Why Interval Training Really is That Good.

One of the biggest crazes to hit the exercise industry in the recent push towards interval and high intensity training, or HIT training. From Crossfit, to group exercise classes, more and more clubs are starting to offer interval training and HIT training classes. But can everyone benefit from this type of training? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

There continues to be a growing number of research studies supporting HIT training and it’s effectiveness over traditional endurance training. One such study, published in 2012 in the Journal of Physiology, proves this point (Gibala et al). This study used two groups of participants. One group performed four to six all out 30 second bike sprints, with a rest of about 4 minutes in between each sprint. They did this 3 times per week for a total training time of about 1.5 hours including the rest intervals. What they found is that this group of individuals made bigger improvements in cardiovascular conditioning over a traditional endurance training group that trained 40-60 minutes 5 times per week. This study does point out, however, that 30 second sprints may not be for everyone. They then studied a group of individuals who would perform ten 60 second sprints at 90% of maximal heart rate, followed by 60 seconds of rest. This training protocol, which is only 20 minutes in total session length, still had similar improvements in cardiovascular conditioning, compared to the traditional endurance group.

A literature review, published in 2014, looked at the benefits of interval training for the elderly (Romero-Arenas, S, 2014). What this review found is that interval resistance training performed in a fashion with minimal rest between exercises, is more effective than traditional weight training when it comes to improvements in oxygen consumption, strength, and functional capacity. This review recommends performing 6-10 exercises twice per week. Each exercise should be performed 1-3 times, at a load of 20 repetition maximum, progressing to a 6 repetition maximum. So basically start lighter and work heavier. Rest between sets should be no longer than 30 seconds (Romero-Arenas, S, 2014).

So what does an interval training program look like? As the first study pointed out, it can be as simple as performing high intensity bouts of cardiovascular training. Or it can involve weight training by performing many different exercise in a circuit fashion and taking little to no rest in between. Interval training has many different forms, and can take many different shapes. The main principle of HIT training is to work really hard for a short period, and rest for a short period, then work really hard again and again and again. Anyone can incorporate this training type into their routine! So start seeing more results in less time and try out some interval training!

  • Patrick Scott, MS, CSCS, Sports and Fitness Director at the JCC of Syracuse.

Gibala, M. J., Little, J. P., MacDonald, M. J., & Hawley, J. A. (2012). Physiological adaptations to low‐volume, high‐intensity interval training in health and disease. The Journal of physiology, 590(5), 1077-1084.

Romero-Arenas, S., Martínez-Pascual, M., & Alcaraz, P. E. (2014). Impact of resistance circuit training on neuromuscular, cardiorespiratory and body composition adaptations in the elderly. Aging and disease, 4(5), 256-263.


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