Best Weight Loss Program: Interval Training


If you are serious about losing weight or increasing your level of health, your one-stop solution is Interval Training!

Interval training carries with it many different benefits, allowing you to achieve the maximum amount of progress in the shortest amount of time. Below are some of the benefits associated with interval training, followed by a primer on what interval training is, as well as some sample interval training programs.

Benefits of Interval Training

  • Keeps your body from adapting to your training program, meaning that your progress will never stagnate
  • Cranks up your metabolism for longer periods of time than “standard” cardiovascular training
  • Allows you to burn more body fat for energy as a result of confusing your body during the interval training session
  • Increases your level of cardiovascular endurance as well as the overall strength of your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Eliminates the boredom often associated with cardiovascular training sessions
  • Increases the release of post-exercise endorphins as a result of the high-intensity nature of interval training
  • Boosts your confidence as you realize that you can increase your physical abilities exponentially above previously accepted levels

What is Interval Training?

Basically, interval training is a method of exercise whereby you are constantly changing the level of intensity of the training session, which keeps your body from being able to adapt to the activity.

The human body is a highly adaptable machine, and as soon as your body adapts to any given type of training, your progress will slow down, and sometimes even stop completely. Even if you keep exercising, you will not see any further progress until you find a way to start confusing your body with a new training protocol.

The concept of interval training itself is very simple, although there are numerous ways in which you can modify your approach in order to get the most out of it.

Whenever you are engaged in any sort of cardiovascular exercise, interval training is simply the act of constantly changing your level of intensity. This is normally done by having certain periods of time when you exercise at one level of intensity, and then other periods of time when you increase that level of intensity.

That same concept can be applied to distance just as easily, however. You keep up a certain level of intensity for a given distance, then increase the level of intensity for a given distance.

What is meant by “level of intensity” during Interval Training?

Intensity is simply the level of difficulty that is represented by any given exercise activity. The methods of changing the intensity vary depending on the type of cardiovascular activity that you are engaged in, but 2 of the most popular ways to modify your level of intensity are:

  • The actual speed at which are you doing the movement, usually measured in miles per hour (mph) or revolutions per minute (rpm).
  • The resistance level that you are fighting against while you do the activity. This can be modified by adding an incline if you are on an exercise machine, increasing the tension if you are on an exercise bike, or just cranking up the difficulty level of whatever machine you are using.

If you are a runner, increasing your speed is the most efficient way to turn up the intensity, although running on an incline is also very effective if that is an option for you.

What are some examples of effective Interval Training?

Exercise Bike or Elliptical/Cross Training Machine

Choose a number of revolutions per minute that you are comfortable with. The number of revolutions per minute that you choose should be challenging for you, but should not push you to your absolute limits.

After a proper warm-up, begin timing yourself, keeping your rpm’s at that challenging level for 4 minutes. At the end of that 4 minutes crank up your rpm’s to a much higher level for 1 full minute.

For example, if your rpm’s were previously 70, crank them all the way up to 80, 90, or even 100. Remember, you only have to do this for 60 seconds. At the end of the 60 seconds, return back to your previous level of 70 rpm’s for another 4 minutes. Repeat that process until the end of your workout.

Remember: Whenever you go back to your original level, you should ONLY go back to that level, which was 70 rpm’s in this example. At first you will be tempted to drop below your previous level because you will be very tired. However, if you drop below your previous level, you will not get nearly as much benefit from interval training.

Running

If your normal running speed is 5 miles per hour, begin running at that speed after a proper warm-up. After 3 minutes, take off and run as hard and as fast as you can for 1 full minute. Really give it all you’ve got!

After 1 minute, return back to your normal running speed of 5 mph for 3 minutes, and then repeat. You will quickly find that it takes you all 3 of those minutes before your heart rate returns back to normal!

The net result of that level of intensity from a calorie burning standpoint is that you will spend a significantly larger amount of time with a higher heart rate than you would have if you had just run at 5 mph for the entire exercise session. All of the other benefits of interval training would of course apply as well.

Distance

Regardless of which type of cardiovascular activity that you are engaged in, you can also use distance as a way to plan your intervals.

Give yourself a certain distance that you will cover at your “normal” speed, and then choose a distance that is approximately 10% to 15% of that distance, and crank up your intensity to an extremely challenging level while you cover that smaller distance.

Once the smaller distance has been covered, return back to your previous rate of speed or other level of intensity for a prescribed distance before repeating the higher intensity interval again. Repeat that process for the entire workout.


