Triple Threat Core Workout

HIIT, Cardio, and Weights

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

There are different types of abdominal fat: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat lies around the organs underneath the abdominal muscles and is considered more dangerous to your health. Subcutaneous fat lies under the skin and is the type you can pinch.

Body fat in itself is essential but if you are carrying more than is healthy around your middle, it could contribute to health problems. Women with a waist measurement over 35 inches or men with a waist measurement over 40 inches may have an increased risk of diseases. Talk to your doctor about any concerns regarding your waist circumference and discuss associated risks with them for the best advice.

You've probably heard that abs are made in the kitchen, and, to some extent, that's true. However, exercise is a crucial component of any routine, which should include:

Incorporating all three of these into your workout program will give you that extra edge when it comes to reducing abdominal adiposity, and the workout below has all three components.

Here's what you need to know before you get started.

For the most part, targeting body part "spot" training is not possible. However, there are some reasons why people accumulate more fat on their abdomens, and some research, noted below, shows that specific types of exercise may help. Remember that proper sleep and stress reduction are equally important factors.


HIIT workouts, by definition, are designed to send your heart rate soaring, pushing you out of your comfort zone where your body has to work much harder to get oxygen to the muscles.

By working very hard for short intervals you shake up your metabolism and force your body to use more energy to find fuel for the body. Not only that, you use even more energy after the workout to bring your body back to its pre-existing state.

All of that means more calorie burn overall but, even better, HIIT training seems to target belly fat specifically.

In one study, published in Kinesiology, experts compared one group of women who followed a HIIT protocol workout for 12 weeks to women who did moderate-intensity cardio. The HIIT group experienced a greater reduction of subcutaneous abdominal fat by the end of the study.

With HIIT training you want to make sure that, first, you only do this type of training a few times a week. Too much can actually backfire, causing burnout, overtraining, or even an injury.

Second, you should have some exercise experience before trying HIIT. If you haven't tried interval training, start with a beginner program and slowly work your way up to more intense workouts.

Total Body Compound Moves

Traditional strength training exercises like the biceps curls are important in their own way, but if you really want to burn more calories and target abdominal fat, compound moves are a must.

Compound exercises involve working more than one muscle group at the same time. For example, a squat or a squat with an overhead press involves many more muscle fibers than either one of those moves alone. Not only does this burn more calories because you're using more muscle groups, it elevates your heart rate as well, which also burns more calories.

The more muscle tissue you involve, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood and oxygen to the muscles. That's where the calorie-burn happens. As a bonus, compound exercises also improve your balance and coordination as well as flexibility.

Strength Training

Compound moves are important for elevating heart rate and burning calories, but strength training exercises have a different effect on the body. With both HIIT training and compound exercises, you burn more calories during the workout and, of course, after the workout as your body works through the afterburn.

Strength training doesn't necessarily burn as many calories during your workout session, but adding lean muscle tissue has a more long-term impact on the body.

Lifting weights not only helps you build strength in your muscles and bones, it can increase your metabolism. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so the more you have, the more calories your body burns overall.

And, even better, lifting weights can actually help prevent more weight gain in the abdominal area as you get older.

In one study by the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that healthy men who did at least 20 minutes of weight training gained less weight around the abdominal area than men who spent the same amount of time doing cardio.

Your Triple Threat Workout

You now have these three tools in your exercise toolbox, and this workout combines all three to give you the most comprehensive core workout. Do this 2 to 3 times a week, watch your diet, and you're on the right track.

For this workout, there are 3 rounds. Each round includes a 4-minute HIIT series, a series of compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups and traditional strength moves that emphasize individual muscle groups.

Tips and Precautions

  • Warm up: Take at least 5 minutes, more if you can, to warm up with some light cardio—marching or jogging in place, step touches, etc. This will help get your mind and body ready and protect your body from injury.
  • Monitor your intensity: This is designed to be a high-intensity workout, so you should feel breathless during the HIIT portions of the workout. Use a perceived exertion scale or a heart rate monitor to keep track of how hard you're working and take longer breaks if needed.
  • Skip any moves that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Lift heavy: For the strength exercises, you'll do 2 sets of each move. Choose a weight heavy enough that you can only lift it for 12 reps.

Workout Overview

Your workout will look like this:

Round One: Jack It Out

  • 40/20 HIIT Cardio
  • Total Body Strength Combo - Shoulders and Back

Round 2: All Burpees All the Time

  • 30/30 HIIT Cardio
  • Total Body Strength Combo - Biceps and Triceps

Round Three: Take It to the Side

  • 20/10 Tabata Cardio
  • Total Body Strength Combo - Chest and Legs

Total Workout Time: Approximately 35 Minutes

Round 1 - Jack It Out

For your first round, your cardio intervals will be 40 seconds long followed by 20 seconds of rest. As the title suggests, the moves you'll do are all a version of jumping jacks.

Work as hard as you can during the work segments and take advantage of the 20-second rest periods. Take a moment to catch your breath before moving on to the Part 2.

Part 1: 40/20 HIIT Cardio

Time Exercise RPE
5 min Warm up at a moderate pace 4-5
40 sec Jumping Jacks/Rest 20 seconds 7-9
40 sec Jumping Jacks With a Lat Band Pull/Rest 20 seconds - Hold a resistance band in both hands overhead and jump the feet out in a jumping jack while pulling the arms open and pulling the elbows down. Jump back, lift the arms, and repeat. 7-9
40 sec Plyo Jacks/Rest 20 seconds - Jump the feet out and land in a deep squat, circling the arms. Jump the feet back into a deep squat with jumping jack arms. 7-9
40 sec Air Jacks/Rest 20 seconds - With feet together, squat, and then jump in the air, taking the feet out and circling the arms as in a jumping jack. Land in a squat and repeat. 7-9

Part 2: Total Body Strength Combo - Shoulders and Back

For the second part, you'll focus on combination moves with an emphasis on the shoulders and back, followed by more targeted exercises for those muscle groups. Go as heavy as you can for the strength exercises, rest briefly and move on to the next round.

