Smooth Fitness Blog

Guide to Safe and Effective Interval Training

April 2nd, 2010

Interval training workouts are a great way to add variety and new challenges to your workout routine. Typically, interval training alternates between high-intensity phases and lower-intensity recovery periods, such as what you’ll find in my Smooth Fitness Agile and DMT X2 elliptical Free Audio Workouts.  The interval workout method has been proven to improve fitness levels for both beginners and experienced exercisers.  Studies also suggest that training in this manner increases the body’s ability to burn fat.

I like interval training because it’s a technique that works different energy systems, incorporates more exercise styles into one workout routine and increases the effectiveness of the workout.  While there’s no single method of interval training, there are some guidelines that should be followed:
1)    Always consult your personal physician before beginning a workout program
2)    Always warm up to prevent injury
3)    Always customize the workout program to meet your specified goals
4)    Always incorporate high intensity and low intensity exercise periods
5)    Always finish with a cool down and stretch

Below are some recommendations for safe and effective interval training:
1)    During the high-intensity phase, strive to raise the heart rate to 75-85% of your age adjusted maximum heart rate.
2)    The low-intensity recovery period should be long enough to allow the heart rate to drop into the lower cardio or fat burning zone.  This is usually 60-65%, but no lower.
3)    If you’re a beginner to interval training, consider lowering the heart rate recommendations above to a level that is more comfortable to you and slowly increasing the intensity with subsequent workouts.  As a beginner, you may also benefit from starting with very short high-intensity interval periods.  There’s no right or wrong length of time.  You may start with 15 second high-intensity intervals and slowly increase by 5 seconds in each subsequent workout.

I’ve included a basic beginner interval training outline below:

•    Minute 1 – 5        Warm up at 50% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 5 – 5.3      Increase heart rate to 60% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 5.3 – 7      Decrease heart rate to 50% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 7 – 7.3      Increase heart rate to 70% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 7.3 – 9      Decrease heart rate to 60% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 9 – 9.3      Increase heart rate to 75% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 9.3 – 11    Decrease heart rate to 65% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 11 – 11.3   Increase heart rate to 80% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 11.3- 13    Decrease heart rate to 65% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 13 – 13.3   Increase heart rate to 85% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 13.3 – 15   Decrease heart rate to 65% maximum heart rate
•    Minute 15 -20       Cool down at 50-60% maximum heart rate

A quick guide to determine your age adjusted maximum heart rate:
220 – (your age) = age adjusted maximum heart rate

To determine the percentages listed above, multiply age adjusted maximum heart rate by the desired percentage.  For example, a 40-year-old person has an age adjusted maximum heart rate of 180:
60% of 180 is 180 x .60 = 108

Use this workout as an introduction to interval training.  Check back for my next blog to see how you can utilize interval training to incorporate fat burn and full body muscle tone.

By: Jim Bompensa

Jim Bompensa has been a health club owner and manager, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutrition specialist for the nearly 15 years. He is currently the owner/operator of Body Physics Fitness Center in Haddonfield, NJ. Jim has appeared and contributed on ABC and NBC in Philadelphia, PA as well as Designing Spaces on TLC.

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