Whether you use time or distance as a way to measure your intervals, the end result is the same – your body is too confused to adapt to the constantly changing exercise environment.

Also, the examples given here are just guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules about how long any given interval should be, or how much distance should be covered.

The only thing that is mission critical to the success of your interval training is that the higher intensity portions of your workout are very challenging, and that you never allow yourself to drop below your normal rate of speed or intensity.

You can modify both the speed/resistance changes during any given workout, as well as the distances covered during any given exercise session. You do not need to stick with one system and never change it.

In fact, the entire idea behind interval training is to keep your body from adapting to the activity, so feel free to change it up as often as you like. However, it is absolutely imperative that whenever you do your higher intensity intervals that they are truly challenging.

Don’t cheat yourself by putting forth sub-par efforts. Interval training is literally one of the most effective exercise modalities ever created, and you can use this system to attain a maximum level of weight loss and health.

Work hard, and the results will follow!

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12 Responses to Best Weight Loss Program: Interval Training

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  2. Interval training and circuit training are great ways to get fit and improve strength. I find that one of the best ways to perform interval training is through martial arts classes. Usually martial arts classes involve periods of intensive activity, such as circuit training exercises, sparring, pad work, followed by stretching and isometric exercises. This is essentially a form of interval training, which has a good track record of producing great results.

  3. Aaron Potts says:

    Martial arts training is indeed a GREAT form form of interval training! I have taken Tae Kwon Do classes that range anywhere from you wondering when the instructor will tell you it is okay to stop kicking/punching to silent and powerful stretching and mind-focus. Great stuff!

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  5. Absolutely – varying the type and intensity of your regular workout works wonders. I find with weight lifting that if I go too long with my normal routine, I see no benefit, no muscle mass gain.

    So, I “interrupt” my body, make it “stand up and take notice”, and literally “kill the memory” in my muscles by every couple of weeks performing a very intense workout.

    Example: If I do arm curls with a 35lb dumbbell, 3 sets of 10 reps, as a “normal” arm exercise, I’ll instead add 10 pounds and do 1 fast set of as many as I can do, i.e. work to exhaustion. Wow… the muscle responds almost immediately. After the required rest for a couple of days, I can literally see the difference in my biceps.

    Pretty cool stuff.

    - Dave

  6. Aaron Potts says:

    Dave,

    That is an excellent example that you shared of how to modify the effect that the body gets, yet still doing the same exercise.

    The “3 sets of 10-12 repetitions” dogma has people afraid to step outside of those types of guidelines.

    Great job coming up with a way for your body to stand up and take notice, Dave. Thanks for sharing!

  7. jones.didi says:

    I just started interval training on the rowing machine. At first it was really difficult but now I am up to 15 minutes. I have really seen a difference in my workout. I think interval training is great.

  8. Aaron Potts says:

    It is indeed REALLY hard at first, especially if you crank up the intensity during your intervals to a very challenging level.

    When I do interval training, I usually keep the intervals themselves to 60 seconds so that I can just push it HARD, knowing that I only have to keep it up for 60 seconds. Follow that up with a 2 or 3 minute period of staying in the normal target heart rate zone, and then fire it up again!

    Do that 3 or 4 times each week for 30 minutes, and I guarantee results!

  9. Pamela says:

    I followed The original Power 90 Program this past January after gaining some weight (25) due to a knee Injury. I was determined to get back into shape and began on Jan 6th 2008. By March 6th I had dropped over 20lb! I followed the program 6 days a week and also did Pilates as a warm up. Diet I basically followed South Beach and stuck to this routine until mid march when I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant. I fell off track after finding out about the pregnancy and felt Hungry and tired all the time. I have just reached the 3 month mark so have began doing the Strength training but am not doing the cardio as I don’t know that it is safe. I will be getting back to this program once the baby comes and am hoping by starting again now I can maintain and balance the weight that I have gained without going over whats needed during pregnancy.

  10. Aaron Potts says:

    Pamela,

    The success stories from Power 90 are amazing, and I am so glad that you have seen the value in the program enough to get back to it after the pregnancy.

    I also highly recommend that you stay active during your pregnancy. All necessary cautions should certainly be taken, of course, but at the same time, it is an old wives’s tale that women can’t exercise when they are pregnant.

    Get with your doctor about what he/she thinks is appropriate for you, but even if it is just a brisk daily walk, you’ll be glad that you did it once it is time to crank things back up after the baby is born!

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