Skip Your Boring Cardio Routine. Save Time and Burn Fat With Interval Training
Interval training is an effective and time-friendly method for you to burn fat and improve your health
What is Interval Training?
Interval training comes in many forms such as High Intensity, Sprint Intervals, and Tabata Intervals. What they all have in common is repeating cycles of high intensity work periods and low intensity rest periods. The most commonly used form of interval training is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is used to improve muscular power, burn fat, and improve cardiovascular fitness.
HIIT can involve weight training, bodyweight exercises, and cardio activities on their own or in combination. This is a great alternative if you don’t enjoy running on treadmills or sitting on spin bikes for long periods.
The purpose of interval training is to give consistent effort throughout the session during the work and rest periods. Consistency can be achieved by working at an appropriate intensity and allowing for adequate rest (more on this later).
What are the benefits of Interval Training?
Burns fat: Total calorie expenditure and fat metabolism are substantially greater with HIIT than for moderate-intensity steady state cardio. This is associated with the higher intensity achieved with HIIT (4).
Improves aerobic and anaerobic performance: HIIT has shown to improve cardio performance in as little as 2 weeks with greater improvements being recorded after 6 weeks. These improvements are greater when compared to equal time and volume training with steady state cardio. (6)
Cardiovascular health: HIIT improves markers of heart and lung health like blood pressure, blood vessel elasticity and concentration, and heart stroke volume. Simply, HIIT can be used to prevent cardiovascular disease and associated metabolic diseases (1).
Saves Time: Compared to an equal amount of time spent with moderate-intensity steady state, HIIT shows greater improvement in all the areas mentioned above. Less time is required to receive equal or greater improvements in health and performance (1,3,5).
Enjoyment: HIIT has been shown to be more enjoyable than moderate intensity steady state cardio and continuous vigorous intensity training. Responses indicate that the inclusion of the low-intensity periods make HIIT preferable to continuous training (2).
How to do HIIT
Many people see HIIT as going all-out every work period. However, at this intensity, fatigue will set in and your output will suffer. You want to work at a high intensity, but not your max effort. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being minimal effort, 10 being absolute max effort), you want to aim for a consistent 8 or 9 during your work periods, and down to 3 or 4 during rest periods.
An effective format is a 1:2 work to rest ratio (2). For example, if a work period is 1 minute long, the rest period will be 2 minutes long. You can play with extending or shortening both the work and rest periods to match your abilities.
When performing HIIT, your focus should be on consistent effort (remember: 8 or 9/10) and execution. Pay attention to proper form and output for each interval. If your form begins to waver then you may be pushing too hard or not taking enough rest.
Here’s a simple template for a HIIT workout:
3-5 minutes at 4-5/10 intensity
1 minute at 6-7
1 minute at 3-4
1 minute at 8-9
2 minutes at 3-4
Repeat for 3-8 sets
1 minute at 6-7
3-5 minutes at 3-5
You can do this whole workout in 20-35 minutes and reap significant benefits on your health and fitness.
Because of the intense nature of HIIT, you need to be cautious of overdoing it each week. 2-3 HIIT sessions per week (with 24-48 hours rest between training sessions) is sufficient for improvements in health and performance, more than that may run the risk of overtraining you pair it with weight training program (3).
The time-saving nature of HIIT makes it a more appealing option if you are short on time and need to get more activity in your weekly routine.
Did you like this article? Become a PRIME Insider and receive content like this delivered directly to your inbox every week. Every single article is designed to help you improve your understanding of health and fitness. The best part: It’s 100% free. Click here to sign up
Kemi OJ, Haram PM, Loennechen JP, Osnes JB, Skomedal T, Wisløff U, and Ellingsen Ø. Moderate vs. high exercise intensity: Differential effects on aerobic fitness, cardiomyocyte contractility, and endothelial function. Cardiovascular Research 67: 161–172, 2005.
Martinez N. Perceptual responses to high-intensity interval training in overweight and sedentary individuals [thesis]. Tampa (FL): University of South Florida; 2013.
Rozenek R, Funato K, Kubo J, Hoshikawa M, and Matsuo A. Physiological responses to interval training sessions at velocities associated with V_ O2max. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21(1): 188–192, 2007.
Schoenfeld B, & Dawes J. High-intensity interval training: Applications for general fitness training. NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal 31(6): 44-46, 2009.
Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, and Bouchard O. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism 43: 814–818, 1994.
Wisløff U, Støylen A, Loennechen JP, Bruvold M, Rognmo Ø, Haram PM, Tjønna AE, Helgerud J, Slørdahl SA, Lee SJ, Videm V, Bye A, Smith GL, Najjar SM, Ellingsen Ø, and Skjaerpe T. Superior cardiovascular effect of aerobic interval training versus moderate continuous training in heart failure patients: A randomized study. Circulation 115: 3086– 3094, 2007.