Interval Training: The Best Way to See Quick Results

Interval Training: The Best Way to See Quick Results

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the best way to reshape your body. That’s because there’s a lot of information out there that promotes different fitness philosophies. In this article, we’ll take a very simple look at various training strategies, and explain why interval training (specifically high intensity interval training, a.k.a HIIT) is the most efficient way to elevate your level of fitness.

What Is Interval Training?

You’re interval training any time your workout calls for a set performed at higher intensity followed by a set performed at lower intensity, with the whole sequence then repeated to achieve a cumulative effect. An interval can be a set of curls, sprints, a dance move — anything that tires you out over its duration. Intervals can be short and brutal, or longer and more manageable.

The rationale behind the varying intensity of interval workouts is that they train different energy systems in the body. There are two main energy systems: aerobic and anaerobic. Interval training alternates between both.

Aerobic exercise (e.g. steady-state cardio) is generally performed at low or moderate intensity for an extended period of time, while anaerobic exercise can only be performed in short bursts. Aerobic exercise favors oxygen in the production of the energy needed to do it, while anaerobic exercise relies more on energy stored in the muscles, which is more readily accessible, but in much shorter supply.

Interval training allows you to access both of these energy systems — which deliver separate benefits — in a single workout. You’ll know when you’ve crossed over from aerobic to anaerobic by the burning sensation in your muscles.

Interval Training workout

Types of Interval Training Workouts

Recreational athletes tend to train within comfort zones. Interval training workouts — regardless of the intensity level — always force you out of them.


High-intensity interval training workouts demand short bursts of activity performed at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate followed by short recovery periods. They not only allow you to do the same work (or more) in less time, they exact a level of effort that leaves your metabolism elevated long afterward, multiplying their benefits. HIIT is, however, a more advanced form of interval training for those who are already somewhat fit.

Circuit training

If you’ve spent much time at gyms, you’ve probably seen this strength training sequence before: a set of bench press, a lot of yapping, repeat. Speed that up, take out the yapping, and what’s left is generally referred to as circuit training.

With circuit training, you move between resistance exercises without much rest so that there’s a cumulative cardiovascular effect. Old-school weight training often allowed rest for so long between sets that there was little cumulative effect.

What can make these circuits intervals is how you organize them, typically by using a number of repetitions as a time estimate. Short efforts using heavy weight target power; medium-timed efforts of 12 seconds to a minute target muscular hypertrophy, or growth; above a minute, muscular endurance becomes the aim and muscle growth starts to wane.


Swedish for “speed play,” a fartlek is a form of interval training in which pacing continually varies. The variables dictating these intervals can be based on time, landscape, city blocks, music — just about anything. Perhaps you pedal your bike at a steady pace for a minute and go all out for 30 seconds, or jog to one lifeguard shack on the beach and sprint to the next.

9 of the Best Exercises for an Interval Training Workout

Intervals can be applied to running, cycling, swimming, and a host of other activities. But you don’t need a bike, pool, or inclination to go outside to get in an interval training workout thanks to moves like these.

1. High knees

Program: Rough Around The Edges

Workout: COREdio

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Lift your right knee to hip level or higher while simultaneously raising your left arm — elbow bent — in a running motion.
  • Now quickly switch arms and legs, running in place.

2. Push-up

push up - interval training workout

  • Get on all fours with your feet together, your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders, and your body straight from head to heels. Clench your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into position.
  • Keeping your head down and your elbows tucked toward your body, lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.

3. Jump squat

Program: 600 Secs

Workout: Cardio Dropdown

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, elbows bent, and hands together in front of your chest. For weighted jump squats, hold a dumbbell or sandbag at your chest with both hands, or hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in.
  • Keeping your chest up, back flat, and core engaged, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  • Push yourself back up explosively, jumping straight up.
  • Land softly, lowering yourself immediately into the next rep.

4. Squat jack

squat jack - interval training workouts

  • Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
  • Keeping your back straight and core engaged, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a deep squat. Touch your hands to the sides of your ankles. This is the starting position.
  • Explode upward, raising your hands over your head and jumping your feet out to your sides. Your body should form an “X” at the top of the move.
  • Jump back to the starting position in one fluid motion.

5. Mountain climber


Workout: Sheriff Abs

  • Get on all fours and assume a push-up position: feet together, hands in line with and slightly wider than your shoulders, core engaged, body straight from head to heels.
  • Lift your right foot off the floor and draw your right knee toward your chest, making sure to keep your back flat, your butt down, and the rest of your body stationary. Tap the floor with your toes.
  • Return your right foot to the starting position, and immediately repeat with the opposite leg. That’s one rep.
  • Continue alternating legs, performing equal reps on both sides.

6. Scissor Kicks

  • Lie on your back with your hands tucked under your glutes to support your lower back. Lift both legs a few inches off the floor while keeping your low back in contact with the floor.
  • Lift your your right leg to about 45 degrees while keeping your legs straight, and then switch your legs so your right leg lowers toward the ground and your left leg lifts up higher.
  • Go faster, alternating quickly. To make it more intense, lift your chest into a partial crunch.

7. Burpee


Workout: Burpee Challenge

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Bend your knees, push your hips back, and squat down, placing both palms on the floor.
  • Jump your feet back to a push-up position (hands and balls of your feet on the floor and your body straight from head to heels).
  • Do a push-up: Lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor, and then quickly push back up.
  • Jump your feet back to your hands, and then explode upward, jumping straight up.
  • Land softly and immediately begin your next rep.

8. Shuffle suicides

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your back flat, lower your body into a quarter squat with your elbows bent and arms raised in front of you.
  • Choose three points for your shuffles: close, midway, and far.
  • Shuffle to your right to the close point and touch the ground with your right hand.
  • Now shuffle back to your left and touch the ground with your left hand.
  • Shuffle again to the right, going to your midway point and touch the ground with your right hand.
  • Shuffle back to the left and touch the ground with your left hand.
  • Finally, shuffle to the right to your far point and touch the ground with your left hand.
  • Shuffle back to the left and touch the ground with your left hand.

9. Pull-up


Workout: Pull-Up Training

  • Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width, and hang at arm’s length (a position known as a dead hang).
  • Keeping your core engaged, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your chest to the bar, so at least your chin clears it.
  • Pause, and then lower yourself back to a dead hang.

Interval Training workout

How to Pick Interval Training Workouts

Like every other aspect of fitness, your starting point should be based on your current physical condition. If you aren’t very fit, you’ll want to start with a basic interval program, which will feel plenty hard.

You never want to begin with a HIIT workout unless you’ve got a solid fitness base. Training this hard out of the gate not only delivers compromised results, it increases the risk of injury.

Openfit’s growing library of exercise programs offers several a number of interval-based workouts. 600 Secs is a series of 10-minute workouts, many of which follow HIIT protocols. TOUGH MUDDER T-MINUS 30 is a month-long training program with a number of HIIT workouts designed to prepare you for a Tough Mudder competition — and give you the body to go along with it.

Intervals are the most effective way to see quick results from a workout program. If you’re not doing them, add them right away. If you’re already doing intervals, perhaps it’s time to step up to the next level.