Let me first start by briefly explaining the concept of interval training in it’s most basic format and why you need to be doing it each and every week if you are not already doing so.
High-Intensity Interval training (HIIT) is scientifically proven to burn nine times more ugly, unwanted body fat than ordinary exercise (think typical long, slow, and boring cardio workouts that most people resort to when trying to lose weight and get into better shape). In addition, the research shows that HIIT also leads to greater gains in fitness than aerobic training by being able to simultataneous improve both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. In other words, interval workouts provide the biggest bang for your buck.
Basically you alternate between periods of maximum effort and periods of active recovery (e.g. 30 seconds of work and 90 seconds of active recovery) instead of going at the same easy to moderate pace for the entire duration of your workout. Interval workouts are typically only 10-20 minutes in length and can be easily completed in the comfort of your own home or on the road when you’re traveling using bodyweight-based exercises or portable equipment like resistance bands, the TRX suspension training system, kettlebells, etc.
Though intervals are traditionally used solely for cardio workouts like running, cycling, etc., a whole new world of interval workout applications has emerged in the last several years including metabolic resistance training circuits, pre/post-workout routines, speed and agility training, tabata protocols, and even combat strength and conditioning. The purpose of this article is to show that when it comes to interval training, there’s a lot more than meets the eye!
Without further adieu, let’s examine my 7 favorite interval training applications that go far beyond traditional straight-line running cardio intervals:
Interval Application#1- NEW and IMPROVED Cardio Interval Training
The Warp Speed Fat Loss program consists of a 6 days/week training program. You perform strength training 3 times per week with 48 hours between workouts in classic set and rep format. To further ignite POST-workout metabolism and blowtorch fat, you finish each strength workout with a metabolic circuit powered by Workout Muse interval training music. You alternate between Interval Workout A and B.
Interval Workout A- 30-90:
You will alternate between 30 seconds of max effort, 90 seconds of active recovery
You will repeat this 2-minute set for a total of 6 rounds for a 12-minute workout
Interval Workout B- 120-120:
You will alternate between 120 seconds of max effort, 120 seconds of active recovery
You will repeat this 4-minute set for a total of 3 rounds for a 12-minute workout
You will also perform 3 targeted fat loss cardio workouts on non-strength training days as outlined below to take the fat melting to a whole new level:
60-120 Cardio Interval Training:
You will alternate between 60 seconds of maximum effort and 120 seconds of active recovery using the following weekly volume progression as automated with your targeted fat loss cardio soundtracks powered by Workout Muse interval training music:
Week 1- 60-120 Intervals for 3 rounds: 9 minute workout
Week 2- 60-120 Intervals for 4 rounds: 12 minute workout
Week 3- 60-120 Intervals for 5 rounds: 15 minute workout
Week 4- 60-120 Intervals for 6 rounds: 18 minute workout
5-minutes following high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your body releases stored triglycerides into your bloodstream making it the perfect time to perform some low to moderate-intensity steady-state cardio to eat that fat up before it gets re-depositied. Furthermore, HIIT is best at mobilizing your stubborn fat stores (think abs and low back for men and hips and thighs for women) so now is also the best time to attack these pesky areas.
It is important to note that most people typically just walk/jog in the saggital plane (front to back and/or up and down) during traditional cardio intervals to allow for sufficient recovery for the next max effort work period while still keeping their heart rate elevated. However, I think we can do better here. Why not accomplish the same thing while getting more mobility and activation work in all 3 planes of movement at the same time (e.g. triplanar lunge variations, squat variations, stiff-legged deadlift variations, etc.). You could also swap in tissue quality work with a foam roller, tennis ball, or massage stick or even some static stretching to work on tissue length during active recovery periods. In the end, this will provide a much needed regeneration component on your non-strength workout days to dramatically improve recovery while simultaneously burning fat with cardio intervals.
