Today I want to look at interval training and what is one better!!
Interval training has been around for a long, long time. Supposedly even the Gladiators used a type of interval training in their preparations for the arena.
What is interval training? – the classic interval is that used by runners – sprint 100 metres and then walk the remaining 300 metres back to the start. Repeat. And again and again. Really interval is a mix of high intensity, short bursts of effort followed by a lower intensity, longer period of effort and then repeated as often as required or possible for the work out session.
Intervals are back in fashion and are really a research-proven tool to have in your body shape shifting arsenal. They are so good that I recommend that they be a key part of your overall fat loss & general health program.
Regular readers know by now that in order to lose fat there has to be a caloric deficit, a low level of insulin, and there has to be high levels of certain chemicals in the body so that the fat is released from the cells so it can be transported to the working muscles and burned as fuel.
Research has conclusively proven that this all important chemical release is easily achieved through the use of high intensity exercise protocols like Intervals.
But – hang on aren’t intervals just aerobics or cardio dressed up a bit differently? In a word – No! Traditional cardio or aerobics (think treadmills, aerobics classes, recumbent bikes etc etc), require low to moderate intensity over a long period of time. The effect on metabolism tends to be limited to exercise period and does not really recondition it.It’s true that traditional Cardio / Aerobic work actually burns more fat as a percentage of calories during the activity period than interval training does. But don’t get too excited however – it still burns fewer overall calories.
Interval and NOT aerobic training is by far the best form of exercise for this purpose.
Compared to aerobic training, Interval training:
• Releases more fat burning chemicals
• Burns more calories minute for minute than aerobic exercise and
• Elevates your metabolism during and AFTER the exercise session
The thing is not only are Intervals very demanding, but when used in the classic style they get boring and really hard to stick with. How do we deal with this by moving into what is called metabolic conditioning.
The other exercise protocol that elevates your metabolism and burns fat is resistance training – weight lifting, body weight exercise etc – so why not combine the two?
This is where the fat burning can really take off – doing resistance exercises as a circuit in an interval fashion!
For example you could use pure bodyweight exercises like this:
• Squats x 30
• Push ups x 15
• Pull ups x 5
Do each exercise one after the other without rest. This is one circuit. After each circuit rest for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times.
You get the idea – you can do this in the gym with barbell or machine exercises, or anywhere using a variety of body weight exercise.
The thing is the fat burn during & after the exercise session is massive. The reconditioning effect on your metabolism is strong and it is hard to get bored…
If you do not have variety in your workout program you are more likely to end up at a fat loss plateau soon rather than later. Variety, changing the positive stress that exercise provides, is one of the keys to keeping that fat loss coming.
Smart body shape shifters use 2 different metabolic conditioning workouts each week (done on alternate days 4 – 6 times a week) and change these every 4 – 6 weeks.This keeps the challenge fresh and stops your body becoming too efficient at doing the workout. Remeber homeostasis – your body gets stressed, becomes efficient at the exercise stressor and then starts to use less energy to perform the exercise. This means less fat burning. By changing things around you can stop your body reaching this peak efficiency whilst still burning fat and getting fitter.
Other ways that you modify your metabolic training:
• Switch exercise methods – go from bodyweight exercises to machine, to dumb bells, kettle bells or bands.
• Up the intensity by adding a weighted vest or hand weights
• Increase or decrease the length of the circuit by adding or subtracting exercises respectively
• Increase or decrease the number of circuits per workout
• Increase or decrease the rest time between circuits
In your quest for variety don’t ignore the classic interval exercises like sprinting (great on the beach, up stairs or hills), bike riding, skipping rope or swimming. The trick is to go flat out and then use active rest (keep moving – walk after a sprint, breaststroke after free style for example) to recover before going flat out again.
I like doing kettle bells on one day and mixing a Body weight circuit with some running at the local park on the next. So I use metabolic conditioning and classic intervals…
Whilst there is a clear advantage to using metabolic conditioning workouts over both classic intervals and cardio / aerobics, you can still get a great work out by utilising the interval training circuits on machines.
For example Spin classes often use an interval training approach, you can alternate high intensity with low intensity of stationary bikes, elliptical trainers of even treadmills.
