Interval Training: Variability of Exercise Intensity

Do you happen to be a cardio junkie? It seems everyone believes “cardio” is the optimum exercise for losing body fat and getting back in shape. Well, I’m going to explain to you in this article why I am in total disagreement with that opinion.

Most of us have been told by our doctors, fitness coaches, and many other health pros that doing low to moderate cardio, or intensity aerobic training, is for anyone who is looking to lose some weight and prevent heart disease. Most of the time those recommendations sound like this:

“You need to be doing 30-60 minutes of cardio at a steady pace, 3-5 times per week while keeping your heart rate at a conservative level.”

Now before you embrace this currently popular belief system, and turn into the “hamster on the wheel” who’s doing countless hours of cardio exercise, please consider some of the more recent scientific research information indicating that doing literal endurance cardio work at a sustained pace may not be all they say it is.

First of all, our bodies weren’t designed for long term steady motion, but more for a burst of physical activity (stop-and-go rather than steadily moving) followed by a time out for recouping our energy. What is being suggested by recent research is that using a variety of physical motion in your training regimen is one of more important aspects to consider.

You will notice this example most often in nature, as the majority of animals naturally us a stop-and-go movement instead of sustained, continuous motion.  The truth is humans are actually the only one in nature that even attempts any sort of physical activities that test their endurance. If you look at the majority of competitive sports, other than endurance cycling or running, they’re all based on stop-and-go motion or short bursts of action followed by rest period.

Another example is to compare the physiques of marathon runners versus sprinters when you consider the varying effects of endurance, or steady state training, versus the results of stop and go training. A sprinter’s body will be muscular, powerful, and lean, while a committed marathoner’s body is quite often emaciated and looking like death warmed over. Okay, which of these looks would you prefer to have?

Another thing to remember when you start looking at what benefits are derived by physical variability is the effect on the inside of our bodies from different types of exercise. Scientists have been aware for some time of the effects of doing excessive, steady state endurance exercises (the basic definition here is more than 60 minutes sessions almost every day of the week) are: increases the production of free radicals in your body, can cause joint degeneration, will reduce immunity functions, cause muscle wasting, and causes inflammatory responses that might lead to continuous diseases in your body.

A Look at the Difference with Highly Variable Cyclic Training

In comparison, variable cyclic training has been associated with an increase in anti-oxidant production and an anti-inflammatory response in the body, a much more efficient nitric oxide reaction (which supports a healthy cardiovascular system), and a large increase in the metabolic rate response (which is what helps you to lose weight!).

In addition, the steady state endurance training ends up training the heart in just one heart rate range, which doesn’t help you when you’re responding to the various stresses you face each day.

That’s one of the high points in variable cyclic training as the heart is taught to respond and then recover from a myriad of demands during the day, which means less chance of it failing you when you really need it.

This is an exercise that literally trains the heart to rapidly increase, and then decrease, meaning your heart is much more prepared to handle the stress of every day life. Needless to say, stress of any kind creates a rapid increase to both blood pressure and heart rate. You will not be able to train your heart to deal with any rapid heart rate changes or blood pressure by doing steady jogging or the other types of endurance training.

It is those recovery times between the exertions that are most important with variable cyclic training, and makes is so much better than steady state cardio exercise. For your body to respond well to exercise that is stimulating, it’s very important that is has a recovery period as well. One of the other benefits of variable cyclic training is what fun exercise it is to do, which explains why it has a much lower rate of drop-outs than the boring steady state cardio training.

In summation, the benefits available from variable cyclic training, when compared to steady state endurance training, would be: an improvement of cardiovascular health, an increase anti-oxidant protection, better immune function, reduces the risk of joint damage reduced, increase in muscularity (vs decrease with endurance training), and increase in residual metabolic rates after exercise, and better heart capacity for handling life’s day to day stress situations.

Learn About Sports Workouts and Sprinting

When it comes to variable intensity physical training, there are lots of ways you will achieve the benefits. You may notice that most of the competitive sports like basketball, football, racquetball, volleyball, hockey, and tennis are built on highly variable stop-and-go motions that are pushing the heart through a much more intense range than steady jogging or walking does.

Applying this variable intensity style to swimming workouts can prove to be of more benefit than just doing laps over and over at the same speed. The same principle applies to bicycling – and that’s the reason mountain biking, with the extreme ups and downs involved at a variety of intensity levels, might be more beneficial than a flat, steadily paced bike ride.

One of the most effective and powerful choices of variable intensity training for greatly reducing body fat while getting muscular definition, is doing wind sprints. Wind sprints are running close to your maximum speed for 10-30 seconds, and then walking out for 60 seconds recovery before you run the next sprint. Most people find that 6-12 total sprint intervals is a tremendously challenging workout.

Another example of that is weight training, which naturally exerts short bursts of energy followed immediately by a recovery period. You can also achieve high intensity interval training by varying the high-low intervals on various pieces of cardio equipment, and is an additional training method where you’re able to make use of exertion and recovery periods. For instance, imagine creating an interval training working on a treadmill that might look like:

  • Starting with a fast walk or light jog, you warm-up for 3-4 minutes.
  • Interval 1 – running at 8.0 mi/hr for just one minute.
  • Interval 2 – walking at 4.0 mi/hr for about a minute and a half.
  • Interval 3 – running at 10.0 mi/hr for another minute.
  • Interval 4 – once more walking at 4.0 i/hr for a minute and a half.

If you were to repeat these four intervals four times, you would have one incredibly intense 20-minute workout! Don’t discount the other excellent options available for variable intensity cardio training such as jumping rope, working out on a rowing machine, or running up hills outdoors. Circuit training is also another excellent way to do a variable intensity workout.

The main message of this article is to have you set a goal of using variable rates for most of your workouts to train your body and achieve the most benefits in your goal of losing fat, having a healthy heart, and maintaining your muscle tone. When you combine a healthy diet with both a full-body, well-designed resistance training program with a high intensity cardiovascular training program, you are guaranteed to lose that body fat – and all this plus more is included in my book, “The Truth About Six Pack Abs.” This is a book you have to read if you’re truly serious and ready to get lean and healthy for good.

This is a article written by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist as well as Certified Personal Trainer and author of the best selling weight loss ebook, The Truth About Six Pack Abs.

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