Interval Training: A Complete Guide

Learn what interval training is, why people love it and its benefits in this guide. From boxercise and battleropes to indoor cycling, all bases are covered here.

Everything you wanted to know about Interval Training

Interval training is a fun method of targeting different muscle groups and enhancing cardiovascular fitness at the same time. It comprises of various short workouts that can improve engagement to exercise which can feel like a series of fun challenges.

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Interval training, often categorised as high-intensity interval training or low-intensity interval training depending on the session’s intensity, is not only really fun to participate in, but it is also exceptionally effective. When signing up to an interval training session, you can expect a series of innovative and playful challenges that are ordered in a way to test your fitness levels. A single session may include an array of activities that come from the world of boxercise, battleropes, running, bodyweight exercises, TRX and regular cardiovascular equipment. After completing an interval training session, you will feel fantastic, develop new skills and move closer to your fitness goals.

I have been introducing clients to interval training because I know it can spark a new enjoyment of exercising and still offer potential for weight loss and strength gains. If you have been feeling bored with your current routine or have hit a bit of a plateau, speak to me and let’s discuss how an interval training programme could benefit you. In the meantime, read my guide on everything you need to know about interval training below.

1. What is Interval Training?

Interval training involves a series of exercises that are done in a calculated order for a set amount of time. A participant in an interval training session will complete each exercise at a set intensity and then move on to the next exercise. However, in between each exercise the individual will have a rest period, hence the name interval training.

Interval training can be done in small or large groups or even as an individual. When performed in a large group, one or two members of the group will usually perform a different exercise within the sequence and move around the sequence together, with rest intervals between.

This type of training is usually favoured by people who are training for endurance events or for those trying to lose weight but are becoming bored with their current routines. It is exceptionally diverse due to the different exercises that may be included. The intensity of these sessions may also change drastically. The good news is that an experienced personal trainer will be able to devise interval training for all types of people with various fitness levels and needs. I have been doing this for years and welcome anybody who wants to really see results!

2. The Benefits of Interval Training

One of the key benefits of interval training is that it enhances aerobic and anaerobic systems – as well as developing your anaerobic threshold and your VO2 Max. This core benefit has made interval training an important part of fitness programmes in endurance sports such as football, water polo, rugby and more. These sports somewhat mirror interval training as they involve bursts of activity followed by moments of inactivity or reduced activity. Here are some other benefits of interval training that are not related to a specific sport:
  • Burning calories - interval training has been proven to burn more calories than workouts which make the exerciser perform at a maintained intensity level, even if the time completing exercises is shorter. This means interval training can help you lose weight quicker.
  • Convenience - – finding the time to work out at home or at the gym is made easier with interval training, especially with HIIT workouts. These workouts enable exercisers to experience a full-body and challenging workout without the need to spend hours at the gym, allowing you to fit more beneficial workouts into even the busiest schedule.
  • Engagement - falling out of love with your current workout routine or struggling to stay motivated when you do arrive at the gym are common problems – even for professional athletes. Turning to interval training is one way of combating these problems as the differentiation between stations and exercises make them exceptionally fun and engaging. Interval training is especially recommended if you have hit a current plateau.
  • Injury recovery - if you have just recovered from an injury and want to regain your fitness levels, interval training is a fantastic option. This is because personal trainers can adapt these workouts can to different intensity levels in innovative ways. Choosing to complete a LIIT session after recovering from an injury is advised.
  • No special equipment required - there is no doubt that interval workouts which include new exercises with special equipment can be fun. However, you can also enjoy interval training without the need for specialist equipment, and even do a session at home or in the park.

3. HIIT Workouts for Newbies

One easy way to introduce yourself to interval training is to do it with one exercise to begin with. The go-to example and an easier choice for most people is running. Head to the park or jump on the treadmill to warm up and stretch. Once you are ready, you should then run at around 70% intensity for 30 seconds, followed by a steady walk for 30 seconds. Repeating this sequence of working hard and resting -without allowing a build-up of lactic acid – is a fantastic way to understand the feeling of how an interval training session looks and feels. Try this for yourself!

Once you have done one of these introductory sessions, you will want to start to mix things up with other types of exercises. This will allow you to target different muscle groups and also improve motivation. Your options of what exercises to include are endless, but to obtain maximum benefits and relate your interval training with your fitness goals, it is advised to find a qualified personal trainer who can supply you with a bespoke HIIT programme and coach you through it. Here are some exercises that are popular within interval training (some are discussed in more detail further down):

  • Burpees
  • Rowing machine
  • Kettlebell exercises
  • TRX exercises
  • Pilates exercises
  • Boxing and boxercise routines
  • Battleropes
  • Core exercises
  • Indoor cycling

Try including a mixture of these into your interval training routine to increase motivation and engagement with your workouts again!

4. More Reasons to Try Interval Training

I already offered some great benefits of interval training, but there are some other reasons why you may want to give it a go. Here are four more reasons to try interval training based on scientific research – and some that are not always considered:

  1. It keeps burning: If you complete interval training at a high intensity, namely HIIT, you continue to keep burning calories after the workout has finished. One study published in a peer-reviewed sports journal even found that HIIT workouts increases metabolism rate more than long-distance cardiovascular workouts and resistance training.  This is related to using more oxygen during intense interval training, which then requires more effort from the body’s systems to revert things back to normal.
  2. It’s good for blood sugar levels: Managing our blood sugar levels is a crucial part of maintaining our health. If you are currently reading this feeling “hangry” because you have not eaten in a while or your mood has dropped in the past hours, there is a chance that this is caused by low blood sugar levels. On the other hand, if your blood sugar levels are too high then the body reacts by releasing lots of insulin to attempt to reduce those levels.If we continually need to release insulin, our body starts to become somewhat resistant to it. This is bad because resistance to insulin can contribute to medical conditions such as obesity, diseases, high blood pressure and many more. HIIT prevents the likelihood of these problems from occurring by keeping blood sugar levels in check. The same study that uncovered this also suggested that HIIT also improves metabolic health in people suffering from type 2 diabetes
  3. Lowering blood pressure:  Another study that was published in The Physician and Sports Medicine found that interval training can prevent other cardiovascular diseases and specifically reduce the risks of high blood pressure and its associated risks. The study found that HIIT programmes were more beneficial at this compared to cardiovascular training that is carried out at a constant pace.
  4. Muscle strengthening: Although there are more beneficial ways to build muscle than interval training, it does strengthen one particular muscle no matter what your session includes. It strengthens the most important muscle in our body, and that would be, your heart.

5. Interval Training Mistakes

Interval training does not come without its hurdles and potential pitfalls. Throughout my guide so far, I have discussed how HIIT often trumps cardiovascular routines that are performed at the same intensity, in terms of calories burned and more. However, just because you now know the benefits of HIIT, does not mean you should ditch the treadmill zone at your gym.

In some instances, you should avoid doing interval training. People make the mistake of always thinking that HIIT is the better choice every time. Well, it’s not always the case. Sometimes it can be better to miss HIIT for another form of exercise. Examples of these instances include times when you may be feeling severely fatigued or burned out, at time of illness, or if you have not eaten properly. Interval training should be attacked to obtain the aforementioned benefits, rather than coasted through. If you try to push through an intense session at the wrong times, it could backfire and leave you feeling exhausted and out of action for the following days.

Another mistake that people make once they have actually started interval training is that they do not consider how the timings of exercises and rest periods influence outcomes. To understand how timings within interval training change your results, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable personal trainer based in Winchester.

Interval training and long-distant cardiovascular training do share some commonalities. One of them is the need for exercisers to pace themselves when performing them. Newcomers to interval training often start off with a lower intensity workout but still need to avoid burning themselves out within the opening few exercises. Exercisers should find a pace that pushes their abilities without overdoing it to the point where they cannot complete the series of exercises properly, or safely.

One final mistake made by newcomers to interval training, but also by some experienced HIIT exercisers, is made during those short resting periods. At these moments it is common to witness individuals completely static as they try to regain a steady breathing rate and prepare for the next exercise. It is more advantageous to keep moving slowly during resting periods to avoid the build-up of lactic acid. For those unaware, lactic acid build-up is what causes cramp in our muscles.

6. Using Boxercise in Interval Training

Boxercise makes a frequent appearance in interval training. These are one of the activities that warrant interval training its fun and engaging name. Not everyone has tried boxing before and can easily develop an appreciation and love for the sport through HIIT. Along with exceptional endurance benefits, there are other reasons that the best personal trainers will include boxercise in HIIT, including:
  • Coordination - boxercise activities require good hand-eye coordination. Implementing it within interval training gives exercisers a chance to develop these additional skills, as well as their fitness.
  • Reduced stress - it is easy to feel the pressures and stresses of modern life. Sometimes we need to release that stress with powerful explosive movements. Boxercise is there to help you accomplish just that!
  • Improved confidence - boxercise tasks can be seen as intricate and difficult to outsiders of boxing. By becoming competent in sequences of movements, it can increase self-efficacy and our confidence in our abilities to accomplish other tasks inside and outside of health and fitness.

