Interval training: the magic method for fat loss and conditioning

Interval Training is Your Solution to Get in Shape Fast

“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.” Emil Zatopek.Fotothek df roe-neg Emil Zátopek-crop

Interval training is the most effective way to get in shape quickly. If done right, you burn fat, you strengthen your cardiovascular system, you improve your stamina.

It seems that today some experts appropriate for themselves this concept of training. Well, there is nothing new: athletes have been used this form of training for decades!

The father of interval training

This is a training system which use intervals: each interval alternates an intense burst and a pause (active or passive), so you are able to recover. After this pause, often equal to the effort duration, you are able to produce the same effort in the following interval. These intervals allow to train at a higher intensity and therefore improve cardiovascular conditioning.

This method of training targets intensity, quality and performance.
This is Emil Zatopek, “The locomotive”, who is credited with revolutionizing running and training: he developed intense interval workouts known today as interval training.

He entered the legend when he won 3 gold medals (the 5,000, the 10,000 and the marathon) in the Olympics in 1952.

Learn more on Emil Zatopek on Wikipedia.
Zatopek did not use interval training on treadmill or stairmaster to get leaner! He used it to go faster and faster. He trained running on tracks.

 

Overall stamina and cardiovascular health

If running doesn’t scare you too much, you can get in a tremendous shape and conditioning in record time! And the rest is some kind of details! What I mean is if your main goal is to burn fat, you should focus on your conditioning by using this method. For sure it takes effort, physically and mentally, but the rewards will be tremendous in term of overall stamina and cardiovascular health. And you’ll burn fat naturally very fast.

Running fast is the most effective!

The key in this method is to run at the right intensity; if you run too slow, you’ll not get the expected results; if you run too fast, you may get exhausted and over trained.

The catch is determining your personal intensity and you have to find out.

The right intensity should be at about 80% and higher. Of course check always with your doctor, especially if you are out of shape, before to engage in this form of training.

At the beginning, do not try to do too much: start with a gentle warm up (5-10 minutes walking), then pick up 30 seconds intervals:

30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk, repeat 5 times.
Take 3 to 5 minutes recovery, easy walk and some stretch.
Do it again, 30/30, 5 times.
If you are a beginner, it should be enough, just walk to recover. Be aware you will not be able to run very fast, in fact just jogging could be just right. You’ll be able to increase your speed probably after a few sessions as your endurance improves.

Important: when you walk, focus about your recovery, breath and relax arms and shoulders (they are often under muscular tension when you run). Try to feel you heart rate going down. When you start the next interval you must feel comfortable: heart rate down and no heavy breathing.

I recommend you use a heart rate monitor: you’ll learn how high your heart rate goes during the interval and how fast it goes down when you stop: The faster the heart rate decreases, the best it is.
I don’t advise the use of a treadmill because it takes too much time to speed up and slow down.

If running is a problem for you, yes you can use a stair master, a stationary bike or a rowing machine.

 

Interval training without running

If you are not a runner this is a method you can use for overall conditioning. In this case the best way is the use of full body weight or kettlebell exercises .

For example:

Do the following exercises: 10 pushups + 20 bodyweight squats + 30 seconds of shadow boxing.

Or: 20 kettlebell swings + 10 split squats + 30 seconds boxing bag.

Try to do it without stopping, then rest 1 minute and focus on your breathing.

Repeat the same set of exercises a few times.
If you push, it can be hard and excellent for overall conditioning, both muscular and cardiovascular.
But you must start very progressively, a workout like this one can be adjusted for any level.
This is a perfect method to get in shape fast and obviously for burning fat.

Interval Training Workouts: a 4 weeks plan

In this workout plan, we integrate a sequence for speed. This part of the workout has to be done first after a rigorous warm-up.
This is an example of plan for an intermediate level. Do not attempt this program if you are a beginner.
This 4 weeks plan has been designed for an amateur boxer. His cardiovascular conditioning was average and he was in need to improve it.
This is only 2 workouts a week, but the overall weekly plan has boxing workouts and strength workouts (total body training and specific core workouts).

