When it comes to strong, fit, legs look no further than the goddess known as Carrie Underwood. Fitness expert and author of The 4×4 Diet Erin Oprea has trained Underwood for over eight years, and she clued us in on the singer’s lower-body secret: it’s a little bit cardio, plus a little bit strength training, a lot of sweaty hard work, and super-smart healthy eating habits. Oprea has already shared some of Underwood’s go-to lower-body moves here. So now it’s time to talk cardio.
Oprea is a big fan of Tabata cardio workouts. That means you’ll be doing 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest. And you’ll do that set of intervals a total of eight times. It’s tough, but definitely not boring. “Tabata workouts are my favorite because they create a game for my clients—a challenge that only lasts for 20 seconds, yet you can feel the burn for days. Comparing how many reps you were able to get during the previous round or last week is a great way to inspire and push my clients into getting more out of their workouts,” Oprea tells SELF. And the proof is in how great Underwood looks.
Try this calorie-crushing workout from Underwood’s trainer below—the whole thing will take you 22 minutes. Do this routine today, then take tomorrow off. “Remember, all muscles need to rest and recover, so this workout isn’t something you should do every day,” Oprea says. Let’s do this:
Tabata 1: Treadmill Sprints
“If you’re not winded when you’re done with this then you probably didn’t go hard enough,” explains Oprea.
- Start with a warm-up by setting the treadmill to a 0.5 percent incline and walking for 3 minutes at a 3.5-4.0 mph pace. Then pick up the pace to a steady jog (5.0-6.5 mph) for another 3 minutes.
- Now it’s time for Tabata sprints. Get your treadmill up to sprinting speed* while you stand on the side boards and set your timer (or a Tabata app) for eight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery.
- Make sure to hold on as you jump on the treadmill and sprint for your 20 seconds.
- When the timer signals the 10 second rest period, jump to the sides, again holding on. Be careful and only work within your limits. Repeat for all 8 rounds for a heart-pumping, lung-burning cardio blast.
*Sprinting Speed: Aim to keep the pace between 8-10 mph, says Oprea, but work at the level that’s right for you. “If 8 mph is too high for you then bring it down and build yourself up over time to get yourself to this sprinting level. You’re shooting for a sprint that puts your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) between 8-9, where 10 is all-out effort.”