Man sprinting on road
Cardio Training Programs

Interval training program



About this program

The interval training program consists of three workouts. Workout 1 is intended for intermediates. It rotates between intervals of aerobic training in a 1:1 ratio. Workouts 2 and 3 are for the advanced. They are based on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), with workout 3 following the infamous Tabata protocol.

Before you start the interval training workouts, please read the Overview and general instructions. You should also read the Cardio Training Guide, which will teach you everything you need to know about cardio, including how to calculate your cardio training zones.

Interval training workout 1 (aerobic intervals in a 1:1 ratio)

  • Suitability: Intermediate
  • Suitable exercises: Running, cycling, rowing, or elliptical cross-training
  • Duration: 28–46 minutes including warmup and cooldown
  • Training zones: Moderate and Vigorous (lower or aerobic end)

Step 1: warmup

Start the selected exercise at a slow pace or low resistance and gradually increase your pace or resistance to the Moderate training zone by the end of 5 minutes.

Step 2: workout

Alternate 3 minutes of training in the Moderate training zone with 3 minutes of training in the lower (aerobic) end of the Vigorous training zone. Do this 3 to 6 times.

Step 3: cooldown

Gradually reduce your pace or resistance and come to a stop by the end of 5 minutes.

Progression

Once you can easily complete Step 2 six times, you can graduate to the advanced workouts below or to any of the advanced workouts in the other cardio training programs.

Interval training workout 2 (HIIT)

  • Suitability: Advanced
  • Suitable exercises: Running, cycling, rowing, or elliptical cross-training
  • Duration: 28–37 minutes including warmup and cooldown
  • Training zones: Moderate and Near-Maximal to Maximal

Step 1: warmup

Start the selected exercise at a slow pace or low resistance and gradually increase your pace or resistance up to the Moderate training zone by the end of 5 minutes.

Step 2: workout

Keep alternating between 4 minutes in the Moderate training zone and 30 seconds in the Near-Maximal to Maximal training zone. Do this 4 to 6 times. If you can do it more than 6 times, it means that you are not hitting a sufficiently high intensity during the 30-second intervals.

Step 3: cooldown

Gradually reduce your pace or resistance and come to a stop by the end of 5 minutes.

Interval training workout 3 (Tabata HIIT protocol)

  • Suitability: Advanced
  • Suitable exercises: Running, cycling, rowing, or elliptical cross-training
  • Duration: Up to 14 minutes including warmup and cooldown
  • Training zones: Light and Near-Maximal to Maximal

Step 1: warmup

Choose your exercise and warm up for 5 minutes.

Step 2: workout

Keep alternating between 10 seconds in the Light training zone and 20 seconds in the Near-Maximal to Maximal training zone. Do this a maximum of 8 times. If you can do it more than 8 times, it means that you are not hitting a sufficiently high intensity during the 20-second intervals.

Step 3: cooldown

Gradually reduce your pace or resistance and come to a stop by the end of 5 minutes.

About the Tabata HIIT workout

The Tabata protocol is probably the most famous high-intensity interval training (HIIT) regimen. It was originally published in 1996 by Professor Izumi Tabata and colleagues. The protocol had been designed to train speed skaters. Professor Tabata had tested it in an experiment and compared the results with the results of a steady-state training experiment, both of which involved amateur athletes and a cycle ergometer (an exercise bike that can measure exercise intensity).

In the steady-state training experiment, the athletes performed moderate-intensity steady-state training for 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 6 consecutive weeks. The researchers found that the athletes showed an improvement in aerobic capacity of 9.5% and, as expected, no improvement in anaerobic capacity.

In the Tabata experiment, the athletes used the Tabata protocol for 5 days a week, for 6 consecutive weeks. The researchers found that the athletes showed improvements in both aerobic capacity of 14% and anaerobic capacity of 28%. In other words, the four-minute maximal-intensity Tabata workouts had produced both anaerobic benefits and similar aerobic benefits to doing sixty-minute moderate-intensity steady-state training workouts! The results were pretty shocking at the time, indicating that you could get both aerobic and anaerobic benefits from only a four-minute (albeit extremely intense) workout.

If you’re going to follow the Tabata protocol, please get clearance from your healthcare professional first. Do not use it for more than 5 days a week, and take a week off from it after 6 weeks. Remember that it’s designed to improve the performance of professional athletes.

If you use the treadmill with the Tabata protocol, you will have to stand on the edges during the 10-second recovery intervals.



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