Interval Training

Interval Training

by Chris Young


Interval training, many believe is a superior way to achieve overall cardiovascular fitness and body fat reduction. The debate between steady state aerobics and interval training will rage on but I will say this, if you have only ever done steady state cardio training then you could be missing out; if you give one of these a try you could take your training to a new level.


The following is known as Tabata training named after Dr Kenji Tabata a Japanese scientist; blame him not me!

The programme consists of 8×20 seconds sprints with 10 seconds rest in between. There are however a couple of important considerations; firstly you must warm up properly, E.g. If you plan on sprinting at 15kph then the workout would look something like this,

  • 1 min @ 6kph
  • 1 min @ 8kph
  • 1 min @ 10kph
  • 1 min @ 12kph
  • Jump off and rest for a minute, then wait for the timer to reach 00 or 30; and jump on, 8 sets of 20 seconds @ 15kph with 10 seconds rest between sets.
  • Finish with 1-2 mins @ 6kph for a cool down.

The second consideration is make sure that you’re competent at jumping on and off, use the hand rail and be careful, if you get this wrong you could be seriously injured. I recommend that during the 4 minute warm up you practice getting on and off several times even if you’re well practiced at this.


If the programme is completed easily then increase the speed by 1kph, if it was manageable then increase by 0.5kph, and if it was ridiculously hard then increase by 0.2kph. And you thought that 4 minutes of exercise would be easy!

Tabata training can be performed in many ways but using a treadmill in this way is a great way of performing it.


So called because athletes would run once around a track, rest for 60 seconds, and repeat 5-10 times (a good athlete would complete a lap in about 60 seconds).

400’s could be performed on any piece of equipment but for this example we’ll stick to the treadmill. Warm up concentrating on loosening the hips so that you can really stretch out, jump to the sides and set the treadmill to the correct speed. When the timer gets to 0 (the beginning of a new minute) jump on and run for 60 seconds, at 0 jump off and walk around for 60 seconds, repeat 5-10 times.

400m (about 60 seconds for a really good athlete) is the maximum I’d recommend; 200’s and 100’s also work really well, beginners should stick to the shorter distances.

Lamp Post Training

You don’t have to have a dog to do this! You don’t even need lampposts; all you need is a land mark that occurs at regular intervals. Simply walk a distance of 1, 2, or 3 lampposts and then run 1, 2, or 3. That’s it!

Start with walking 3 posts and running 1; as your fitness increases change the ratio. You could also alternate between walk, jog, run, and sprint; obviously this would depend on your fitness level.


Interval training can also be performed in the pool; after an appropriate warm up swim (stroke of your choice) 1-2 lengths and then rest for 30-60 seconds; repeat for 5-20 intervals.

You could also use the pool for walking through the water; walk forwards, backward, or sideways. To get the most out of this you mustn’t amble; try to push your body through the water as fast as possible; you’ll only be a second or two faster per width done but the effort expanded will be twice as great. Once again rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

One way to ensure that you get a move on!

Stair Running

Also called running the bleachers in the USA; this refers to the steps of a sports stadium. All you do is run up and down stairs; I would recommend starting at 4 flights of a normal staircase (about 14 steps), over time you could increase this to 20. After every set rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat for 5-10 sets. Time yourself so that you can tell if you’re progressing.

Concept II Rower

When you row 2000m straight off you get tired once; when you perform 10 sets of 200m you get tired 10 times. Are you still interested?

Set the distance on the rower to 200m then set the rest to 10-60 seconds then push ok. Row as fast as you can, remember this is sprint training. When you complete 200m you’ll notice that the rest timer is counting down, as soon as it gets to 0 start rowing again. After 10 sets (after the completion of a set the rower will tell you how many you have done in the top right corner) catch your breath and then record your time; if you press the memory button it will give you the times for all your intervals.

Obviously the aim is to reduce you aggregate time.

He refuses to row on water because he’s scared of Tigers!

Exercise Cycle/ Step Machine

You can use the same protocol for both these machines. Pedal/step at a very easy pace for 1 minute then go as fast as you can for 1 minute, alternate for 10 minutes and finish off with a cool down.

The aim here is to increase your high level; do not increase your recovery level as this will affect your performance at the high levels.


This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are thousands of ways of doing interval training. One point to remember is that usually the shorter the interval the higher the intensity (amount of effort used); therefore the longer you would take to recover.

Chris is a British and World Champion Drug Free Powerlifter who has worked in the fitness industry since 1985, he currently runs the gym at the very prestigious Spa at Pennyhill Park ( Along with Powerlifting, Chris has competed nationally in Martial Arts, and has dabbled in Drug Free Bodybuilding. Chris can be contacted through