Guide To Interval Training: Part 2

Sometime back we posted part 1 of a ‘Guide To Interval Training’. Here is part 2 for all of you that are ready to crank up your workouts. We are all at different fitness levels so one person’s intense can be another persons stroll. It is important that you decide your own level of intensity.

Measuring Your Intensity Level
Using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE):
A really simple way to determine how intense you are working is by grading your intensity on a scale of 1-10.

10 = Full Speed / Can only maintain for a few seconds
9 = Working Very Hard
7 = Working Hard
5 = Could Hold a Conversation
3 = Walking Pace / Warm Up
1 = Relaxed
So with this type of intense training you want to be looking to achieve an intensity of somewhere between 8-10.

Basically if you can chat to your friend while exercising then you are not working hard enough. It’s fun to see how many people you can spot at the gym that are exercising and chatting. What does this tell you?

Using a Heart Rate Monitor for more Accurate Readings:
By monitoring the heart rate you can get a much more accurate account of how hard you are exercising. This method does have an advantage over the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) method because it keeps you honest and doesn’t allow for human error. Often guessing how hard you are working when you are new to this type of training can be very difficult. Here are the basics for now:

1. Establish your Max Heart Rate
2. Work at an Intensity of 85%-95% of Max
3. Rest until Hear Rate Drops to 65% or less of Max
4. Repeat Interval 3-8 times

There are some very sophisticated heart rate monitors these days but all you really need is the ability to monitor your current heart rate in real time.

Performing Interval Training Workouts
So by now you should have chosen your interval training method (eg. Jogging up a hill), and you also know how to monitor the intensity (eg. Perceived Exertion or Heart Rate Monitor). Next you need to know how long to work for and how long to rest for.

How Long Should Each Interval Last?
The length of the interval will vary depending on your current fitness level and the activity you choose.

So the ultimate goal is to reach your Anaerobic Zone which is found at 85%-95% of your max heart rate or approx. 8-10 on your RPE scale. Some exercises will get you to this level very quickly like a full blown sprint (especially up hill) and some exercise will take a little longer like Kettlebell Swings. Ultimately the more effort and the more muscles required the less time it will take to reach the Anaerobic Zone.

Here is a guide to some Interval Training Exercises and where to start:

Beginners (60 secs per interval)

-Begin slowly and work harder and harder throughout the minute
-Try Brisk Walking
-Brisk Cycling
-Brisk Boxing Pad Work

Intermediate (30-45 secs)

-Again build up to maximum exertion at the end of the interval
-Try Brisk Jogging
-Jumping Rope / Skipping
-Dumbbell Squat and Press
-Kettlebell Swings
-Rower Sprints

Advanced (20-30 secs)

-Maximum exertion from the start
-Try Hill Sprints
-Jumping Exercises: Squats, Lunges
-Sled Pushing or Pulling
-Battling Ropes

A Quick Note About Energy Systems
The harder you work within each interval the less amount of time you will be able to last.

For example while performing hill sprints, after around 20 seconds there is very little explosive energy left and the effort begins to slow as there is a switch to a different energy system.

The reason for this is the primary energy system over the first 20 seconds is ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate and this is responsible for explosive power, like sprinting. Once all ATP has been used up then it switches over to the Glycolytic System until approx. 2 minutes and then finally the Oxidative System from 2 minutes onwards. (100M Sprinters Will Never Leave the ATP Explosive Energy System).

It is important to note that no one system works independently they all work together for the production of energy just some are more productive during certain times of exertion.

How Long to Rest After Each Interval?
The length of your rest period will have a direct correlation with your overall fitness level. The fitter you are the quicker your Heart Rate will return back to a resting level again. So Beginners will take longer and more Advanced athletes with take less time.

If you are using a heart rate monitor then this is easy to monitor. Simply perform your interval and then wait until your heart rate drops to around 65% or less of your max heart rate before repeating another interval.

If you are not using a heart rate monitor then you will have to wait until you feel you are at a RPE of about 3-5 before repeating your interval. 2 minutes is generally a good guide for sprints. You will have to adjust your rest periods especially as your fitness improves. You will also notice that as you perform more intervals your length of rest will increase, this is why having the same rest period each round is not a great idea. For better results your rest periods should taper up like this:

-Interval 1 / Rest 60 secs
-Interval 2 / Rest 75 secs
-Interval3 / Rest 90 secs
-Interval 4 / Rest 105 secs

If you use a heart rate monitor and time how long each rest period takes for your heart rate to come down you will see this tapering effect happen.