7. Enhance Your HIIT Workout with Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling is another awesome addition to an interval training session. The versatility and inclusiveness of indoor cycling make it so. I say this because there are different types of indoor bikes for different people. Vertical bikes can be used for people who do not have any impairment or fitness issues as they resemble bikes that would be used on the roads. Alternatively, recumbent bikes can be used if the exerciser has mobility issues or requires lumbar support. These bikes are fitted with a seat something similar to a car seat, meaning they are often viewed as more comfortable and more supportive.

Indoor cycling is fantastic for other reasons. Cycling is one of the few forms of endurance activities that do not cause impacts on joints. This makes them even more suitable for people who have recently suffered from injuries or for elderly people.

To use indoor cycling within a HIIT workout, you would not use them the same way you would in other situations. Similar to my running example previously, the cyclist would need to pedal at a high intensity for a set amount of time and follow this up with a gentle resting period by cycling at a much slower pace. This would be repeated until the end of the workout or until the exerciser moved on to another exercise within their HIIT session.

8. Rowing Machine Benefits for HIIT

Many of the same benefits and reason to add indoor cycling into interval training remain true when we speak of adding rowing into these workouts. Just like indoor bikes, these machines are suitable for people with some mobility issues or following injuries due to also not exposing joints to impacts. Again, just like other forms of cardiovascular exercise which are brought into the realm of HIIT, how you exercise when using them needs to change. When used as part of interval training the rowing machine will be used at an intense rate for “x” number of seconds before resting for “x” number of seconds – or used intensively for a set distance before resting.

One of the standout benefits of using a rowing machine in these workouts is because it offers a full-body workout engaging the major muscle groups. Contrary to what some people believe, a rowing machine will predominantly work muscles located in the legs when the correct technique is used. Using the correct technique is pivotal because if you do not, it is easy to develop back pains and other issues, especially when used at a greater intensity like in HIIT. To make sure you are using the correct technique, speak to a personal trainer before starting.

9. Top Reasons to Include Battleropes

As far back as when our Pyramid-building buddies were roaming Earth, ropes have been prominent in our lives. They have enabled us to do and conquer so many things. Now they are used in physical training and any good gym will include battleropes. Battleropes are not the most common used piece of gym equipment and especially not often picked up by men and women with their first gym membership. Battleropes, however, are an awesome addition into any fitness routine and a worthwhile inclusion within a HIIT workout. Here are some top benefits of including battleropes:

1. Dual Force Physiological Responses: Unlike when bodybuilders repeatedly do weights and contend with gravity or when runners repeatedly workout to adapt their endurance, battleropes offer something different. They require the person performing battlerope exercises to manage loads working in two opposite directions simultaneously.

2. Fewer Injuries: Due to battlerope exercises only being performed at the force created by the exerciser, using them significantly reduces the chances of minor or major injuries. Compare this to a weightlifter who may pick up a weight which is too heavy, and then become injured as a result.

3. Target Weak Areas: Using battleropes allows us to target areas that can easily be forgotten in other types of routines and workouts. They can help build strength and endurance in your deep-lying core muscles and build stability at your joints such as at your wrists and ankles. These exercises will even enhance grip strength.

10. TRX Exercises and Benefits

Total Resistance Exercises, also known simply as TRX, are exercises that use your body weight to build strength and endurance. They are a unique addition to interval training because these exercises focus on building strength and core stability, rather than prioritising endurance. TRX exercises are performed with TRX equipment that was initially designed by a US Navy Seal. This equipment has become part of the furniture in the best gyms and will not be unfamiliar to many gym-goers. They are a series of suspension bands and ropes which hang from a central frame in most instances.

TRX training is enjoyed by people from different sports, including runners and rowers. However, these exercises have some cross overs with yoga and pilates. Their diversity is one of many great reasons to add them to an interval training routine.

Interval Training with Sam

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I hope my guide has introduced you to the wealth of benefits on offer by taking up this engaging form of exercise. Whether you need LIIT or HIIT sessions, I can create a bespoke interval training programme to keep you motivated and help you achieve your specific fitness goals. Owning an interval training programme that not only includes the best exercises for your goals, but one that also orders them in a strategic way using the latest research will obtain results quicker.

Even better – I can also create interval training sessions for you and a friend so you can enjoy these fun challenges together. Simply contact me to discuss your body goals one-to-one and find out how you would benefit from bespoke interval training sessions, today. If achieving a fit and healthy body you adore is the aim, then Samantha Crane Personal Training is the name in the game!