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Interval Training: Cut Your Exercise Time and Build Better Results

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The one thing that most women complain about when it comes to exercising is we’ll sink an hour or more a day into exercising and still not receive the results we want. Exercising can be time consuming and even a little frustrating when you’re trying to squeeze the most of your exercise time. It can be even more frustrating to focus on all of your trouble spots in one workout.

Japanese study of intense exercises

Over 10 years ago, a Japanese study concluded that when you focus on a small number of muscle groups or simply one muscle group at a high intensity for a short period of time, you gain the same kind of results as you would from a 30 minute or a 60-minute workout. Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of scientists and athletes tested the theory that a short burst of extremely high intensity can yield the same results as your standard aerobic workout.

Putting Tabata to the test

The process, known as the Tabata Interval (but also referred to as interval training), named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, focuses on getting the most out of your exercise time. The workout starts with a brief warm up – one or two minutes – and then an extreme intensity workout that is done through four minute bursts, broken down into 20 seconds of workout and 10 seconds of rest. You then repeat the process over a period of four minutes. This means that you can target the spots you want to work and do it without worrying if you’re giving your trouble spots enough attention. You can spend as little as four minutes or as much as 16 or 20 minutes a day working on the places you feel your body needs the most work.

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Maximum benefits in a short time period

Interval training workouts are designed with your needs in mind. Because of the high level of aerobic activity condensed into a small time frame, your body will reach its maximum level of endurance faster. Unlike other workouts where you are prone to bouncing back and forth between a high intensity and then low-intensity exercise, your metabolic rate stays in an elevated state, long after the workout ends.

Customizing your workout

One of the benefits of interval training is that you can tailor the workout to fit your schedule and the kinds of exercises you want to do. In four minutes you can give your abs an overhaul, strengthen your upper body, or build muscle in your legs. Exercises such as squats, push ups, pull ups, and lunges make excellent exercises for interval training. However, you can also add in weights or a series of abs crunches and exercises to your workout. Focusing on a select number of muscle groups allows you the chance to get the best results possible.

While you can actually do just one four-minute interval training workout a day, many people opt for 16 or 20-minute sets. However, even if you don’t have enough time to fit in multiple four-minute workouts, you can still benefit from the high level of intensity that four minutes provides.

Interval training warnings

The high level of exercise during interval training isn’t for everyone. In fact, if you have knee or back problems, you may want to carefully consider whether or not interval training is right for you. The same goes for people who have heart disease or who live a very inactive lifestyle.

Interval training, while not necessarily new to the fitness world, is gaining mainstream acceptance by athletes and trainers. They see interval training as being more challenging than typical workouts, it can be considered more interesting as you discover the different ways to work your muscles in short bursts, and can also be fun and rewarding. You’ll feel the effects of interval training workouts sooner than traditional aerobic workouts and while some experts remain on the fence, other fitness enthusiasts claim that they see results faster than a typical workout regimen.

With any new exercise program though, there is risk of injury and while the risks of a heart attack or cardiac related death from exercise are low, the risks still remain. The best advice from fitness experts and trainers is to consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

Recommended reading on interval training

For more information and advice on interval training, take a look at the following books:

The Interval Training Workout: Build Muscle and Burn Fat with Anaerobic Exercise
Six-Week Bikini Countdown: Tone your butt, abs, and thighs with cardio interval training
The Interval Training Manual: 520+ Interval Running Workouts for All Sports And Abilities
Interval Training for Fitness

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