Interval training is definitely worth the time and energy.
I will just get that out in the open right away.
But, also remember that there is a lot more to building a lean body capable of quality movement, then well, interval training.
It’s not the end all be all, but when it is organized in an intelligent manner, it is effective as hell.
I often think about all of the possibilities available for organizing a solid interval training session. I have tested them all, or nearly all of them. I really am my own testing lab. I take pride in that. I would NEVER ask anyone to do something physically that I haven’t done myself. That would make me uncomfortable and would be unprofessional in my opinion.
In my own experience, the magic of interval training comes when there is little technique skill involved in the exercises be used for that session.
I have talked about the golden rule of “first do no harm” to oneself (injury) in during a workout in the past. Well, that same rule will hold true throughout the remainder of this article.
Let’s get to it.
Here are 3 Methods that I don’t recommend for interval training:
1) Olympic Lifting
If you want my number one beef with a fitness brand that rhymes with “boss-knit”, here it is. Using HIGHLY TECHNICAL lifts such as cleans and snatches to elicit a work capacity based effect, or “metabolic” as they refer to it now (it’s a catchy marketing term), it dumb. It’s mindless. Olympic lifts were never intended to be used to “burn fat” and “create athleticism” by being placed 3 movements into a 6 movement circuit. I don’t care what your justification is or what Kool-Aid watering hole you are drinking from, olympic lifting will never be ok to perform for anything other than strict power development and rapid force production. True sets of olympic lifts are organized early in a training session and surrounded by plenty of rest between sets, heavy loading and strict attention to technique and body position.
In my opinion, high rep sets of cleans used for developing work capacity and a training effect is making a complete mockery of a movement that is even in the Olympics as its own sport! Guys and gals train daily for years to execute a lift with a load that can win them a gold medal, so what makes YOU (the 34 year old mother of two) think you can just walk into a gym and grind out a long set of 20 hang cleans?
If you want injury, this is your best route to it. Risk vs. Reward. Run your own evaluation. End rant.
I know this is going to piss some people off, but most of you physically cannot sprint and interval train at the same time. Sprinting is a fast twitch, short duration, short distance sport that the average person just cannot execute in most cases. If you are in fact sprinting, it is probably only for the first couple of work sets, followed by an up-tempo gallop (or limp in some cases).
Call it high tempo running instead, and we can meet in the middle. What you are actually doing is running, and as your energy reserves deplete, you are now probably jogging.
What scares me about people announcing that they are sprinting for their interval training is the fact that a true sprint for any individual requires massive contraction from the musculature on the back of the legs (hamstrings, glutes). For people who sit all day, your glutes are effectively “turned off”. I guarantee it. Your pelvis is probably tilted forward and your back is consistently stiff, right? Are you hips tight too? Your hamstrings are long and weak and now you are calling about both of those muscles to exert a large amount of force over a distance that is far to long.
Dessert: Hamstring pull anyone?
3) “Tabata” anything (other than on a stationary bike)
I touched on this in an older post, but cranking out a true Tabata is impossible. Most will never know what it is like to hover around 170% effort and have your lungs and heart feel like it is going to explode. But this is just human nature. We will shut it down before we ever reach that point for some fear of high exertion? (just a guess)
Anyways, please please please do not fall into the Tabata pit. Don’t believe the bullshit that your trainer is feeding you about this protocol being the greatest fat loss and conditioning method on the planet.
It’s not. It’s fatiguing and grueling, but at the end of the day, it is just negative work to rest ratios with a high effort.
Most of all, if you are going to give this protocol a solid effort, don’t use anything other than a stationary bike. Squatting, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, bench press, etc are all loaded movements that should be avoided at all costs using this method.
I know Dan John talked about ripping out a Tabata Protocol with front squats on T-Nation but I am here to tell you, don’t. Loaded movement + high level fatigue is not for average folk. If you have a high training age (years of training) I would still caution you.
Please take my advice here. Injury may await you.
So there you have it. 3 methods that I am not very high on for interval training. Remember, interval training can be effective and safe at the same time. It doesn’t have to involve circus like movement coupled with heavy resistance. It’s important to know your limits. Just because a fitness author writes something crazy in a book as their “fat burning”, “performance enhancing” program, that doesn’t mean that you should do it.
David Blaine (the magician) held his breath for 17 minutes underwater in a giant glass egg in front of the world. If he wrote about doing that, would you do it?