Optimizing Interval Training for Fat Loss
Interval Training is a popular training modality that consists of alternating periods of higher intensity efforts with lower intensity recovery periods. Simply stated…
GO HARD – RECOVER – REPEAT
Basically, it’s believed that when you allow the body to recover and replenish its energy stores after a very high intensity effort you can work harder during the repeat work intervals. In contrast, if you do not permit adequate recuperation following higher intensity efforts energy stores remain depleted and you are unable to achieve the desirable intensity on repeat efforts.
When compared to “steady state” or training at a constant moderate pace or intensity, interval training done properly results in more work performed in the same time, and consequently more calories expended both during training and over the 24-hour period after training. Moreover, researchers over the past 20 years have found that interval training results in greater improvements in fat loss, blood glucose control, improved markers of cardiovascular health, and virtually all performance variables compared to steady state training over time.
Why is Interval Training Preferred for Fat Loss?
The problem with most steady state conditioning workouts for fat loss is that your body adapts to a particular modality (i.e. running, climbing, cycling, etc.) and becomes more efficient each time you perform that particular activity. Over time you will actually burn fewer calories for the same amount of work that originally may have been somewhat challenging for you. Burn fewer calories…weight and fat loss ceases.
Interval Training helps us keep the body from adapting to the workouts so that we remain inefficient and consequently expend more energy each time we train.
Selecting An Interval Training Method
There are three basic categories of Interval Training, all of which can be valuable in helping you reduce body fat.
1. High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T)
2. Supra-Maximal Interval Training (S.M.I.T)
3. Aerobic Interval Training
High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) was popularized in the mid-to-late 1990’s after Japanese researchers reported that participants who performed 4 minute bouts of H.I.I.T four (4) days per week improved performance variables greater than those completing five (5) sixty (60) minute steady state training sessions per week. Although the research produced startling results, as occurs with most fascinating findings…the media puts an exaggerated spin on things. You can NOT simply train for 4 minutes a day and expect to see any visible changes to your body composition.
Presently, H.I.I.T. refers to using periods of high intensity efforts (85 to 100% HRmax, 8-10 RPE “perceived exertion”), followed by periods of incomplete recovery. Incomplete recovery can be achieved by
A. using PASSIVE recoveries that are shorter than the work intervals (i.e. go hard for 30 sec, stop and rest for 15 sec; repeat), or
B. by simply reducing the intensity of the exercise during the recovery interval (i.e. ACTIVE recovery) so that HR and RPE reduce (i.e. go hard for 30 sec, go easy for 30 sec; repeat)
When intensity is > 85% anything less than 3-5x the work interval duration would result in incomplete recovery.
Supra-Maximal Interval Training (S.M.I.T.) is a more recent term, although the technique has been used for decades to improve athletic performance. This is a more advanced variation of interval training as it requires that you push over 100% exertion followed by complete PASSIVE recovery (i.e. standing around, walking slowly, etc.). Consequently, it should only be used by advanced trainees.
Example: Sprints x 30 seconds; Rest 90 sec; Repeat
Aerobic Interval Training (A.I.T.) was popularized by Dr. Jack Daniels. He proposed that performance improvements in endurance sport would only be optimized if an athlete trained at or near VO2max (the highest intensity that the body can continue to take in, extract and use oxygen to fuel movement).
Since it takes approximately 2 minutes for the body to achieve that intensity, Dr. Daniels suggested that anything short of a 3 minute interval would not be of value. He also advised that the interval should not last more than 5 minutes because you will have exhausted the energy source that supplies the body with fuel for that intensity effort.
Moreover, to optimize the aerobic system, you would also use an incomplete, ACTIVE recovery of 2-3 minutes.
Although research has not studied the effects of this form of Interval Training on Fat Loss variables I believe it has value in a Fat Loss program. If you increase your aerobic fitness, your ability to achieve higher intensities when using H.I.I.T. or S.M.I.T. protocols will improve.
How Do You Select Your Work | Recovery Intervals?
1.Pick a training method and select your work and recovery intervals based on your current fitness level. Most of you will choose from the H.I.I.T. category at first. For those of you who are already at a higher fitness level, mix it up for best results.
20 sec 10
10 sec 50
3 min 90 sec
4 min 2 min
5 min 3 min
*these are only a few of many ways to match work and recovery times.
2. Select your Activity or Exercises. Of course you can choose the basic staples…running, biking, swimming, or climbing. Or, you can handpick a few simple, low-impact exercises that you are confident will get your heart racing in your selected interval duration. You can squat, lunge, throw medicine balls, swing kettlebells, etc. You can even mix them up (i.e. KB Swings and Running).
3. Warm-up at a progressively increasing intensity for 10-15 minutes.
4.If you’re using a H.I.I.T. or S.M.I.T. protocol, go for approximately 6-8 minutes, take a 2-3 minute break, repeat 2 to 3 more times.
Try to accumulate at least 20-30 minutes of Interval Training time.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that we use a combination of H.I.I.T. and A.I.T. for our Group Conditioning Workouts at The SHOP. Because we have access to a lot of tools we have the ability to vary our Interval Training workouts even more to keep you engaged, to challenge your body from all angles and ultimately to optimize your body composition change.
If you have any questions about how you better organize your at-home interval workouts please don’t hesitate to ask!