By Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
Manager of Health Promotion
Drexel University’s top trainer offers up tips to liven up interval training
When interval training comes to mind, or by twist of fate arises as a topic of discussion (wedged between contentious debates involving college football and politics), many people think battle ropes, kettlebells, and utilizing other “functional training” devices over a profuse, flooding sweat.
A new perspective on a timeless modality
We hardcore trainees are readily aware of the multiple benefits from strength training — concomitant increases in myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic volume, cytoplasmic and transverse tubule density, pennation angles, calcium secretion, and substrate storage capacity. In layman’s terms strength training builds size, strength and increases performance.
Multiple hormonal and structural adaptations also take place via strength training as does an obvious increase in muscular strength which drives the development of essential biomotor skills and fitness qualities that enable improvements in body composition and enhanced athletic performance.
While many gym goers and fitness professionals are familiar with the benefits of strength training, far fewer realize that strength training is actually interval training.
Before one hoses down their favorite piece of cardio equipment with a flood of bodily fluids and electrolytes, multiple parameters and the overall purpose for doing so must be closely analyzed.
Athletes should ask themselves: “what specific biomotor skills or fitness qualities am I attempting to derive from the engagement of traditional interval training?”
Those in search of improvements in body composition should ask themselves: “is the inclusion of traditional interval training inherently necessary to facilitate desired outcomes?”
Moreover, those hailing from both sects should ask themselves: “am I in shape enough to benefit from interval training?” And further: “will interval training interfere with the development of certain biomotor qualities (i.e. strength) or muscle mass?”
It should be noted that interval training competes for the same anabolic pathway (mTOR) that strength training does while jacking up metabolic stress through the elevation of inorganic phosphates, hydrogen ions, and lactate as well as releasing a stream of glucocorticoids, which are capable of influencing hormonal and metabolic outputs.
First Base: Aerobic
For those wishing to yield benefits from traditional interval training, an aerobic base is required. The larger the base, the better, as it permits greater inter and intra session recovery. An aerobic base can be determined by first obtaining an age estimated maximum heart rate from which a resting heart rate will be subtracted.
Mathematically inept persons, like myself, will appreciate my selection of the Karvonen Formula to determine age estimated max heart rate. 220 – age = Maximum Heart Rate
Though considered arbitrary at best by some, it’s simple to collect and does not involve a metabolic cart and tens of thousands of dollars in exercise testing equipment.
Once max heart rate has been established, obtain your resting heart rate, and subtract it from your heart rate.
The number between the two values quantifies, albeit crudely, your aerobic base. A greater difference between numbers indicates better aerobic functioning. A smaller difference between numbers can be interpreted as compromised aerobic functioning. As such, interval training is appropriate for those with a bigger number between two values.
Irrespective of time being on your side or encompassing an expansive aerobic base, the following modality may be worth considering.
Mixed Circuit Training
Mixed circuit training entails a variety of training tools and implements which include traditional strength training, ballistic, and mobility exercises to concomitantly address multiple fitness qualities within an abbreviated period of time.
Mixed Circuit Training Guidelines
– Exercises requiring a high degree of technical proficiency should not be significantly loaded. Since limit strength is not an objective during mixed circuit training, loaded barbell exercises should not exceed 70% of your one rep max.
– To account for an inevitable onset of fatigue, the number of repetitions should be reduced during each subsequent set.
– Exercises which require a high degree of technical proficiency should not be performed to failure. Compound movements, including Olympic lifts and the big three should be executed with fewer than 5 to 6 repetitions per set to ameliorate injury and the development of faulty motor engrams.
– Rest time may be reduced between individual exercises and circuits to intensify the workout; however, work-to-rest intervals should be kept at 1:2 or greater. For instance, for every 30 seconds of work, rest for 60 seconds.
– Mobility Exercises can be added as “fillers” or as interpolated active rest. Along than vein, stretching antagonists (opposite of the muscle being work) can be included to temporarily override neuroprotective mechanisms thus intensifying muscular contractions and eliciting elevated metabolic stress.
– If fat loss is the goal, you should strive to achieve 85% of your maximum heart rate throughout each sequence.
Sample Mixed Circuit Training
A1) Barbell Bench Press x 6, 6, 6
A2) Rear Foot Elevated Hip Flexor Stretch with Overhead Reach x 0:30 each side X 3 sets
A3) Barbell Back Squat X 6, 6, 6
Rest before repeating sequences within block.
B1) Chest Supported Row x 10 x 3 sets
B2) Inchworm with Push Up x 5 body lengths x 3 sets
B3) Dumbbell Step Up x 10 x 3 sets
Grab your copy of the ultimate interval encyclopedia here
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