There are many ways to do cardio training, some of them better than others, but interval training is one of the quickest, most effective, and therefore smartest ways to workout.
When most people do their cardio training, whether this is in the gym or outdoors, chances are it’s what is known as Steady State aerobic training. In other words doing jogging, cycling, using the cross-trainer or rowing at the same speed for a set time or a set distance. But instead of spending an hour or more doing this, wouldn’t it make sense if you could burn at least the same amount of calories and definitely more fat in less than half the time by doing interval training?
Interval training involves, as the name suggests, training in intervals. A work phase and a recovery phase. The time spent in each can vary with goals and fitness levels, but as is never the case in most cardio workouts, in the work phase you give 100% maximum effort. This will get the heart beating much higher than any steady state workout, close to if not up to your maximum heart rate, which will cause major increases in fitness alone. This is known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Benefits include decreasing insulin resistance, which does a lot to prevent diabetes; increasing metabolism, which can increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and therefore the calories you can eat per day; increased lactic acid tolerance, which will help you train harder with weights and therefore produce better results; lower your resting heart rate, which means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard; and increase your VO2 max, which is how effective your lungs are at absorbing oxygen.
If all that isn’t enough to bring your attention to the benefits of interval training there’s also the fact that, where other types of cardio training, such as steady state, prefer to use your glucose stores for fuel, high intensity interval training prefers to burn fat.
Let me repeat that one for you.
Where other types of cardio training, such as steady state, prefer to use your glucose stores for fuel, high intensity interval training prefers to burn fat.
That means that not only can you burn more fat and more calories overall with interval training, you can do it in less time!
But that still isn’t everything.
You might have heard that jogging, or any other steady state cardio, isn’t good if you’re trying to build muscle. Look at any athlete that runs more than 1500 metres to see what I mean. Compare them to any 100 metre sprinter and the first thing you notice is how much more muscle they have. Now I’m not saying that even high intensity interval training will get you more muscle, but what I am saying is that short, intense cardio obviously doesn’t affect (in other words reduce) muscle mass.
As I said, time spent in the work phase and recovery phase varies with goals and fitness levels, but for our purposes you are aiming to do a 30 second work phase followed by a 30 second recovery phase. The work phase 100% effort and the recovery phase 50% effort.
A perfect example of this is when I do interval training on a bike it’s 30 seconds at level 18 and 30 seconds at level 9.
The 50% recovery period might feel too easy, especially for the first few minutes, but keep an eye on your heart rate and you’ll see why high intensity interval training works your heart and lungs so hard. Let’s say your heart rate goes up to 90% in the work phase before you then drop the effort down to 50%. You’ll notice that your heart rate doesn’t drop accordingly. In fact it might not even drop at all, it might increase. This means you’re heart is working at 80% of its maximum while you’re only working at 50%.
If you’re heart rate drops at all during the 30 second recovery phase then you’re already pretty fit.
Now when the work phase comes around again you’ll be able to get your heart rate even higher, and you only need repeat this process for 20 minutes to get an intense workout that surpasses any steady state workout out there.
So to use my current interval training workout on the bike as an example:
30 seconds Work Phase – level 18
30 seconds Recovery Phase – level 9
Repeat for 20 minutes
Interval training can be done in numerous ways, with or without cardio equipment. The principle remains the same. If you’re not yet fit enough to do the 30 seconds work, 30 seconds recovery version, increase the recovery time AND the work time. This might sound like it would make it harder, but because you’ll have to switch to a lower level it’s actually easier.
As you get fitter, decrease the time until you’re doing 30 second intervals, burning up the body fat and making a big step towards getting a six pack!
As always, leave a comment if you’ve any questions or feedback.