While there are many styles of workouts you can do to lose weight and increase your stamina, one such approach is using interval training.
Most people looking to improve cardiovascular health and lose weight will benefit from interval training. In particular, athletes and people who have limited time to work out stand to benefit the most. However, those who are pregnant or have joint or ligament problems should avoid interval training and find alternate low-impact exercises instead.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- What is interval training and how it works
- 5 benefits of interval training
- Who can benefit from interval training (and who can’t)
- How often you should do interval training
- A sample interval training workout
What is Interval Training and How Does It Work?
Interval training is a type of fitness that consists of short bursts of high-intensity activity alternated with slower, less intense exercise. It’s a popular type of training that has seen everyday gym-goers, athletes and runners alike include it into their fitness regime for a fast-paced workout session.
Interval training combines both the anaerobic and aerobic energy-producing systems in the body:
- The aerobic system means “with oxygen/air”, which refers to exercising that produces energy using oxygen. It involves workouts that are performed in a continuous steady-state of at least 2 minutes or more. This could include marathon running or even just jogging at a steady pace and long-distance swimming.
- The anaerobic system means “without oxygen/air”. This is when the body breaks down glucose for energy without the use of oxygen. This requires activity that is performed at a much higher intensity such as weightlifting or sprinting.
One example of interval training is Tabata, which you might have heard of before as a popular “high intensity” workout.
Tabata consists of 20-second of high activity followed by 10-seconds rest. This is repeated for 8 rounds, resulting in just a 4-minute workout.
While it’s only 4-minutes of work, it’s extremely intense, as you’re going as hard as you can for the entire time.
However, Tabata is only one example of interval training, and later on we’ll show you how to put together your own interval training program for your own level of fitness.
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5 Benefits of Interval Training
The 5 benefits of interval training are:
- Time Efficient
- Improve Cardio and Muscular Endurance
- Minimal Equipment
- Improved Oxygen Efficiency
- Burn More Calories Because Of The EPOC Effect
1. Time Efficient
Due to the high-intensity nature of interval training, these workouts sessions are typically kept shorter.
It’s common to complete your workout in 15-20 minutes compared to the 1-hour training that most people believe they have to do to get results.
If you work hard in your HIIT training, then those 20-minutes is enough, making this the perfect training type for busy people with an on-the-go lifestyle or even those who just don’t want to spend too long exercising.
2. Improve Cardio and Muscular Endurance
Interval training will not only improve your cardiovascular endurance but also your muscle endurance, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
It offers gym-goers a good mix of cardio exercises combined with strength training such as air/jumping squats, box jumps and push-ups, all within a time limit so you have to get as many reps in as you can or complete a set number in the shortest amount of time possible.
3. Minimal Equipment
To get a good interval exercise session in, you don’t need any fancy equipment. For some, you might not even need any at all as your body weight would suffice.
If you do use equipment and weights though, you will find that you’ll only need the bare minimum such as dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and plyo boxes.
4. Improved Oxygen Efficiency
VO2 max refers to the maximum rate of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
You want your body to receive a higher amount of oxygen and your body to be able to use as much of that oxygen as possible.
In return, your body will be better efficient at removing lactic acid buildup in the body, meaning the higher your VO2, the longer you can exercise.
While it’s really useful for short bursts of activity, such as sprinting and HIIT, everyone can benefit from improving their oxygen efficiency and this can be done through interval training.
The only caveat is that you need to be training at 90-100 percent of your heart rate to get the benefits and to be able to see improvements over time.
5. Burn More Calories Because Of The EPOC Effect
One of the great benefits of interval training is the afterburn effect it has on your body.
So, you know you burn calories while you’re exercising but interval training takes it a step further and assists in burning calories long after you’ve completed your final burpee.
This is the excess post-exercise consumption or EPOC as it’s more commonly known.
Your body uses oxygen as your exercise and the more intense, the longer it takes for your body to repay this oxygen debt. So as interval training consists of bursts of intense activity, your body will have to work long after you’ve finished training, to return your body to its resting state.
This means more calorie-burning even long after you’re done exercising.
Related Article: Does Interval Training Burn More Fat? (Science-Backed)
Who Can Benefit From Interval Training?
While HIIT is a shorter workout, long-distance runners or swimmers can use it to their advantage.
This is because it’s really effective in increasing your lactic acid threshold, meaning you won’t become fatigued as fast so you can exercise, run and swim for longer with less effort.
Interval training recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, making it advantageous for athletes and other sports people involved in activities that require short bursts of activity.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers aid in helping you move faster and with more power, whether that’s performing more reps or running at a greater speed.
To optimize interval training for athletes and sportspeople, incorporate sport-specific HIIT training into your workout regimes such as plyometrics and hill sprints.
Due to the shorter sessions of interval training, it’s proven to be really beneficial for those who are busy and don’t have a lot of time to work out.
Most people believe that for a workout to be effective, then you need to spend at least an hour or more in one session but this is absolutely not true. If you follow the structure of interval training, then you can definitely make the most of it provided that you give it your all.
Who Shouldn’t Do Interval Training
As great as interval training is, not everyone can or should do it.
If you are someone with joint problems or arthritis or are pregnant, then interval training should be avoided.
Its high-impact nature will only aggravate your joints and ligaments and do more damage than good.
If interval training is still something that you want to add to your workout regime, however, then modify the exercises to make it low impact.
This might mean using a stationary bike, kettlebell swings and burpees without the jump.
How Often Should You Do Interval Training?
For optimal results, incorporate interval training 3-4 times a week.
This means you will be able to do it every alternate day with one full rest day in between. This rest day is really important because your body needs to recover from the intense workout before it can be ready for the next one so don’t do it every day.
If you do interval training without proper rest and recovery time, then this will become detrimental to your training and body.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.
How To Create Your Own Interval Training Workout (3 Steps)
Want to do interval training? Here’s a formula for creating your own interval training workout:
- Choose your total workout time: How long do you want to train for? You can choose any time length but a good starting place is between 10-30 minutes.
- Choose your interval times: Depending on your fitness level and how intense you’re training, your interval training times will differ. Here are some examples:
- Exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds
- Exercise for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds
- Exercise for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds
- Choose your exercises. There are so many options for what exercises you can do with interval training, using different types of equipment or just your body weight:
- Core: Mountain climbers, plank, side plank, crunches
- Upper body: Push-ups, pull-ups, dips, pike push up
- Lower body: Air squats, jumping squats, lunges, kickbacks, glute bridge
FitBod Interval Training Examples: Bodyweight and Dumbbell
If you don’t want to do interval training, then take a look at the FitBod app.
FitBod generates your own customized training program for you and has options for 15m High-Intensity Interval sessions that use dumbbells or just your bodyweight.
Bodyweight Interval Training With Fitbod
Here’s an example of a bodyweight HIIT training workout you can find on the FitBod app.
11-minute circuit, 5 rounds of:
- Mountain climber – 30 seconds
- Straight leg kickback – 30 seconds (8 reps per leg)
- Tricep push up – 30 seconds
- Reverse crunch – 30 seconds
- 10 seconds rest.
Dumbbell Interval Training With Fitbod
Here’s an example of a dumbbell HIIT training workout you can find on the FitBod app.
11-minute circuit, 5 rounds of:
- Seated tricep press – 30 seconds
- Dumbbell fly – 30 seconds
- Dumbbell bicep curl – 30 seconds
- Single leg Romanian deadlift – 30 seconds (8 reps per leg)
- 10 seconds rest.
Interval training is great for those who want a short yet effective workout.
It’s flexible, so you can do it in your own home, at the park or gym with minimal equipment, not to mention, it can aid in improving your capacity in other sports that you may pursue such as football or athletics.
However, if you have joint or ligament problems or are pregnant, then try to avoid high-intensity interval training and instead, opt for something more low impact.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.