Interval Application#2- Metabolic Resistance Circuit Training
On January 9th, 2010, we held the first ever Workout Worldwide. It was a MASSIVE success with over 50 remote locations worldwide performing the exact same workout at the same time with all net proceeds going to the American Heart Association. We raised nearly $23,000 and set the Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous international bootcamp workout of all time.
I put together a killer 2010 Bodyweight Challenge Workout for the big event that left all attendees gasping for air with flushed faces and boogers coming out of their noses… it was TOUGH! It was a 60-15 Ten-Exercise Circuit inspired by The Spartacus Workout. However, where the original workout involved dumbbells, this whole body workout only requires your bodyweight, see below:
THE 2010 BODYWEIGHT CHALLENGE WORKOUT- From Workout Worldwide
60-15 10-Exercise Circuit followed by 2-minute rest
Perform 3 total rounds
Toes Stay on Floor
Feet Leave Floor Intermittent
Speed Jumps- Feet Leave Floor Continuous
Stop and Go Squat- 4 s Hold
Stop and Go Jump Squats- 4 s Hold
Stop and Go Rotational Jump Squats- 4 s Hold
Prone Posterior Chain Hold- T-Position
Prone Posterior Chain Hold- W-Position
Prone Posterior Chain Hold- Y-Position
Spiderman Mountain Climber
Spiderman Mountain Climber + Push-up
Spiderman Mountain Climber + Explosive Push-up
Single-Leg SLDL with Reach
Single-Leg Prisoner SLDL
Single-Leg Overhead SLDL
T-Push-up- Feet Wide
T-Push-up- Feet Close
Split Squat and Twist
Reverse Lunge and Twist
Forward Lunge and Twist
Upper Body Running
Slow and Small Jumping Claps
Big and Fast Jumping Claps
Metabolic Resistance Circuit Training combines the benefits of strength training with the benefits cardio into one total package. According to Men’s Health the average guy will burn 731 calories from this 41-minute interval workout (the range is 596 to 866 calories depending on several factors including body type, fitness level, etc.). However, the true power of this workout comes from the 60-second work sets that alternate between upper body, lower, body, and core exercises which massively deplete your muscle glycogen (sugar) stores thus forcing your body to burn more fat for fuel during recovery periods and between workouts.
Furthermore, studies show that post-workout metabolism can remain elevated for up to 24 hours following the completion of these metabolic workouts- this “afterburn” as Alwyn Cosgrove has termed it is truly the X-Factor when it comes to getting good results and getting GREAT results for busy people who have less than 3 hours to dedicate to their fitness each week!
Interval Application#3- Bootcamp-Style Workouts
Over the last several years I have personally supervised and programmed for several thousand hours of bootcamp workouts and countless hours all over the world via our interval workout music for bootcamp-style workouts powered by Workout Muse. In fact, my eureka moment for creating Workout Muse came from problems I was having in my own Get Sexy Bootcamps in Milwaukee, WI back in December of 2007.
Repetition-based parameters simply do not work well in a large group setting with a wide range of fitness levels. Everyone will perform 20 reps of a exercise in a different amount of time adding too many variables to effectively ensure a smooth, turnkey bootcamp workout. If you want your workouts to run like clockwork, then you need to put them on the clock. Timed sets allow for everyone to work at their own pace and the best the part is the workout starts and stops at the same time, every time for everyone. Now that is a true group training system. Whether you run corporate or community bootcamps you need to be able to get people in and out in a timely fashion so they can get on with their busy lives.
As I just mentioned, if you’re trying to run a professional program that starts and ends at the same time every time, interval training is the way to go for bootcamp-style workouts. But interval training is a bit of a catch 22. Sure the program will run like a well-oiled machine, but you’ll have to be constantly looking at the clock and be the human stopwatch announcing “go… halfway… stop…etc
If you’re looking at this… HOW can you be looc king at your clients??
