What is Interval Training?
Interval training is a training method in which you alternate between high- and low- intensity activity.
Interval training utilitizes both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The aerobic system is used for the steady supply of energy during activity, such as jogging and cycling. The anaerbic system is used for short exertion, high-intensity activity such as weight training and sprinting.
Benefits of Interval Training
1) Improves VO2 Max
VO2max is the maximum rate at which your body is able to consume oxygen when performing a given activity.
Take running as an example:
The faster and longer you run, the harder you breathe. If you sustain a high running speed long enough, eventually you will be breathing as hard as you can. This maximum use of oxygen is known as VO2max.
Given this, it is not surprising that the best way to improve VO2 Max is doing exercises which have you breathing as hard as you can.
That is where interval training comes in. Working at a very high intensity which causes you to reach or come close to VO2 max, mixed with a low intensity resting period, you are able to train your VO2 max more consistently without becoming completely exhausted.
2) Burn More Calories
Interval training has been shown to burn more calories than most other cardiovascular and aerobic exercises. This is due to the high-intensity component, in which you sustain a higher work load than you would with steady-state training (jogging).
3) Time Efficient
Interval training does not require a long period of time. The element of high-intensity shortens the time needed to benefit from the exercise.
Studies have shown that you can experience greater benefits from 15 minutes of interval training than 1 hour of steady jogging on a treadmill. This makes it a fantastic approach for someone trying to get in shape with limited time available.
4) Maintain Muscle Mass
Steady-state, low intensity training burns calories but does not build muscle. Weight training builds muscle but you do not get the calorie burning or cardiovascular benefits you would from an exercise like jogging. Interval training does both.
The high- and low- intensity combination of interval training allows you to experience muscle building from the explosive work as well as calorie burning from the sustained, low- intensity work.
5) Reduced Risk of Injury
Interval training is a simple solution of a major problem athletes often run into: how do you continue working harder without risking injury?
Prolonged high-intensity training wears down the muscles and exposes you to injury. Interval training allows you to train at a high-intensity and also allows your muscles recovery time while you continue to train.
No matter how great of shape you are in, injury is always possible and should be prevented in every way possible.
According to Alex Allan, a registered kinesiologist:
“Several studies have linked a lack of stability and strength in the abdominals
and gluteals to back, knee and hamstring injuries during plyometric exercise.
The Fix: Complete four to six weeks of progressive tempo strength training
with a focus on core and hip stability”
In our Chronic Hip Flexor Pain article, we discuss how weak and unstable hip flexors are the surprising cause of
many injuries. Consider taking action prior to injury to prevent such results.