Breaking an exercise up into intervals means stopping and changing your intensity level multiple times throughout the workout, as opposed to doing an exercise in a constant state. It’s possible to break up virtually any exercise into intervals, though interval training is best for cardio and body-weight exercises. Breaking an exercise up into intervals allows you to reach higher intensities in your workout than you could keeping a steady pace.
- When you do an exercise in intervals, you do it at higher intensities and lower intensities, sometimes called intensity bursts and recoveries. According to “Men’s Fitness” magazine, bursts of high intensity put your body in debt of oxygen, which means your cardiovascular system and muscles have to work harder. As a result of working harder, your body burns more calories, and you burn more calories during your recovery after your workout. With regular practice, your heart health will also improve and recovery time will shorten.
How Intensity is Measured
- You can set the intensity for an interval using a scale of one to 10, or zero to 100 percent, based on how hard you feel you’re working. Ten, or 100 percent, would be your absolute maximal aerobic capacity or your highest level of exertion you can reach. For example, an exertion level of nine might be a high-intensity interval and an exertion level of three may be a recovery interval. After doing a high-intensity interval, you should feel very exhausted.
High-Intensity Interval Training
- High-intensity interval training takes a steady-paced cardio workout to the next level by adding intensity bursts to a steady-state cardio exercise, like walking, cycling, running or swimming. Do your cardio activity at a five to six exertion level and intensity bursts at an eight to 10 exertion level for anywhere between 10 seconds and 5 minutes, depending on your fitness level. No matter how you time it, as long as you get up to 80 to 100 percent of your maximal intensity level, you’ll reap the benefits of high-intensity interval training.
- The “30-20-10″ method of training is a type of interval workout in which you do 30 seconds of a cardio activity at a slow pace, 20 seconds at a moderate pace and 10 seconds at an eight- to 10-exertion level. Repeat this for four cycles so it totals five minutes of doing 30-20-10 intervals. Then do a slow, recovery interval for two minutes. Now, repeat the cycle again or three times in total to complete a workout. A 2012 study done at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark had professional runners do 30-20-10 interval training for seven weeks and found they increased their 5K race times, reduced their blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
- According to “Shape” magazine, a four-minute “Tabata” burns more fat than an entire hour of steady-state aerobics, due to their intensity. A Tabata is an interval workout that also gets you better fitness gains than stead-pace cardio, like increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity and a faster metabolism. To do a Tabata, do a cardio activity at 100-percent intensity for 20 seconds. Rest for just 10 seconds, then immediately repeat seven times for a total of eight reps, which adds up to four minutes. Your cardio activity could be anything from running, cycling or jumping rope to doing burpees, mountain climbers or jumping jacks, or you could mix up the activities you do.