Okay, so how long should you do metabolic condition circuits or intervals for?
There is NO “best” metabolic conditioning or interval training program – no best number of “sets and reps” for fat loss. It depends upon what you like doing, what gives you the best results. The only thing I’d say is that whatever you choose to do has to be challenging and make you work!
I am about efficient time use – the higher the intensity the greater the effect during & after the exercise session. You can, as they say, go hard or go long – you can’t do both. This is why I am against what they now call ‘chronic cardio’ – Why spend an hour on a treadmill when you can better results in 20 minutes with a metabolic conditioning circuit or running intervals in the local park?
However the lack of a ‘Best’ set is a good thing as it allows us to use the all important variety in our approach.The time you perform each circuit for has a wide range. There is a thing called the Tabata protocol named after the Japanese researcher who discovered it. Using it you do 20 seconds of an exercise, completing as many reps as possible, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 8 or 16 times for a total workout time of 4 or 8 minutes. Doesn’t sound like much but if you are doing kettle bell swings, or prisoner squats, or burpees – it really gets your metabolism running!!
At the other end of the scale is the 3, 4 or 5 minute interval circuits where you go hard for several minutes and then rest for the same period of time. Soccer players use these a lot and they are generally referred to as ‘Aerobic intervals’. They are also not, in my opinion, the most efficient for fat loss, but they are good for football players to develop ‘burst endurance’.
Short time circuits enable you to work at near maximum intensity and back up to repeat this effort again & again. This type of training is very taxing! It makes enormous demands of your body and really shakes up your metabolism. They have a downside if you are using most machines though – it is very difficult to do sub 45 second circuits on machines because of their “build up” and “bring down” times.
This is particularly true of treadmills and a number of bikes. Apart from treadmills, you can overcome this by using the machine on the ‘Manual’ setting instead of a programmed one.
If you decide to use short, high-intensity circuits, you need to understand that they require a high level of fitness and that you will have to work up to them. Short rest intervals (like the Tabata protocol) tend to lead to a dramatic drop-off in performance with each successive circuit.
Using a longer (relatively speaking) rest period will allow you to work harder in each successive circuit. This means that your performance in each circuit will be more consistent with less drop off in performance circuit to circuit.
Don’t think that intervals or metabolic conditioning workouts are too intense for you – they really are all relative to the individual. You don’t have to go 100% flat out in each type of circuit instead, just work at a bit harder than normal pace. Aim to be tired and a little out of breath at the end of each circuit. Don’t be gasping for breath – if you are you’ve worked too intensely and as we are using these for fat loss this means that you are pushing your fitness level to far too fast. Start conservatively and you will get the hang of it.
Here are some of the more popular timing variations:
8 seconds on, 12 seconds off
This duration was the one used by Australian researchers in the now famous “intervals vs. cardio” study from 2007. The results found that interval circuits helped subjects lose belly fat, but chronic cardio didn’t. It can be extremely difficult to control 8 seconds on, 12 seconds off unless you have a timer like a Gym Boss timer – look them up online, at about $20 they are great!
This is a killer = 15 seconds at max effort followed by a rest period. The truly fit can go 15 on , 15 off – but mere mortals are more likely to need at least 60 seconds recovery time as a minimum after each max effort.
20 seconds on, 10 seconds off
The previously mentioned Tabata method. Short, intense and challenging.
30 seconds on / 90 seconds off / 60 seconds off / 45 seconds off / 30 seconds off
Body weight metabolic conditioning or machine based workouts tend to use a lot of 30 second intervals. Beginners will rest up to 90 seconds between intervals, and as you get fitter you drop your rest period down the more advanced you become.
45 seconds on / 90 seconds off / 60 seconds off / 45 seconds off / 30 seconds off
These intervals are proven for fat loss, will these tax your muscles, and challenge your will to complete each circuit at high intensity.
60 second on / 60 seconds off / 90 seconds off
Similar to the 45 second intervals in terms of benefits and toughness. Use 60-120 seconds of recovery between each.
So there you have it – the best way to drop body fat through exercise.
That’s all until next time -Tweet or Facebook us or