That’s why we created the world’s first interval workout music. Thousands of trainers all over the world are now better coaches today because our interval training music tells their clients exactly what to do so they can focus on what they do best: coach, motivate, and supervise. You no longer have to be a prisoner to your stopwatch, so just make your life (and the life of your staff) easier… and don’t! I personally guarantee you better client results and reduced rates of injuries.
My bootcamps are famous for 30-minute express workouts for busy professionals. We get people in and out with a 5-minute warm-up and a 20-minute total body circuit training workout 3 times per week with incredible body and life-changing results. A staple of our training system is a 5-exercise circuit consisting of a lower body hip-dominant movement, an upper body pushing movement, a lower body knee-dominant movement, an upper body pulling and/or scapulothracic movement, and a pillar movement (integrated shoulders, hips and core with an emphasis on stabilization).
We typically alternate between 2 different interval templates for this 5-exercise circuit: 50-10’s and 30-30’s. Let’s examine how these 2 interval protocols differ:
50-10 Five-Exercise Circuit
30-30 Five-Exercise Circuit
Fat loss, endurance, and conditioning emphasis
Moderate-Intensity Exercise Selection: Lighter loads and less advanced exercise variations
Goal of 15-20+ reps/set
Better suited for exercises requiring minimal set-up and transition time (e.g. bodyweight-based exercises)
Better suited for stability/balance exercises and combination movements requiring more time-under-tension
Strength, power, and hypertrophy emphasis
High-Intensity Exercise Selection: Heavier loads and more advanced exercise variations
Goal of 6-15 reps/set
Better suited for exercises requiring more elaborate set-up and transition time (e.g. TRX and Kettlebell exercises)
Better suited for elasticity/plyometric exercises requiring less time-under-tension
To better illustrate this point, let’s take a look at each type of interval protocol in action, both using our classic 5-exercise format:
1.) 50-10’s at a special lunch workout I put together for some 2009 PB Summit attendees in Chicago:
2.) 30-30’s at Kettlebell and Band Workout at the 2009 Bootcamp Bootcamp in Kentucky:
The great thing about these interval protocols is that they truly compliment one another. In other words, the better you get at 30-30’s the better you will get at 50-10’s and visa versa. In addition, there is a built-in periodization by alternating between 50-10’s (muscular endurance emphasis) and 30-30’s (strength/power emphasis). This revolutionary group exercise format is guaranteed to get your campers amazing results without ever hitting a dreaded training plateau. Lastly, if you combine this 5-exercise circuit format with systematically providing customize exercise selection for all fitness levels AND switching up the exercise selection every 3-4 weeks, the last thing your workouts will ever be accused of being is boring!
Interval Application#4- Pre/Post-Workout
In the past, most pre and post-workout routines have been confined to rigid set/rep parameters (e.g. perform 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps for each exercise in the following warm-up circuit). The problem here is that the there is simply too much variability when it comes to how long it takes for all of the different fitness levels within a group to complete a certain amount of repetitions as mentioned above. As a result, what often occurs is the people who finish early are standing around aloof talking, joking, and/or waiting for the other people to finish and the people who are still working are made to feel like they are slowing down the group. In general, this is not a supportive environment for building team rapport. Furthermore, the purpose of your warm-up is to get into safely and effective get ready to workout as soon as possible. After all, time waits for no man or women in the world of sport!
However, by using timed set interval protocols here, just as in the main workout, you best ensure that everyone systematically moves through each pre/post-workout circuit at the same time so that your sessions run like clockwork. Of course if you use interval workout music powered by Workout Muse, the clock itself is unnecessary
Perform Better legend Mike Boyle, a world famous strength coach and owner of one of the top 10 gyms in America according to Men’s Health, incorporates interval protocols powered by Workout Muse for both the flexibility and mobility and activation circuits for his elite athletes.
Mike Boyle LOVES WM for his athletes!
“I have been using the audio interval training soundtracks powered by Workout Muse for both our flexibility and mobility and activation circuits and it has made a huge difference in my ability to coach. Instead of having to look at the clock, I can focus on supervising and motivating my athletes- getting people in the right position- and the music does all of the work for me by telling them exactly what to do. I highly recommend you download some tracks and try it out today… it will make you a better coach!”