How Many Intervals to Complete?
The secret here, like all exercise programmes, is progression. Start off slow and build up. Here’s a simple progression you can use:

-Week 1: 3 Intervals
-Week 2: 4 Intervals
-Week 3: 5 Intervals
-Week 4: 6-7 Intervals
-Week 5: 7-8 Intervals
-Week 6: Change Interval Exercise
-Repeat from Week 2

5 Interval Training Programs for You to Try
This type of training although very effective is hard on the body so you should limit its use to only 2 times per week and allow a few days rest in between. So Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday are good choices.

A Word of Warning – Develop Base Conditioning First
Before beginning any Intense Cardio training like the ones below you should first ensure you have at least 4 weeks of base cardio conditioning first. You can develop base cardio either by a simple jogging program, swimming program or, my favourite, bodyweight circuit training. Diving into training that is very intense is never a great idea so ease your way in gently.

Workout # 1 – Treadmill Workout
Treadmill training is not the best running choice unless you have no other option. You are always far better to get outside and run in a more natural environment. Regardless of whether you use this programme indoors or outdoors the method is still the same.

1. Run for 3 minutes at a conversational pace of about 5 RPE
2. Increase the pace for 2 minutes at about a 7 RPE
3. Increase again for 1 minute at about 9 RPE
4. Return back to the 3 Minute Pace and repeat for a total of 3 circuits

This program is good for those new to interval training but have some running experience. You will find the hardest transition is from running hard at a 9 RPE and then returning back to a steady 5 RPE pace again. You will want to stop but you should try to just keep doing even if the pace is very slow.

Workout # 2 – Simple Sprints

This method of training is very simple but highly effective for getting rid of those final few inches of fat.

1. Warm Up thoroughly
2. Run hard for 30 seconds with RPE 9
3. Rest 2 minutes or until heart rate is down to 65% of max
4. Repeat 3-8 times

Please be aware that as you are sprinting hard the risk of injury increases. Ensure you warm up thoroughly first and pay special attention to those hamstrings, they are particularly vulnerable during sprints. You can make things even harder by running up hills. For those less conditioned simply jogging or walking up hills can be an option too!

Workout # 3 – Kettlebell Swings
This method is not only effective but great for people with little space or who need to keep impact to a minimum. So if you suffer from knee problems then this could be an option for you.

1. Warm up your hips and hamstrings
2. Swing Kettlebell for 30 seconds
3. Rest 15-30 seconds or until heart rate is down to 65% max
4. Repeat 3-8 times

There are lots of varieties you can use with this kettlebell program. For example one handed swings, two handed swings or double kettlebell swings. Another variation that I have used successfully is to decrease the kettlebell weight as you progress through the intervals, this allows for the fatigue that is generated:
-Intervals 1 & 2 = 32kg
-Intervals 3 & 4 = 24kg
-Intervals 5 & 6 = 20 kgs

Here’s a Video Tutorial of the Kettlebell Swing:

Workout # 4 – Rower Intervals
Using an indoor rower is a fairly safe way to work on your cardio intensity and it utilises a lot of muscles so its very effective. There are lots of options you can use including the Workout # 1 protocol above but here is another option:

1. Set the damper to between 7-10
2. Warm up with 3 minutes of easy rowing
3. Perform 20 Hard Stokes
4. Row for 2 minutes at 5 RPE for recovery
5. Repeat for 3-8 circuits

Workout # 5 – Bodyweight Circuits
Using just your bodyweight in various ways can seriously elevate your heart rate and is a great interval training option. Here’s one simple option:

1. Following a full mobility warm up
2. Fast Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds
3. Rest 15-30 seconds
4. Burpees – 30 seconds
5. Rest 15-30 seconds
6. Repeat 3-8 circuits

Here’s how to do the Burpee:

And the Fast Mountain Climbers:

How Should this Intense Training Feel?

These types of intense workouts only really work if you push into that anaerobic zone. The trick here is find the correct balance between working hard and not producing too much lactic acid. Once you start to hit the higher end of your anaerobic zone then you will start to feel sick because the bi-product of producing energy without oxygen is lactic acid and this will build up in the system.

If your mouth starts to taste unusual and your saliva thickens then this is generally a sign of lactic acid build up. With time your lactic acid tolerance will improve and you will be able to push harder and for longer without feeling sick. To start with take it easy and get used to how it feels.

So there you have the guide to Interval Training. There are lots of great benefits to be had and the results will speak for themselves. Just start off slowly and get used to working hard and then resting. Enjoy the workouts but most of all warm up well and progress gradually. Good luck!

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