Tip: The Italian Tune-Up

A fast metcon workout that melts fat and builds muscle. Works with cycling, running, or ropes. Check it out.

Blow Out the Gunk

An Italian tune-up is when you stomp the gas and push your car to the limits in order to heat things up and blow the gunk out.

The term originated with Ferrari mechanics who would drive cars around a racetrack at high RPM to heat up the engine enough to burn off excess carbon buildup. Like a fine sports car, your body can also benefit from the occasional Italian tune-up.

The Italian tune-up workout follows the ideas of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), but with a slight increase in recovery time to maintain the high quality of the intervals. Get the body primed, blast off a few high-quality intervals, then cool it down. Short, simple, brutal.

The Workout

1 – Warm-Up

Do 5 minutes of light activity and dynamic loading, such as dumbbell swings, jump squats, and skips. We want to get the muscles warm and firing in an explosive way before we step on the gas.

2 - Choose Your Weapon

You can choose between several different things here: rowing machine, running, stationary bike, even battle ropes. Pick your favorite.

3 – 25 Seconds On, 90 Seconds Rest, Repeat 6 Times

For 25 seconds, you're going to go all-out. You're looking to recruit and fatigue every possible muscle fiber. Use every bit of energy you have. Make it burn, make it hurt. After the 25 seconds of work, rest 90 seconds, then repeat 5-6 times.

For rowing and cycling, set the resistance high enough that you can still exert significant force each rep without spinning out to low-powered RPMs. If running outside, sprint 200 meters, ideally on a slight hill. If using battle ropes, smash both ropes at a time as hard and fast as you can, violently thrashing the floor.

You should be totally fried after each round. The recovery interval should be just enough to get you through the next round.

4 – Cool down

After the last set, get a good 10-minute walk, bike, or row to clear everything out and stabilize your heart rate.


For maximum effect, this should be done when you're feeling fairly fresh, like early in the week. It's best done as a standalone workout. It can be performed after a lighter weight session, but may be difficult. Don't expect to be able to lift after these intervals.


The Science

This workout works the ATP-CP and Anaerobic Glycolysis systems. You're looking to fully deplete these energy systems in each set, then rest just long enough to allow them to recover for the next set.

Training the ATP-CP system results in significant increases in metabolic rate for up to 24 hours post-exercise. There's also a substantial upregulation in enzyme activity for the aerobic and anaerobic systems, benefitting all energy systems. There's even a hypertrophy effect on the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are more responsive to stimulus. In addition, you'll get a boost in testosterone and growth hormone post-exercise.

Remember, you're looking for maximal muscular expression in this workout. Extreme contractile force and power generation is the goal.

Kyle Peabody is a trainer and coach in Princeton, NJ, and an athlete on the United States Rowing Team. Kyle won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, and won the 2014 World Indoor Rowing Championships. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Follow Kyle Peabody on Facebook