If you want to focus on these workouts for faster results, you may set up 3 workouts per week, every two days. Always allow 36-48 hours between two workout for optimal recovery. We are looking for very quality sessions and recovery is an essential part of the process. See the plan for the second cycle.
Each workout consists of two distinct sets of intervals : speed and cardio. Use your target heart rate.

WEEK 1

Tuesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging, include a few progressive accelerations at the end.

Speed

Sprint 8s (50-60 yards) at the intensity of 80-90%

Sequence 1: 4 sprints, take 40 seconds recovery between each sprint
Take 2 minutes recovery, just walk and relax your legs.

Sequence 2: 4 sprints, 40 seconds recovery between each sprint

Get 3-5 minutes recovery before starting the cardio interval training.

Intervals

Keep going with the following high intensity intervals :

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking

60s at 80-85% – 60s walking

This is 1 set

Repeat this set of intervals twice on Tuesday and 3 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

It is a good idea to monitor your heart rate during intervals : the easiest way is to use a heart rate monitor.

But you need to know your target heart rate; check here for the Heart Rate Training Zones.

Use the following formula to evaluate your personal target zones: 220 minus your age = your maximum heart rate.

If you are 30 years old: 220 – 30 = 190

So your lower limit target zone is: 190 × 80% = 152

Your upper limit target zone is: 190 × 85% = 161

To optimize your interval training workout, you’ll train between these values, this is your target heart rate zone.

WEEK 2

Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

Sprint 8s (50-60 yards) at 80-90%

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint
Pause 2 minutes

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint

Pause 2 minutes

Intervals

Keep going with the following intervals :

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking

60s at 80-85% – 60s walking
Repeat this set of intervals 3 times on Tuesday and 4 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 80-85%

WEEK 3

Tuesday, Friday
10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

Sprint 8s (50-60 yards) at 80-90%

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint
Pause 2 minutes

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint

Pause 2 minutes

Intervals

Keep going with the following intervals :

30s at 80% – 30s walking

45s at 80% – 45s walking

60s at 80% – 60s walking

30s at 90% – 30s walking
Repeat this set of intervals twice on Tuesday and 3 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 80-90%

 

WEEK 4

Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

Sprint 8s (50-60 yards) at 80-90%

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint
Pause 2 minutes

4 sprints, 30 seconds recovery between each sprint

Pause 2 minutes

Intervals

Keep going with the following intervals :

30s at 80% – 30s walking

45s at 80% – 45s walking

60s at 80% – 60s walking

30s at 90% – 30s walking
Repeat this set of intervals 3 times on Wednesday and 5 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 80-90%

Interval Training Workouts: a Plan for a Second Cycle, 3 Workouts

You can use this plan after you have done the first one; take one week off from interval training to be sure you start fresh the second cycle: just do a few easy runs or cardio at the gym at 70% max. Add some calisthenics and some stretches to your routine.

If you are already in a good shape you may start with this 3 workout program per week.

WEEK 1

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

2 sets:

First set: 8 seconds sprint at 80-90%: do 2 sprints, 40 seconds recovery between sprint

Second set: 15 seconds sprints, same intensity: 2 sprints, 60 seconds recovery between sprint
Pause 2-3 minutes

Repeat the 2 sets

Pause 3-5 minutes

Intervals

30-45-60-45-30 Pyramid

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking or jogging

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking or jogging

60s at 80-85% – 60s walking or jogging

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking or jogging

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking or jogging
Repeat this set of intervals 3 times on Monday, 4 times on Wednesday, 3 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 80-85%

 

WEEK 2

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

2 sets:

First set: 10 seconds sprint at 80-90%: do 2 sprints, 50 seconds recovery between sprint

Second set: 20 seconds sprints, same intensity: 2 sprints, 120 seconds recovery between sprint
Pause 2-3 minutes

