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The Basics of Interval Training

Interval training, also known as HIIT or high-intensity interval training, has become the darling of the fitness world. Trainers all around the world are embracing it due to its effectiveness at burning calories and shredding muscle. Thanks to the fact that you can get in a killer workout in a fraction of the time, it has quickly grown popular in every gym and fitness center in the country.

But what is interval training? How does it work and what do you do? Below, we break down the basics of interval training so you can start benefitting from HIIT today!

Interval Training 101

The guidelines of interval training are actually incredibly simple. The workout involves two things:

  1. A low-intensity interval, typically an exercise that won’t push your heart rate above 65% MaxHR.
  2. A high-intensity interval, typically an exercise that pushes your heart rate above 85% MaxHR.

The length of each interval is determined by your fitness level and the difficulty of the exercise program.

For beginners, the classic interval length is 2:1 = i.e., 2 minutes of walking, 1 minute of sprinting; 30 seconds of rest with 15 seconds of high-intensity exercise.

For intermediates, intervals can often be 1:1 = i.e., 1 minute of walking/jogging, 1 minute of sprinting; 30 seconds of rest with 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise.

For more advanced and fit exercisers, intervals will often be 1:2 = i.e. 1 minute of walking and 2 minutes of fast running, 15 seconds of rest with 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise.

The fitter you are, the harder you will be able to push your body, so the longer your high-intensity intervals will be. You’ll also need less rest between high-intensity intervals, so the low-intensity intervals will be much shorter.

Most HIIT training programs work as a cycle, going through a series of exercises that alternate between upper and lower body work. However, you can use HIIT to do just about any workout or target any body part.

For example:

  • Shred your legs with intervals of rapid squats, jump squats, and skater lunges
  • Target your push muscles with intervals of burpees and wall balls
  • Hit your pull muscles with intervals of Kip Ups, pull-ups, and chin-ups
  • Focus on your cardiovascular system with intervals of jumping and running exercises

You can target your cardio conditioning or your muscular strength and endurance thanks to the versatile nature of HIIT!

Why It Works

High-intensity interval training works for a number of reasons:

  1. You never stop moving. Because the focus is on consistent, non-stop performance, you rarely use heavy loads. You can move from one exercise to the next easily without the need for long rest periods. This means your heart rate is always high, firing up your metabolism to burn more energy.
  2. High-intensity movements shred muscles. The higher the intensity, the harder your muscles have to work. You won’t build raw power like you would using very heavy loads, but you’ll build a lot of muscular strength and endurance thanks to the high-intensity movements.
  3. Your body works to its limits. HIIT is a non-stop workout that pushes your cardiovascular system to the limits of its endurance. At the same time, you’re hitting your muscles hard with a series of non-stop exercises. All in all, you get a better workout in a fraction of the time.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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