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What is Interval Training

It can be very frustrating if your spending a lot of time exercising, eating right, and not seeing the results. Let’s jump back to part 3 of this expert interview series with Dr. Mohr, to pick up some the best fast loss tips and workout solutions.

Today we look at new and interesting ways of exercising and getting fit.

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Chris Mohr: What is the role of interval training vs. steady state aerobics in a fat loss program?

Craig Ballantyne: Interval training is more important than cardio. First of all, it gets more results in less time. And with “lack of time” being the number one reason most people do not participate in a training program at all, clearly intervals are the winner here.

Now let’s just assume that lack of time is not a problem, well, interval training is still more effective because it applies more “turbulence” to the muscle. Or in scientific terms, interval training results in a greater metabolic stress on the muscle.

From there, the muscle must work to recover, repair, and replenish the energy that was used in the training. It is much more metabolic work for the muscle to recover from interval training (and strength training) then it is to recover from aerobic training.

Therefore, in the post-exercise period, interval training results in more calories burned.

In fact, Alwyn Cosgrove just sent me a new study from Australia that shows interval training is superior to slow cardio for fat loss. The researchers, Trapp & Boutcher put WOMEN through a 15-week study where one group was a control, one group did intervals (20 minutes of alternating sprints and recovery), and one group did 40 minutes of slow cardio.

The interval group lost 2.5kg of fat in 15 weeks on average (with one subject losing 7. 7kg of fat), while the slow cardio group lost only 0.4kg of fat over 15 weeks.

So don’t get hung up on how many calories are burned during a training session with aerobic training. That is not nearly as important as how many total calories your body burns over the course of the day – as you do with interval training.

And for those that subscribe to the fat burning zone as being important, again, you aren’t looking at the big picture (the 24-hour calorie burning period). Instead, those that believe in the importance of the fat-burning zone have a myopic view of how the body works.

The same message applies to those people that live and die by the cardio on an empty stomach method. You’re “nickel and dime-ing” the fat loss process, when really it’s a much bigger budget that you have to balance.

Chris Mohr: When weight training, which would you suggest if your goal is to lose fat—heavy training or lighter training, high reps?

Craig Ballantyne: If you are using weights, forget about light weights. You want moderately heavy weights. Research has shown using a weight that enables only 8 reps per set results in a greater post-exercise metabolism than using a weight that allows 12 reps per set. And this was in women! So women need to follow the same approach.

I use more repetitions with bodyweight exercises, but bodyweight training is often a hybrid of strength training and interval training. So while I use higher reps per set with bodyweight exercises, I don’t use light weights and a lot of reps when doing dumbbell exercises.

Chris Mohr: Is there a role for isolation movements in a fat loss program (e.g., biceps curls, hamstring curls, etc) or do you favor full body movements (e.g., squats, deadlifts, chinups, etc) and is this across the board for everyone?

Craig Ballantyne: I work in the concept of a short time frame. That is, anyone that wants to use my programs has less than 3 hours per week to devote to structured exercise. So there just isn’t any room for isolation training in that time frame.

But if you have time, and you want to do some arm work, then I say do at the end of your strength training before your intervals. That’s cool. Heck, training should be fun too, and some curls as a reward for completing a hard workout is fine. No worries. There are a couple of phases that even include some curls and triceps in my TT package…when I move to upper lower splits away from total body days.

Remember though that isolation exercises are not actually going to burn fat, but they can build muscle and help you sculpt your body. Here’s the hierarchy of methods that lead to fat loss:

1)    Nutrition
2)    Burning calories with interval training
3)    Burning calories due to an increased metabolism from interval training and strength training (with multi-muscle movements)

As long as you understand that nutrition is the most important factor in fat loss, and that training is really for sculpting your body, than you will have realistic expectations of success – given on how well you commit to each process.

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COMMENTS

  1. 11/22/2010

    It’s insane how many people still to this day don’t know about interval training. I’ve gotten sick and tired of hearing “If I do X number of crunches a day will I get a firm stomach”. “Yeah, you will. Under the fat. Which will push the fat further outward making you look fatter. Oh, and you’ll probably wreck your back in the process.”. It’s simple, nutrition, interval training if necessary, strength training. Period.

  2. Colin
    11/24/2010

    I imagine that interval training would have quite a high probability for injury especially for untrained individuals. Wouldn’t mixing it up with longer type cardio be the best option?

    Regards
    Colin

    • 11/25/2010

      Hi Colin. The injury risk is, in my opinion, greater with cardio because of overuse (too many repetitions in a workout). As you’ll see in almost every interval training study, the subjects are complete beginners – and no injuries are reported. There is less exercise done in an interval workout, and therefore less risk of overuse injury.

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