Fitness and Health

What is interval training?A guide to maximizing fitness

Interval training can be high or low intensity and can be applied to cardio and strength training.

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Different workouts can help you reach different fitness goals, like running for endurance or lifting weights to build muscle. But if you want to get stronger, faster, and healthier, it’s wise to harness the power of interval training.

If fitness is a continuum, then at one end we have endurance, the ability of the body to perform an action for a long period of time. On the other hand, you have strength, your body’s ability to generate force. Interval training can help improve both.

What is interval training?

“Interval training is an umbrella term for exercise protocols that alternate periods of relatively high-intensity exercise and recovery,” says Jenna Gillen, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Toronto.

Interval training is something in between exercise methods and can be used to improve endurance, strength, or a combination of both. Interval training workouts can be designed in a myriad of ways based on your personal activity, goals and current fitness level.

During each period of work, you exercise for a set amount of time or distance and at a certain level of intensity. This is followed by periods of low intensity effort or rest. Up-down effort levels are different than steady-state or continuous exercise training.

Interval training is often used in various forms of aerobic exercise (running, cycling, rowing, swimming, jumping rope) as a way to work harder than sustained effort. It can also be implemented as strength training and a way to improve speed, power and overall fitness.

“The purpose of interval training is based on what the person doing it wants to improve,” says exercise physiologist Jim White, CPT. I think it’s great for improving my abilities.”

White also touts the benefits of interval training for weight loss. “This is a great way to burn calories and reduce body fat percentage,” he says.

Main types of interval training

Interval training is a very broad term. Any type of exercise that alternates between periods of effort and periods of recovery is technically a form of interval training.

Dr. Martin Gibara, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, says Canada. This is likely because HIIT remains popular even though it’s just one form of interval training for him.

Gibala says you can benefit from interval training even if your regular exercise is just walking blocks. “Danish researchers conducted a walking program for people with type 2 diabetes,” he explains, referring to the February 2013 ‌diabetes care. “One group did continuous steady-state walking, and the other group did gentle interval walking.

“After a few months, those who did interval walking were healthier, had less body fat, and had significantly better glycemic control than those who walked continuously,” he says.

These are some of the main forms of interval training. “There is a style of interval training that is suitable for almost everyone,” says Gibara.

1. High intensity interval training

Also known as HIIT, this style of interval training focuses on “near maximal” effort at a target heart rate of about 80% (often 85-95%) of your maximum heart rate. The period of “work” lasts from a few seconds (for untrained individuals) to several minutes. Interval length is not as important as effort. To be HIIT, you have to work almost at full capacity.

Sprint interval training (also known as SIT) is characterized by being performed at an intensity greater than all-out effort. For example, a sprint interval training workout could be cycling or running at 100% or 150% of your maximum heart rate. These types of workouts are usually reserved for athletes who are more experienced or have a higher level of fitness.

Commonly grouped together with HIIT exercises, the Tabata method is a specific work-to-rest ratio protocol that consists of 20 seconds of very vigorous activity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this pattern for 4 minutes or a total of 8 sets in a row. It is based on groundbreaking research conducted in October 1996.Medicine and Science in Sport and ExerciseAmong Olympic speed skaters who performed this workout on a stationary bike, 20 seconds of exercise reached an intensity of 170% of maximum VO2. considered.

Swedish for “speed play”, it’s a less structured, casual interval workout primarily used by long-distance runners. Rather than the rigorous duration of most interval training workouts, fartrek is often performed by mixing regular bursts of higher intensity effort in the middle of a steady-state run at more random intervals. (e.g. select Lamp Pole or Mailbox Up and increase your pace until you reach that landmark). It’s a great way to change up your workout mid-session and beat mental boredom and fatigue.

Every Minute on the Minute (or EMOM) has become a popular style of interval training in the strength training world. In this style of workout, he repeats a specific exercise a set number of times within 60 seconds. Then use the rest of that minute to rest before moving on to the next set. The later you complete an exercise, the less time you need to rest, motivating you to put in more effort in less time.

6. Low intensity interval training

Also known as LIIT, this style of training has become more popular over the past decade as a way to reap the known benefits of interval training without the intensity of HIIT or sprint training. With these styles of interval training you can reach over 95% of your maximum heart rate, but with LIIT you tend to do your intervals at around 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can do the same exercises you do in HIIT training (running, rowing, weightlifting, etc.) but at a lower intensity. It’s also a great option for those returning from.

Benefits of interval training

Interval training is a widely loved training approach as it leads to a considerable range of fitness and health benefits.

Interval training, like all training, can help you lose body fat, increase strength and endurance, and improve fitness. Unlike steady-state workouts, its time efficiency is a major advantage ( and a big reason for its popularity).

In a March 2014 studyApplied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism‌Gillen and her team found that just three HIIT sessions per week, less than 10 minutes of vigorous exercise, and less than 30 minutes total per session, improved aerobic capacity, skeletal muscle oxidative capacity, exercise tolerance, and found that markers of disease risk improved in a wide range of adults after just a few weeks.

And it may take less than three times a week to get some benefits, says Gibala, citing a large 2006 study.European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation,Part of a HUNT study that followed over 55,000 people for 16 years. “Even one exercise per week may be beneficial, according to the HUNT study, which suggests that one high-intensity exercise per week reduces the risk of cardiovascular death in men and women. I do,” he says.

Furthermore, in December 2022 ‌natural medicineNon-exercisers who engaged in at least three periods of strenuous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (meaning that it was part of their daily routine, not formal exercise) had an increased risk of death from all causes and cancer. found a 40% reduction and a 49% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death.

Is interval training good for weight loss?

A common benefit that gym-goers are looking for is whether hard work translates into a smaller waistline or a lower number on the scale. That’s definitely an added benefit when it comes to interval training.

“Interval training is a great way to lose weight,” says White. “You’re burning tons of calories, and over time you’re improving your body’s cardiovascular system, which can lead to further improvements in your metabolism.”

These improvements make your cardiovascular system more efficient and help your body become healthier, he says.

Are there any risks of interval training?

It’s easy to jump into a new workout routine with an overly ambitious plan. It’s not uncommon for people new to interval training to feel increased fatigue during and after the first few weeks of training. There is a risk of injury.

The best way to reduce your risk of injury and burnout is to start slow. Especially if you’ve just started exercising or are returning after a long vacation. According to the latest recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), physically inactive but healthy people can begin light to moderate-intensity exercise without a doctor’s approval. If there are no symptoms, it may progress gradually.

So start with LIIT for a few weeks, and when everything feels good, start increasing your effort levels during intervals.

However, ACSM recommends that physically inactive individuals with known cardiovascular, metabolic, or renal disease, or those with symptoms of these conditions, seek medical advice before beginning an intense exercise program. is still recommended.

best interval training workout

When it comes to finding the best HIIT exercises or interval training to follow, there are many to choose from, including HIIT exercises at home. But Gillen emphasizes that the most important thing is not to overthink it.

“If you alternate between relatively vigorous exercise and rest, you’re doing interval training!” she says. “The protocol options are endless, and the many exercise modes and interval times are effective. Pick something you like and try to incorporate it into your fitness routine on a regular basis.”

Our Favorite Interval Training Workouts to Get You Started

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