It can be very rewarding to try out new forms of training at the gym or at home, so if you’re considering taking up interval training, or are wondering what the benefits are, you’re in the right place.
Interval training is a common method used by regular gym-goers and athletes alike, but it’s worth asking: is it worth the effort?
That’s what we’re going to explore in this article.
Breaking it down and discussing the benefits, you’ll get a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into should you decide to give interval training a go.
- What is Interval Training?
- What are the Benefits of Interval Training?
- How Long should You do Interval Training?
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is a popular form of training that consists of timed intervals and high-intensity periods of cardio.
Interval training is popular because it’s an excellent way to really push your aerobic system through intense cardio, without risk of burning out.
The regular breaks give you the chance to take a breather and gather yourself for the next intense burst of activity.
The appeal of interval training is that you don’t need to be a marathon-runner with a staggering amount of endurance and stamina to do it. All that’s required is the mental fortitude to work flat out for a short period of time, though this is at times can be easier said than done.
The other great thing about interval training is the many ways you can make it your own, and put your own spin on it. Say you’re a boxer, you can go all out in a round of shadow boxing as the cardio.
Or say you’re a cross-country runner and you want to train outside, no problem, throw a few intense hill sprints into your run and you’ll reap the benefits of interval training.
What are the Benefits of Interval Training?
1. Short, yet Challenging Workouts
Interval training often ends up being less of a time commitment, which will free up time in your busy schedule for other things. It also makes interval training a lot easier to stick to for a long period of time.
While doing 3 or 4 big multi-hour workouts a week might work for some people, doing interval training will allow you the freedom to pop in and out of the gym (or your garage) in 30-40 minutes.
This also means that you could make the decision to commit to daily, short sessions of interval training, and make it as easy as possible to cultivate a healthy workout habit.
As a result, this is one of the best advantages of interval training as opposed to the typical hour or more long workout in the gym.
You won’t have to worry about intensity either, since interval training has been shown to yield great results in terms of the cardiovascular system, aerobic capacity, and in reducing risk for health issues. You can read more about this in the report by the World Journal of Cardiology.
Just because interval training tends to lean towards cardio-based activity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get stronger. You can modify the session to include weights and bodyweight movements to develop great all-round strength.
2. Better Endurance
While you might not need the endurance of a marathon-runner to do interval training, it will certainly require a fair amount, so you can expect to see a significant improvement in your stamina over time.
The way you build endurance through interval training has to do with your aerobic and anaerobic systems, and limits you push your lungs to each time you work out with such intensity.
By constantly putting these systems responsible for providing oxygen to the body under pressure, you will inevitably build much greater endurance, leading to better circulation through the body while working out.
Do you know what else is great for developing endurance? Having an elliptical machine in your home gym. So why not take a look at the best elliptical machines on our website.
3. Improved Cardiovascular Efficiency
One of the main health benefits of interval training, along with aerobic and anaerobic benefits, is improved cardiovascular efficiency. This will contribute to your body’s ability to keep moving over an extended period of time.
The heart is the most important organ in the body, and as such, it plays a huge role in our physical performance and limits.
If you commit to a regular interval training practice, chances are, you will increase the amount of blood that is pumped through your body to the heart.
This will make it more efficient, improving the heart stroke volume, and in turn contributing to a healthier, stronger cardiovascular system.
Not only will you put yourself in a better position when it comes to pushing yourself physically, but you will also reduce your risk of developing certain health issues, such as arthritis and colds or the flu.
As such, investing time and effort into interval training equates to investing in your body, and your overall sense of well being.
Check out our article comparing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) with running to see how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to cardio.
4. Weight Loss
Maybe it’s not the reason you turned to interval training, but weight loss is a fantastic incentive to do it.
People say that interval training is more effective for burning calories and shedding pounds than long, sustained sessions of cardio.
This is primarily due to the fact that your body will still be burning calories in the recovery period, since the workout is so intense.
The weight loss factor can also be attributed to an increase in efficiency in the metabolism. Operating in a higher metabolic rate due to the intensity of the exercise will put you in a great position to drop pounds. Especially if you stick with interval training for a while.
5. Great for Runners
You may have already guessed it from the previous benefits, but interval training is one of the best ways you can train as a runner.
While the benefits of interval training obviously aren’t restricted to runners, people who run either recreationally or professionally will definitely get a lot out of this form of training.
For one, as we’ll get to later, interval training is a lot of fun. This means it makes it incredibly easy and enjoyable to stick with, rather than always doing several hour stints on the treadmill.
That being said, working out on the treadmill as part of your interval training routine can be rather effective. Take a look at what we believe are some of the best treadmills out there.
Aside from the fun factor, the improved endurance and cardiovascular efficiency are invaluable for anyone looking to run, be it short or long distances.
Even if you compete in 100m sprints, interval training is for you. In fact, you could argue that this burst of energy needed for the intense intervals is exactly what sprinters need to up their game.
6. Greater Speed
Another thing that can be helpful to sports-enthusiasts, is greater speed.
To develop speed, you have to put your body through a lot in a short period of time.