Repeat the 2 sets

Pause 3-5 minutes

Intervals

30-45-60-90-60-45-30 Pyramid

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking or jogging

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking or jogging

60s at 80-85% – 60s walking or jogging

90s at 80-85% – 90s walking or jogging

60s at 80-85% – 60s walking or jogging

45s at 80-85% – 45s walking or jogging

30s at 80-85% – 30s walking or jogging
Repeat this set of intervals 2 times on Monday, 3 times on Wednesday, 2 times on Friday

Allow 1 to 2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 80-85%

 

WEEK 3

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging

Speed

2 sets:

First set:

  • 10 seconds sprint at 90%,  50 seconds recovery
  • 15 seconds sprint at 90%, 60 seconds recovery
  • 20 seconds sprint at 90%, 120 seconds recovery

Second set:

  • 20 seconds sprint, same intensity: 120 seconds recovery
  • 15 seconds sprint, 60 seconds recovery
  • 10 seconds sprint

Pause 3-5 minutes

Intervals

30-45-60-90-60-45-30 Pyramid

30s at 85-90% – 30s walking or jogging

45s at 85-90% – 45s walking or jogging

60s at 85-90% – 60s walking or jogging

90s at 85-90% – 90s walking or jogging

60s at 85-90% – 60s walking or jogging

45s at 85-90% – 45s walking or jogging

30s at 85-90% – 30s walking or jogging
Repeat this set of intervals 2 times on Monday, 3 times on Wednesday, 2 times on Friday

Allow  2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 85-90%

 

WEEK 4

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

10 minutes warm up jogging and progressive accelerations

Speed

2 sets:

Before each sprint do one explosive exercise like burpees

First set:

  • 3 burpees, 10 seconds sprint at 90%,  50 seconds recovery
  • 2 burpees, 15 seconds sprint at 90%, 60 seconds recovery
  • 1 burpees, 20 seconds sprint at 90%, 120 seconds recovery

Second set:

  • 1 burpees, 20 seconds sprint, same intensity: 120 seconds recovery
  • 2 burpees, 15 seconds sprint, 60 seconds recovery
  • 3 burpees, 10 seconds sprint

Pause 3-5 minutes

Intervals

Before each intervals, start with a 10 second static exercise, for example: static squat, static pushup, static split squat

30-45-60-90-60-45-30 Pyramid

10s static squat, 30s at 85-90% – 30s walking or jogging

10s static pushup, 45s at 85-90% – 45s walking or jogging

10s static split squat, 60s at 85-90% – 60s walking or jogging

10s static squat, 90s at 85-90% – 90s walking or jogging

10s static pushup, 60s at 85-90% – 60s walking or jogging

10s static split squat, 45s at 85-90% – 45s walking or jogging

10s static pushup, 30s at 85-90% – 30s walking or jogging

Repeat this set of intervals 2 times on Monday, 3 times on Wednesday, 2 times on Friday

Allow  2 minutes of recovery between sets

Target heart rate during intervals : 85-90%

These intervals are hardcore and can be very tough; always adjust according to your feelings and recovery rate. You should monitor how fast your heart rate drops during the recovery time. If you see you do not recover enough between intervals, modify the protocol by adding 10; 20 or 30 seconds of recovery between the intervals; you’ll be eventually able to keep the same ratio after a few workouts as your body and energy system become more efficient and stronger.

One more word about recovery: once a week check your resting heart rate first thing in the morning when you wake up; take note. Over a few weeks of training your resting heart rate will be lower: this is a very positive sign of good physiological adaptation. If this is the opposite, your resting heart rate going up, it is a sign of incomplete recovery. In this case cut your training, allow more rest and check again one week later. An elevated resting heart rate can be the first sign of negative adaptation to the training program and can lead to overtraining.

 

By Dominic Paris, conditioning coach.

Workouts and camps in Las Vegas. Contact: dom @ knockout-coaching.com

Twitter: knockoutcoach

 

References:

The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity

Rev up your workout with interval training

HIIT vs Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans