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I tried this Squid Game-inspired workout — and I lived

Squid Game
(Image credit: YOUNGKYU PARK)

As a Fitness Editor, I’m always on the lookout for new workouts to add to my routine, which can easily get pretty stale. This week, in my searching, I came across the Lily Sabri Red Light, Green Light Cardio workout, inspired by the hit Netflix show, Squid Game, and had to find out more. Luckily, there was no glass bridge to cross, and I made it to the end of the workout in one piece, if not a lot sweatier than I was at the start. 

The premise of the workout is this: Sabri gives you the exercise, and you perform as many reps as possible while the light is green. When the light goes red, you stop and take a rest. You have no idea how long the light will stay green, which adds a mental challenge to the workout, as you can’t count reps, or know when you’re halfway through each exercise. It’s a zero-equipment cardio workout, but it does involve a bit of jumping, so I’d recommend you do this downstairs, or at a sociable time of day if you’re in an upstairs apartment. 

I’ll start by saying: this workout will make you sweat. I burned over 100 calories in the 15-minute class (which has a five-minute warm-up before you get going) which is pretty impressive. It’s fast-paced and intense from the get-go, but Sabri also has modifications for beginners all the way through, so it’s suitable for all levels. 

What is the red light, green light cardio workout? 

While the fun of the workout is following along with Sabri and pushing yourself during the ‘green light’ sections of the class if you want to prepare yourself for what’s to come, these are the exercises that you’ll follow during the workout:

Side punches and star jumps: During this exercise, you alternate between doing star jumps, where you jump the arms out to the side and raise the legs, and jump punches, where you jump the legs out to the side and punch and twist from side to side. Alternate between the two moves without stopping. 

Squat jumps and walk: For this exercise, you will jump squat forward on your mat, then squat walk backward to your starting position. This exercise targets the hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 

Lateral bounds: For this plyometric exercise, you’ll be working on your lateral strength. To do the exercise, sidestep in each direction for two steps, lifting one leg back and behind you on the final step, before springing back on the other side. Keep moving. 

Side jump squats: Similar to the exercise above, each side-step you’re going to take a small squat down before side-stepping into the next squat. 

Plank step-ins: For this exercise, get into a plank position. Step the right foot to the side of your body, so that it’s in line with your right wrist, then step back to starting position. Then step the left leg to the side of your body, then back to the starting position. To make the exercise harder, jump the legs forward and back rather than stepping. 

Froggers: Think of this exercise as a half burpee. From a plank position, jump the legs in so your feet land on either side of your hands, then lift up into a low squat, before placing your hands back on the floor and jumping back into a plank position. To make the exercise easier, step the legs in rather than jumping. 

Fast feet: For this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart and jog on the spot as quickly as possible, bracing your core. Think about moving your feet as quickly as possible.

Side to side and tuck jump: Keeping on the balls of your feet, hop from side to side for eight reps, then tuck jump, bringing your knees up into your chest. If you’re a beginner or looking for a lower-impact alternative, do a squat instead of the tuck jump. 

Burpees: During this section of the workout, you perform a half burpee, jumping the feet forward from a plank position and getting into a low squat. You then jump the legs back to the starting position and perform a full burpee, jumping up after the squat. 

High knees side-to-side: For this exercise, perform high knees, bringing your knees up towards your chest, while stepping from side-to-side. 

Reverse crunch to half burpee: This one is a killer. Start lying on your back and reverse crunch, bringing your legs up and crunching into the stomach. As you bring your legs down to the mat, rock forwards and perform a half burpee. 

Toe reach: Lying on your back, keep your lower back pressed into the floor and raise your legs to the ceiling. Engaging your core, crunch upwards with your arms outstretched, as you try and touch your toes.

Side jump squats: This is the same as an earlier exercise —  each jump to the side you’re going to take a small squat down, before jumping to the side and lowering into the next squat. 

Curtsies: Putting your body weight into your left leg, take your right leg back and touch your right fingertips down to the floor. For beginners or those following the lower-impact version of the game, you’ll then step into the same exercise on the opposite side, for those following Lily, you’ll jump. 

High knees: Running on the spot, bring your knees up towards your chest with each step. 

Mountain climbers: From a plank position, bring one knee in towards your chest then back to your starting position, then repeat on the other side. For beginners, step one leg in at a time, for those who are more advanced, run the legs in and out. 

X mountain climbers: For the X mountain climbers, follow the same exercise as above, but cross your knees underneath your body, touching your left knee to your right elbow, then repeat on the other side. 

Bicycle crunches: Lying on your back, engaging your core, get into tabletop position, with your arms behind your head. Bring your left leg in to touch your right elbow, then repeat on the other side. 

Burpees: It’s the last exercise! This time you’re back on the killer burpees but lowering your chest to touch the floor each time.  

A photo of the Apple Watch series 6 after a HIIT class

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide )

How I found the Lily Sabri red light, green light workout

Normally, my cardio routine involves going for a run and listening to a podcast. It’s a form of relaxation and I often come back feeling much calmer. This was not the case here. It was intense from the get-go, but surprisingly, I found it really fun. 

I’ve trained with Lily Sabri for years and really enjoy her energy and enthusiasm — she definitely pushes you to keep going when things get tough. I also loved that Sabri had no idea when the green light was going to change, so neither of us had a clue how long we had left on each exercise. 

This definitely raised my heart rate. I burned over 100 calories in the 20-minute class and was definitely sweaty by the time the light turned for the final time. I really enjoyed mixing up my cardio and this workout had that class feel I’ve missed so much during the pandemic. I’m unsure whether doing more workouts like this would make me fit enough to survive the Squid Game Give, but I kind of hope I never have to find out. Give it a go — I dare you. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.