That’s right, interval training cultivates the perfect conditions to build speed and be able to sustain it for longer periods of time.
After all, sprints are bursts of intense movement followed by periods of rest. The more you do interval training, the quicker you’ll be able to get off the starting blocks, and the quicker you’ll be able to recover, should you need to go again.
7. Full Body Workout
Whatever your interval training ends up looking like, the chances are it’ll be a full-body workout.
While you can skew the workout one way or another, choosing to focus on arms or legs, in most cases the cardio of interval training will ensure everything from your head to your toes gets in on the action.
The best interval workouts involve a bit of everything. A sprinkling of strength-building weightlifting, a smattering of cardio, and a touch of isometric activity can be a powerful recipe for success.
So in addition to the benefits we’ve discussed earlier to the overall functioning of your heart and lungs, you will also be able to create lean muscle throughout the body.
8. No Equipment Necessary
It’s always nice when you don’t need equipment to train. It means you can rock up whenever, and you have no excuses to do it due to being away from a gym or your equipment.
All you’ll need is some space to perform the movements, but apart from that, you can do interval training anywhere.
Of course, at times you might prefer to get the benefits from using weights, skipping ropes, and whatever other equipment you can think of, but at its core the interval training requires nothing from you.
The best part of not needing equipment is the spontaneity it allows you. You won’t need to make – the at times taxing – the decision to walk, or drive to the gym, and you won’t even have to leave your current location if you don’t want to.
If you’re a runner, and you find yourself outside, you can practice sprints as part of interval training, or even better, hill sprints.
9. Fun Workouts
As touched upon earlier, interval training can be a lot of fun!
One of the biggest reasons we can’t find consistency in our workout routines is because we try to do too much in one go.
Doing one or two 3 hour workouts a week is great, if that works for you, but for some people it’s better to do small daily workouts to create the habit.
The fact that interval training is fun makes this a lot more achievable than it might seem, and it will keep you coming back for more.
At the end of the day, if you’re having fun when you work out, you’re far more likely to persist with it, increasing the chances that you’ll one day reach your fitness or strength goals.
Compared to a couple of hours on the treadmill, or doing some other form of endurance-focused cardio, interval training will seem like a treat.
10. Personalized Workouts
Along with how fun interval training can be, there is also a great satisfaction to be had in creating your very own custom workouts.
While a lot of the time people tend to follow pre-planned workout routines, going from machine to machine, and performing x sets of x reps, it doesn’t have to be that way.
With interval training, you can change up what you do as much or as little as you like.
Say your arms are feeling sore after one workout, the next you can introduce more leg movements, and cardio. Or if your legs are tired from playing sports, you can switch out a lot of the leg-intensive work for upper body movements and weight training.
It can be really rewarding to craft and design your own workouts, as it grants you the ability to be the master of your physical destiny.
Build the body you want, tweaking and adjusting your workouts along the way to adjust course and keep yourself on the path, heading in the right direction.
How Long should You do Interval Training?
One of the most common questions when first starting out with interval training, is how long your workout sessions and rest periods should be.
To help you find the right amount of time to do interval training, we’ve drawn up some sample workout times based on beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
If you’re new to interval training and you’re wondering how to get familiar with this new type of training without over-exerting yourself, then we recommend you stick to a similar structure as the one we’re about to show you.
First, it’s critical that you warm-up well. This need only take a few minutes, and can be anything from jumping jacks, to simply walking around.
Now, for the intervals, you can do a strength movement like pushups, or some cardio like running, or even power walking. You should do this for around a minute.
The next minute you can go back to your warm-up exercise, or slow movement, so long as it is easy on the body.
Repeat this cycle 4-6 times, depending on what your body tells you. Then cool down with some gentle stretching.
- Warm-up (Walk for 2 minutes)
- Exercise (Run for 1 minute)
- Slow Movement (Walk for 1 minute)
- Cool down
If you feel more confident in your physical ability and cardio, or you’ve done interval training before, you should find this workout sufficiently challenging.
This one starts with the warm-up like the beginner workout, but with the intermediate workout, you’re going to work out more intensely for shorter periods of time, with increasing levels of difficulty.
For example, you could follow a structure of 15 seconds of exercise followed by 15 seconds of rest for 10-12 sets. Then go up to 20 seconds, and then 25, with the sets dropping to 8-10.
Don’t forget to cool down with stretching after you’ve completed the workout.
To get a better visual of this workout structure, and workouts for different benefits, check out this great article by Intervals For Cardio.
For those daring enough to put their bodies through the ringer, the advanced interval training workout is not for the faint of heart.
Best suited to runners, athletes, and those looking for a killer workout, this one should push you to your limits.
At just 20 minutes long, this one will be easy to fit into your schedule. Plus, it can be done within the comfort of your own home!
With over 13 million views on YouTube, and the word ‘Brutal’ in the title, you know this workout by FitnessBlender is going to be a good one.
So there you go, plenty of reasons to go out and try interval training, at the gym, or at home.
If you’re interested in going even harder, then check out our guide to HIIT, which will give you the lowdown on the intense form of training.
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