Time Exercise
1 min Squat Press - Holding weights at the shoulders, squat as low as you can. As you stand up, press the weights overhead.
1 min Iron Cross Squat - Holding weights in front of the thighs, lift the weights straight up, then swing them out to the sides. As you bring the weights down, lower into a squat. Stand and repeat.
2 x 12 reps Overhead Press - Use a heavy weight and stand weight feet hip-width apart, abs braced. Press the weights overhead and lower them until they're at ear-level, elbows bent like goal posts. Rest 10-30 seconds between sets.
1 min Rear Lunge With Rows - Hold weights and step back into a straight leg lunge. Tip from the hips and pull the weights up into a row. Step back and repeat on the other side.
2 x 12 reps Dumbbell Rows - Hold heavy weights and tip from the hips, back flat and abs in. Pull the elbows up into a row, lower and repeat.

Round 2 - All Burpees All the Time

For round 2, we're mixing things up with some new intervals and a variety of burpees.

If these don't work for you, feel free to substitute other cardio moves. The idea is just to get your heart rate up and work as hard as you can. Your intervals are 30/30, so an equal work-to-rest ratio. By the end, you should feel breathless.

Part 1: 30/30 HIIT Cardio

Time Exercise RPE
30 sec Walking Burpees/Rest 30 seconds - Squat to the floor, walk the feet out into a plank. Walk the feet back in and repeat. 7-9
30 sec Burpees/Rest 30 seconds - Squat to the floor and jump the feet back into plank. Jump the feet back in, stand up and jump. 7-9
30 sec Med Ball Burpees/Rest 30 seconds - Hold a medicine ball and squat to the floor, holding onto the med ball as you jump the feet out. Jump the feet in, stand up and toss the med ball in the air. 7-9
30 sec Sliding Burpees/Rest 30 seconds - With your feet on towels (for hardwood floors) or paper plates or Gliding Discs on carpet, squat and slide the feet out into a plank. Slide the feet in and stand up. 7-9

Part 2: Total Body Strength Combo - Biceps and Triceps

Your strength and combination exercises emphasize the arms, the biceps, and triceps. For the strength moves, pick up a heavy weight to really work the arms.

Time Exercise
1 min Wide Squat Jumps With Biceps Curls - Start with the feet together, holding weights with the palms facing in. Jump the feet out into a wide squat. As you jump the feet back in, curl the weights into a hammer curl.
1 min Power Hammer Curls - Hold heavy weights and squat as low as you can, curling the weights up into a hammer curl. Stand up with the weights still curled and slowly lower the weights.
2 x 12 Biceps Curls - Hold heavy weights with palms out and curl the weights up and down.
1 min Lunge With Triceps Extensions - In a staggered stance, one foot forward and one back, hold a heavy weight in both hands straight up. Lower into a lunge while bending the elbows. Push up, straightening the arms and squeezing the triceps.
1 min Dips With Leg Extensions - Sit on the edge of a chair or bench and lift the hips up, hands next to the hips. Bend the elbows into a triceps dip and, as you push up, extend the right leg and try to touch the toes with your left hand. Repeat, alternating sides.
2 x 12 Triceps Extensions - Seated or standing, hold a heavy weight straight up. Keeping the elbows in, lower the weight behind the head, bending the elbows. Squeeze the weight up and repeat.

Round 3: Take It to the Side

Your cardio involves side-to-side exercises to target the muscles of the glutes, hips, and outer thighs. You'll also work on speed, stability, and agility.

Part 1: 20/10 Tabata Cardio

Time Exercise RPE
20 sec Puddlejumpers/Rest 10 seconds- Take a giant step out to the right bringing the arms out wide, like you're stepping over a giant puddle. Go to the other side and keep going, as fast, low and wide as you can. 7-9
20 sec Side to Side Jumping Lunges (Skaters)/Rest 10 seconds - Pivot to the right and take the right leg back into a straight leg lunge, punching the left arm out. Jump in the air, switching sides and lunging to the left, punching the right arm out. 7-9
20 sec Shuffle Shuffle Squat/Rest 10 seconds - Shuffle to the right for two steps and lower into a squat, touching the floor if you can. Shuffle back to the left and repeat. 7-9
20 sec Suicide Runs/Rest 10 seconds - Run to the opposite end of the room, or as far as you can go, moving as quickly as you can and touch the floor. Run back across the room and, again touch the floor, repeating for 40 seconds. 7-9

Part 2: Total Body Strength Combo - Chest and Legs

Your last strength and compound combo focuses on the chest and the lower body with a variety of moves. Again, try to lift as heavy as you can for the strength moves and rest if you need to between exercises.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Little JP, Safdar A, Wilkin GP, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. J Physiol (Lond). 2010;588(Pt 6):1011-22. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743

  3. Maillard F, Pereira B, Boisseau N. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2018;48(2):269-288. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0807-y

  4. Zhang H, K Tong T, Qiu W, Wang J, Nie J, He Y. Effect of high-intensity interval training protocol on abdominal fat reduction in overweight Chinese women: a randomized controlled trial. Kinesiology. 2015 Jun 29;47(1):57-66.

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Additional Reading
  • Schuenke M, Mikat R, Mcbride J. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2002;86(5):411-417. doi:10.1007/s00421-001-0568-y.

  • McCall P. 5 Benefits of Compound Exercises. ACE Fitness. 

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."