Below is a sample mobility and activation template using the custom 30-5 Mobility and Activation circuit soundtrack that we made for Coach Boyle to give you some ideas on how to integrate this revolutionary system into your own programming:
30-5 Mobility and Activation Circuit:
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds followed by a 5 second rest and transition:
1- Ankle Mobility Variation
2- Squat Variation
3- Saggital Lunge Variation (L)
4- Saggital Lunge Variation (R)
5- Frontal Lunge Variation (L)
6- Frontal Lunge Variation (R)
7- Transverse Lunge Variation (L)
8- Transverse Lunge Variation (R)
9- SLDL Variation (L)
10- SLDL Variation (R)
11- Psoas Activation (L)
12- Psoas Activation (R)
13- Wall Slide Variation
14- Push-up+ Variation
15- Side Pillar Variation (switch sides halfway)
You can also use the same 30-5 sequence for both tissue quality circuits with foam rollers, tennis balls, and/or massage sticks AND flexibility circuits using static and/or dynamic stretching exercises. According to Coach Boyle, you foam roll to get ready to stretch and you stretch to get ready to mobilize and activate and you do mobility and activation to get ready to workout with intensity.
Best results will come from incorporating these active and passive recovery circuits on off-day or unloading days as well. Sore muscles will be flooded with nutrient-rich blood to help build and repair damaged muscle tissue between workouts. For clients with pain, the main focus should be on improving tissue quality via self-massage circuits. For clients who are hypomobile, the main focus should be on improving tissue length via flexibility circuits. For clients who are hyperflexible and lack stability, the focus should be on improving mobility via mobility and activation circuits.
The applications truly are endless and with our interval workout music telling your campers or athletes exactly what to do so you don’t have to look at your stopwatch ever again!
Interval Application#5- Speed and Agility Training
When it comes to athletic competition, speed KILLS. And when it comes to improving speed, nobody does it better than Perform Better presenter Coach Robert dos Remedios. Coach Dos is the author of the best-selling Men’s Health Power Training and his latest masterpiece Cardio Strength Training is flying off the shelves as we speak. He is also well known for his CHAOS speed training system which basically consists of athletes mastering deceleration in a true random and dynamic environment to best simulate real world competition. For example, athletes will be provided random verbal, physical, and/or visual cues and then they must react accordingly. As Dos likes to put it, you’ve gotta learn how to slam the breaks!
Anybody can accelerate but not everybody can safely and effectively stop and change direction and when it comes to court and field sports it’s all about being able to constantly react, stop, and change direction within 3-5 yards if you want to make the cut. The general lack of deceleration training in our industry accounts for a great deal of the ACL/non-contact injuries that plague our athletes. In addition, the unpredictable nature of these multi-directional CHAOS drills creates a larger metabolic disturbance than traditional cardio intervals in straight-line format making it a great way to accelerate fat loss and breakthrough training plateaus for both athletes and the general population.
However, these workouts are impossible to perform without a partner telling you what to do… that is until NOW!
We put together 3 different CHAOS speed training templates for Dos outlined below. Verbal cues tell you when to “SWITCH” between a sprint, backpedal, shuffle, carioca, belly, etc.
One of the coolest ways that Coach Dos uses these tracks is he’ll have his athletes do partner drills where one person listens and reacts to CHAOS speed tracks on an iPod while his/her partner mirrors him/her.
Other slick applications for speed and agility training are 5-25 and 10-50 interval workouts. The 1:5 work to rest ratio allows for the necessary full recovery for working the Phosphangen energy system (ATP-PC) for anaerobic sports like football, basketball, or baseball.
