All About Interval Training

High intensity interval training is one of the most talked about fitness methods for fat loss. It’s actually a very simple type of exercise, one that involves moderate exercise alternated by short burst of intense activity. One type of interval training involves a minute of jogging broken by 20 seconds of sprinting.

You may be wondering why alternate between high intensity and moderate intensity workout when you can just go straight for high intensity? Question is, can you? The most fit people, the most experienced sprinters, for instance, can only sustain an incredible intensity on exercises for 10 minutes. For the average person, 20 or 30 seconds of an intense burst of activity will overwhelm them. For people who just started getting fit, 10 seconds may be too much.

Nonetheless, the intense burst of activity taxes the body and activates so many processes, including heightened metabolism and fat incineration. But this rapidly depletes the body of its resources, primarily fuel and oxygen. This is why interval training is coupled with low-moderate exercise in between the intense bursts. The low-moderate phase lets your body recover.

Most fitness experts agree that HIIT or high intensity interval training is much better for weight loss, especially fat loss, than conventional, steady state cardio. The cardiovascular benefits that come with HIIT are much greater than those that come with regular cardio workout. It doesn’t only train the heart and lungs to be more efficient. It also trains the muscles to handle greater physical demand. In addition, the intense burst taxes the muscles so much that it creates micro-tears in the muscle fibers, which account for greater after-burn. Meaning, you keep burning calories after your workout.

For beginners, interval training is an extreme challenge, but it is very efficient. When done properly, 15 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than 45 minutes of steady state cardio.

So how do you go about your first interval training? Here’s the thing. There is no specific set of exercises for interval workout. If you’re a runner, you can alternate between jogging and sprinting. For instance, you can jog for 1 minute and sprint for 30 seconds. You can also do bodyweight circuits. For example, you can alternate push-ups with intense mountain climbers or alternate between burpees and air squats. I like to do my HIIT workout on the elliptical following these tips, but it is up to you.

There is no specific time frame for high intensity phase and low-moderate intensity phase. Depending on your fitness level, you can spend anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes for each phase. Beginners may have to start with short high intensity bursts (10-20 seconds) and long low intensity phases (30 seconds-1 minute).

Your safety remains extremely important. One mistake beginners do is do much more than their body has adapted for. If sprinting is too much, then don’t sprint. Instead, alternate between walking and jogging or between brisk walking and moderate running, depending on your fitness level. Start at your fitness level. Allow your muscles, joints, and tendons to gradually adapt to increasing demands.

Never sacrifice proper form! Cranking out as many push-ups as many you can in a minute is great for fitness until you sacrifice your form in the last few reps and risk rotator cuff injury.

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