A Guide to Interval Training

(Article by Hannah Groves with Katie Brick)

Hannah Groves and Personal Trainer/Study Active Tutor Katie Brick are here to tell you everything you need to know about interval training and how you’ll see the benefits of adding interval exercises into your workout routine!

IMPORTANT: The ideas in this article are purely for information only – please do not start an exercise programme until you have completed a PAR-Q and, if necessary, received medical clearance. Always warm up and cool down and never do any exercise that you are unsure of without the support of a qualified professional.

What is interval training?

Interval training involves completing short and fast intense exercise followed by slower recovery phases. The aim is to go as hard as possible during the work periods and recover during your rest periods. It is a great form of training to improve both your aerobic (working with oxygen) and anaerobic (working without oxygen) energy systems. This means that with time you will be able to sustain this intensity for longer whilst working harder. Interval workouts can be tailored to your specifc goals and improve performance and recovery time in endurance sports such as hockey and rugby.  Interval training can be incorporated into any workout and is commonly used these days because of its versatile nature and numerous benefits.

What would be an effective interval workout?

Tabata is a great interval workout and consists of 20 seconds of maximum effort exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a set number of rounds. Each round is normally made up of 8 exercises and lasts 4 minutes. As the work intervals are short, exercises can be sustained at an all-out effort. Having the shorter recovery period, enables you to reach max exertion. The most beneficial exercises to include in this style of interval training are plyometric movements, such as burpees, mountain climbers, and jump squats. These combined with body weight exercises like push ups and pull ups will give you an all-round brilliant workout.

What are your top interval training exercises?

Including plyometric movements into interval training are key to a successful workout.

Burpees are a firm favourite and will always come out on top, the exercise we all love to hate! 

Coming in at second would have to be mountain climbers, another full body exercise but also enables us to work our core in a dynamic way.

Finishing the podium would be star jumps, the exercise we all remember from our childhood school days! A great plyometric, cardiovascular exercise that is simple and requires no equipment.

To increase the intensity that little bit more, adding some weighted compound movements into your routine can be a great addition to making it more challenging.

Pull – ups are one of the most effective exercises for strengthening the back. The posterior chain often gets neglected by many in the gym, as chest and legs are always the go to choice. They are challenging, use minimal equipment and can increase grip strength which is valuable for lifting heavy weights.

Push-ups are a fast and effective exercise to develop upper body strength. They can be performed anywhere and need no equipment.

Jump squats are a great alternative to regular squats as they burn calories faster and increase your explosive power.

What are the advantages of interval training?

  • Interval training improves your strength and endurance. It is good for improving both aerobic (working with oxygen) and anaerobic (working without oxygen) energy systems. It's very effective at improving your VO2 Max and anaerobic threshold. This means that you'll be able to work harder and maintain this intensity for longer. For example, you'll be able to run faster and run further at a faster speed.
  • Interval workouts can be fun and add variety, they can be performed in a group exercise class or individually at home. Having others to train with and an instructor to lead can add encouragement and motivation along with greater accountability. Meaning you are more likely to stick to your workout. And we all know that consistency is key!
  • Interval training has many psychological benefits, as with any exercise, it can be a great stress reliever. Being active can release those feel-good endorphins and help to reduce those daily stresses in life and improve your mood.
  • If you’re looking to burn fat, then interval training is great for weight loss, combined with a healthy diet as it burns more calories at a quicker rate. Due to the intense activity, your body needs to work harder to recover so you will still be burning calories 24 hours after your workout.
  • Exercises can be tailored to your preference. For example, if you are a runner, you could improve your speed by adding sprint intervals into your programme, i.e., walk back sprints 10 x 100m sprints, using the walk back to the start as recovery. Whereas if you want an introduction to muscle gain, body weight exercises with weights can be incorporated.  
  • Studies have also shown that interval training can improve cardiovascular health in individuals who are overweight or obese as it can lower heart rate and blood pressure. The nature of interval workouts forces the body to work harder, thus making the heart more efficient and responsive due to the extra demands put upon it.
  • Interval workouts are time efficient; they aren’t long or monotonous and use limited or no equipment. A common misconception about exercise is having to train for long periods of time to get results. With interval training you can get the same, if not greater results in half the amount of time! Its all about working smarter instead of longer!

Is interval training good for fat loss?

Yes, absolutely. Interval training has been proven by many scientific bodies to burn more calories than for example, a steady state run. This is because it involves a process known as excess post exercise consumption (EPOC). The more intense a workout, the longer it will take for your body to recover and supply enough oxygen to the working muscles so it can return to its resting state. Thus, resulting in a larger calorie burn.

Can you give an example of a full body interval workout?

This 21-minute AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) interval workout is guaranteed to get you blowing!

AMRAP 1 - 7 minutes

10 jumps squats

20 walking lunges

30 jumps rope repetitions

AMRAP 2 – 7 minutes

15 Box jumps

10 push – ups

5 pull ups

AMRAP 3 – 7 minutes

15 kettlebell swings

20 burpees

30 battle rope slams

Perform each 7-minute AMRAP round with 2 minutes rest before moving onto the next.

Conclusion - Interval Training

Thank you to Katie for taking the time to talk about interval workouts and provide some excellent examples of interval exercises. If weight loss is a health and fitness goal then interval training will help you burn more calories and you’ll keep burning energy after your workout is finished. Not only will interval exercises help you physically it will also bring fun and variety to your workout. What more reason could you need to give interval exercises a try!

For more blogs and information on High Intensity Interval Training please visit: HIIT Workout : A HIIT Exercise Training Guide | Study Active

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