The Ultimate Guide To Interval Training

From the track to CrossFit, interval training is gaining steam everywhere — and for good reason. Alternating bursts of intense activity with periods of no- or low-intensity activity (known as active recovery), interval training effectively bumps up the heart rate, burns more calories and fat, and is more efficient compared to steady-state cardio (like jogging at the same pace for an extended period of time). No matter your fitness level, or preferred way to exercise, just about anyone can try out interval training.

What is High Intensity Interval Training?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves exercising at a high intensity (for 30 seconds to several minutes) then recovering with low intensity exercise for 1-5 minutes 1. While athletes have trained with intervals for decades, recent research points to short bursts of all-out intensity (coupled with short periods of rest) as an effective way to improve cardiovascular function and physical performance in less time than exercising with the same intensity for a full workout 2. Bottom line: high intensity means getting the job done in a jiffy.

Interval Training - 4 Standout Benefits

4 Standout Benefits of Interval Training

1. Interval training is hyper efficient.
While hitting the gym for an hour session may be the norm for many, it’s simply not practical for some of us. The good news is that research shows high intensity interval training has similar effects on the body to that of endurance training, but with less of a time commitment 3 4. In one study, 8-12 one-minute intervals of high intensity had the same effect on metabolism and muscle function as about 90 minutes of cycling at a moderate pace 1. Even if we think we don’t have time to workout, a quick 10-20 minute interval workout can still be beneficial.

2. It’s great for weight loss.
Moving in general is an integral part of shedding pounds, but including higher intensity intervals has been shown to amplify weight loss 5. Studies show high intensity intervals reduced more abdominal fat compared to sessions of moderate intensity 6 7 8. The formula is simple — the harder you work out, the more calories you’ll burn 9.

3. It keeps working, even after you do.
After a sweat sesh, our metabolism can stay elevated for a period of time — a term known as the afterburn effect (i.e. we burn more calories after exercise is complete, even if we’re lounging on the couch watching TV). Adding bouts of high intensity exercise during a workout has been show to increase the afterburn — also known as “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC — even more than moderate exercise 8 10 1.

4. It does wonders for your heart.
A primary benefit of interval training is its ability to increase aerobic performance 11. Increasing the intensity of aerobic exercise, like with intervals, is one of the most effective ways to improve cardio respiratory function (which is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to the body during physical activity) 12. In science-speak, interval training increases exerciser’s VO2 max — the maximum amount of oxygen the body takes in during exercise 12. Because muscles work super hard during high intensity intervals, they require more oxygen during and after exercise, which explains both improved cardiovascular strength and post-work out calorie burn. As an added bonus, because bursts of high intensity improve cardiovascular function, interval training can also prevent chronic disease (namely, heart disease) 13.

How to Get Started

If you’re used to working out at a steady pace, ease into intervals. Incorporate them slowly and start by alternating intervals of moderate intensity with low intensity before going all out. And remember, interval training doesn’t always have to mean lacing up those sneaks and heading out for a run. Free-weights, medicine balls, and kettlebells - or just your bodyweight - can also be used for a heart-pumping interval workout.

Interval Training - 25 Minute Cycling Workout

25-Minute Walking Workout
Warm-up for 5 minutes at a light pace. Walk for 30 seconds at a fast pace, and then walk 1 minute at a much slower resting pace. Repeat 10 times. Once you’ve mastered the power-walking intervals, try incorporating 30-second jog intervals. Finish with a 5- minute cool down.

Interval Training - 25 Minute Walking Workout

25-Minute Running Workout
Walk or jog for 5 minutes at a light pace to warm-up. Run for 30 seconds at maximum effort, then jog or walk for 1 minute. Repeat 10 times. Finish with a 5-minute cool down.

Interval Training - 25 Minute Running Workout

10-Minute Bodyweight Workout
Walk or jog for 2 minutes, or complete 1 minute of alternating bodyweight lunges and 1 minute of jumping jacks to warm-up. Rest for 30 seconds. Complete each of the following exercises for 1-minute intervals with 30 seconds breaks in between.

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Scissor kicks
  • Burpees
  • Plank

Interval Training - 10 Minute Body Weight Workout

10-Minute Free Weight Workout
Walk or jog for 2 minutes, or complete 1 minute of alternating bodyweight lunges and 1 minute of jumping jacks to warm-up. Rest for 30 seconds. Complete each of the following exercises for 1-minute intervals with 30 seconds breaks in between.

  • Bicep Curls
  • Shoulder Presses
  • Squats
  • Alternating lunges with weight overhead
  • Russian Twists

Interval Training - 10 Minute Free Weight Workout

While Intervals allow us to increase training intensity without overtraining, high intensity interval training isn’t appropriate for everyone. If you do not exercise on a regular basis or have a chronic health condition, consult your doctor before trying an interval training routine.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23210120
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2988497/
  3. http://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/22194005/
  4. http://jp.physoc.org/content/588/6/1011.long
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135883/
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854902
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19151592
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21311363
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15942765
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23539308
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392
  13. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224725/abstract

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