Interval training is a category of training that involves one exercise or short series of exercises in a period defined by either time or number of reps. The general idea is to max out, either on effort, or time completed. HIIT and Circuit training are types of interval training.
The contrasting type of training would be a single exercise, steady-state exercise session that lasts for a longer time period. Going for an 8-mile run, or a 20-mile bike ride is an example of a steady-state, endurance-based workout.
By definition, HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a type of interval training based on short, timed, periods of work followed by an even shorter recovery period of lower intensity exercise.
Participants work through a single high-intensity exercise (such as a burpee) or combination of exercises (such as a box jump burpee) followed by a lower intensity exercise (such as jogging in place) within a workout session. You can string together different exercises for the high-intensity segment to create a full-body workout.
The idea is to work harder than you do when you do a typical cardio workout, but in bursts of 30 seconds to 3 minutes. You work at a high-intensity level (thus the fitting name!), pushing your body into an anaerobic state. Research shows that HIIT training increases metabolism and improves anaerobic capacity.
There are a variety of time variation allotments that you can choose. For example, 30 seconds of high intensity, and 10 of a recovery intensity is a very typical HIIT style.
To design a HIIT workout, simply choose a set of exercises that you will do at high intensity and a matching number of lower intensity exercises. Next, determine your time interval. Here’s an example.
EXERCISE 1: Burpees (30 seconds)
Recovery exercise: Jogging (10 seconds)
EXERCISE 2: Pushups (30 seconds)
Recovery exercise: Arm rotations (10 seconds)
EXERCISE 3: Jump Rope (30 seconds)
Recovery exercise: Boxer Warm-ups (10 seconds)
EXERCISE 4: Tuck Jumps (30 seconds)
Recovery exercise: Low kicks (10 seconds)
Put that exercise on repeat, and you have a 30 min HIIT Training session. You can also vary the exercises in subsequent sets to create a more varied routine.
A Tabata is a very specific type of HIIT training that consists of a four-minute workout that includes eight rounds of 20 seconds of work at maximum effort. The exercise method is named after Izumi Tabata, who discovered the benefits to this way of training back in 1996.
Circuit training generally refers to a session design that moves a participant from one exercise station to the next and can either be based on a set number of reps or a timed session. A conventional circuit training workout includes 8-10 exercise stations. After completing the reps or prescribed time for a station, instead of resting, you move quickly to the next exercise in the circuit.
To design a circuit workout, define a series of 8-10 exercises and set up the stations, including any equipment you will need. Determine whether you wish to complete a prescribed number of reps (speed focus), or a prescribed time (endurance focus).
1. SMART Med Ball Sumo Squat: 20 reps
2. SMART Plyo Rebounding Box Jumps: 10 reps
3. Pushups off SMART Plyo Box: 20 reps
4. SMART MODULAR Agility Ladder Runs: 4 run-throughs
5. SMART Stability Ball Plank Jack Knife: 20 reps
6. Conditioning Ropes: 15 reps
7. Resistance Band Bicep Curls: 20 reps
8. Medicine Ball Globe Crunches: 20 reps
Repeat the circuit to meet your desired workout goal. If you are going for completed reps, try to see if you can beat your time in each round of your circuit. If you are going for set times, build a 30 or 60 minute session depending on your fitness goals and scheduling.
Advantages of Interval Training
Circuit training can offer a practical solution for both boredom and time constraints, both of which are common themes that derail a fitness journey. Interval training can be a creative and flexible way to keep your workouts interesting. Because any of the exercises can be performed in a multitude of sequences, you can create an endless number of combinations to match your mood or specific training goal.
Be on the lookout for our #WORKOUTWEDNESDAY video series on boot camp style exercises you can turn into HIIT or Circuit workouts!
Here’s our first in the series: