This HIIT Workout From SailGP Is About The Toughest 20 Minutes You Can Spend In The Gym

cardio , 20-Minute Workout
(Image credit: Unknown)

We’ll be the first to admit we don’t know a lot about sailing. In our mind it always seemed a rather pleasant and relaxing way to spend your time. But judging by the workout below, which is designed to mimic the physical challenge of a SailGP race, we have very much misjudged the effort level involved in the sport.

But then SailGP isn’t standard sailing. It involves 16-minute races where the boats hit speeds of over 90km/h, or 50 knots if nautical speeds mean anything to you. The physical challenge of the race means sailors can burn 1,200 to 2,200 calories across the three races that take place at an event, which really is a lot for 48 minutes of work.

To show off the fitness levels of its competitors, SailGP has created this 20-minute workout, which we invite you to tackle next time you’re feeling brave in the gym. The workout consists of three blocks – strength, conditioning and metabolic conditioning – and you’ll be working all-out pretty much the entire time. Enjoy!

Block 1: Strength

Work for four minutes completing as many rounds of the below exercises as possible. Rest for one minute, then move on to the second block.

Back squat

Reps 8

With a barbell resting on the back of your shoulders, sit back into a squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground, then drive back up.

Bent-over row

Reps 8

Holding a barbell in an overhand grip, hinge forwards from your hips and let the bar hang down with straight arms. Row the bar up to your stomach, then slowly lower it again.

Plyometric press-up

Reps 8

From a press-up position, lower your chest towards the ground, then push back up explosively so your hands come off the floor.

Jumping pull-up

Reps 8

Standing below a pull-up bar, jump and grasp it with an overhand grip and pull your chest up to the bar in one movement. Lower under control, then let go of the bar to return to the floor.

Block 2: Conditioning

The intensity steps up a notch in this six-minute block, where you work to Tabata timings, going all out for 20 seconds then resting for ten seconds. Then take a one-minute break before the final block.


Sets 3 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Jump on a rowing machine and go at it for 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to a rower, shuttle sprints or an exercise bike will work.

Burpee jump-over

Sets 3 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

From standing, drop your hands to the floor, jump your feet back into a press-up position and drop your chest to the floor. Reverse the movements back to standing and leap laterally over a raised surface – the beam of the rowing machine is perfect for this.

Assault bike

Sets 3 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Another all-out blast on an exercise machine. If there aren’t any assault bikes in your gym, use an exercise bike or skip with a rope instead.

Medicine ball slam

Sets 3 Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Lift a weighted ball above your head in both hands and then slam it into the ground as hard as you can. Catch it on the bounce and lift it above your head again.

Block 3: Metabolic Conditioning

Finish off your workout with this eight-minute block, working through as many rounds of the below as you can.

Ten-calorie row

Row all-out until the display tells you have burned ten calories. No rowing machine? Skip as fast as you can for 30 seconds.

Kettlebell swing

Reps 15

Hold a kettlebell in both hands between your legs. Bend your knees and swing the kettlebell back between your legs, then drive forwards with your hips to raise the weight to shoulder height. Control the swing back down.

Dead ball over shoulder/dumbbell thruster

Reps 9

If you have a dead ball, lift it up from the floor over your shoulder and drop it. If not, perform the dumbbell thruster instead. Hold the weights by your shoulders and drop into a squat. As you drive back up, press the dumbbells over your head until your arms are fully extended.

Pyramid shuttle run

Sprint 5m and back, then 10m and back, 15m and back, 10m and back, and 5m and back. Each time you get back to the start, tap the ground.

The SailGP global championship comes to Cowes on the Isle of Wight on 10th-11th August.

Buy tickets | From £35

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.