseReps
Pull-ups80
Toes to bar80
Dips80
Box or bench jumps150
Pistol squats100 (50/leg)

Kettlebell Pantathlon

ExerciseReps
Swings250
Goblet squats200
Clean and press100 (50/arm)
Squat jumps200
Oblique side-to-side touches250

Sprint Pantathlon

Instead of 2-minutes on, 1-minute off, do 1-minute on, 1-minute off. Make that 1 minute extra intense.

ExerciseReps
Burpees50
Push-ups100
Pull-ups75
Squat jumps200
Oblique side-to-side touches250
Exhausted Chris trying to catch his breath

Pantathlon Tips

✓ Balance the Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

Try to pick a collection of exercises that work a variety of muscle groups. For example:

  • 1 compound exercise (e.g., burpees)
  • 1 upper body exercise (e.g., push-ups)
  • 1 core exercise (e.g., crunches)
  • 2 leg exercises (e.g., squats and lunges)

This way, when one muscle group gets tired, you can keep your heart pumping by switching to another exercise that works a different, better-rested set of muscles.

✓ Make It Competitive Across All Levels

Adjust the target number of repetitions for each member of your group to make the Pantathlon a more even race.

For example, since I have a stronger upper-body than Kim and have an easier time with double-unders than her, we might do a Pantathlon HIIT workout like this together:

ExerciseKimChris
Push-Ups80120
Burpees80100
Double-Under Skips400400
Air Squats200200
Hollow Rocks100100
Strategically planning the next interval
Be strategic on the exercises you choose for each interval.

✓ Strategic Advice

I find I complete my Pantathlon HIIT workouts fasted by getting the most exhausting exercises (like burpees) out of the way earlier on and saving some of the not-quite-as-intense ones (like air squats) for later.

Also, try to balance your exercises so you don’t tire out your muscles before tiring out your heart. For example, unless you’ve got perilous pecs, don’t do burpees and push-ups sequentially. Save your chest, shoulders, and arms by doing burpees following by an ab exercise and push-ups followed by a leg exercise.

Pantathlon HIIT Workout F.A.Q.

Why 2 minutes on, 1 minute off?

We were inspired by the HIIT workout structure Martin Gibala proposes in his book, The One-Minute Workout (one of my 15 favorite “Sledgehammer” books). His studies have shown that this type of work-hard, rest-hard structure is more time-effective for cardiovascular training than keeping a constantly high heart rate.

Plus, the 1 minute rest time gives you a chance to write the reps you did, calculate what remains, and strategize your next intervals.

But feel free to play with the interval timings. The shorter the work intervals and the longer the rest, the more intense.

How many reps should I target for each exercise?

That obviously depends on how long you want your HIIT workout to last for.

As a rough rule-of-thumb, we determine roughly how many reps of each exercise we can do in 30 seconds (i.e., 10 burpees, 20 push-ups, 20 air squats), and do 10-times that. That means you’ll be doing about 5 minutes of each of the 5 exercises for a total working time of 25 minutes. Adding in the 1-minute rests, the whole HIIT workout will take about 40 minutes.

Adjust according to your time, fitness, and energy limitations.

How do you time the intervals?

Kim and I use a free app called Tabata Timer (iTunesAndroid). I like that it has a 3-second countdown before and at the end of each interval.

There are tons of other apps that do the same thing. Use whatever works for you.

Other questions?

Leave a comment and we’ll reply as soon as we’re finished and recovered from our own Pantathlon.

Celebrating completion of another Pantathlon HIIT workout
You’ll feel great for doing it.

Get Pant-ing!

Next time you’re looking for an intense but fun HIIT workout, try a Pantathlon. Hopefully it will become your favorite HIIT workout format as it has become for us.

And please let us know any questions, feedback, or ideas in the comments below.

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Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris are exploring better ways to do... everything. Think, travel, exercise, work, relate, you name it. Every week-ish, we share a new idea in our newsletter, "Consider This."