For the 5-25, Coach Dos likes to use the NFL Pro Agility Drill where you start in the middle of a 10-yard spacing of cones, sprint 5 yards one away, then back 10 yards across the other way, and then back again 5 yards through the starting position. The 5-10-5 sprint typically takes about 5 seconds to perform depending on the individual and provides for a great timing marker for repeat efforts to master the drill while best ensuring adequate recovery to keep the intensity high throughout the duration of the workout. Remember, speed cannot be effectively trained in a state of fatigue.
For the 10-50, Coach Dos likes to use the 5-10 Drill (5 yards sprint and back then 10 yards sprint and back) that typically takes 10 seconds to perform depending on the individual.
And though these speed tracks were made to meet the demands of high-level athletes, they also make for great use with the general population. After all, we should strive to make all of our clients better athletes and if our clients want to don the lean, muscular bodies of elite athletes, then we probably should train them that way!
Interval Application#6- Tabatas
You know you LOVE Tabatas! The Tabata protocol is without a doubt the most popular interval training template in the world and with good cause. Take a look at the landmark study below that completely changed the way the fitness industry has approached time-efficient methods of simultaneously improving fat loss and fitness when compared to the primitive aerobic training alternative:
However, it’s remarkable popularity has unfortunately been combined with a great deal of improper use. 20-10’s are a truly advanced protocol that most de-conditioned/beginner trainees have no business using unless the goal is premature death and projectile vomiting, in no particular order I might add.
The thing about Tabatas is that they are really really TOUGH and must be performed with maximum intensity to mimic the results found in the study! You truly need to attack each and every round with an animalistic type of effort. Most people simply cannot sustain the appropriate work rate and intensity level as the rounds add up with the sadistic 2:1 negative work to rest ratio. That’s why many experts advocate a volume progress featuring a gradual build-up of rounds each week until your conditioning improves (e.g. Week1- 4 rounds, Week2- 5 rounds, Week3- 6 rounds, etc.) while others have utilized a density progression with modified versions of this groundbreaking interval protocol:
Phase I- Weeks 1-4: Modified Tabatas 10-20 for 8 rounds (1:2 work to rest ratio)
Phase II- Weeks 5-8: Modified Tabatas 15-15 for 8 rounds (1:1 work to rest ratio)
Phase III- Weeks 9-12: Classic Tabatas 20-10 for 8 Rounds (2:1 work to rest ratio)
The key takeaway here is that there is no best way when it comes to interval training. In fact, the best interval protocol is typically the one you haven’t done in a while (if ever) as the human body is so apt at quickly adapting to any single work to rest ratio. In addition, the greater the work to rest ratio the greater the intensity during each and every work set (e.g. 20-10 equals a 2:1 positive work to rest ratio and a 10-20 equals a 1:2 negative work to rest ratio).
Furthermore, the appropriate exercise selection is paramount and most experts agree that the best cardio machine for classic 20-10 Tabatas is far and away an airdyne bike which allows for simultaneous upper and lower body action without any excessive impact on the joints like from running. Plus, the fact that the bike is self-propelled allows for a true 10-second rest where other spin bikes require you to slow the pedals down yourself which cuts into your much needed recovery time.
You can also employ a host of bodyweight-based strength exercises like push-up, lunge, and squat variations and cardio exercises like mountain climbers, skater jumps, and burpees, total body exercises like squat to presses or kettlebell swings, or even cranking it with some undulating ropes.
One of my favorite memories from the 2009 Perform Better Functional Training Summit in Chicago was when presenter Coach Dos rocked a killer 15-15 Modified Tabata Workout powered by Workout Muse.
The workout consisted of the following 4-minute circuit:
1- MB Plyo Push-ups @ 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
2- MB Squat Jumps @ 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
3- MB Mountain Climbers @ 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
4- MB Split Squat Jumps@ 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
5-8- Repeat this circuit one more time
By alternating between non-competing exercises in this format (upper and lower body) you can bypass the massive accumulation of fatigue that comes from true straight set 20-10’s with a single exercise, thus allowing for optimal intensity for each exercise. Furthermore, a Tabata circuit provides a lot more exercise variety and is a lot more fun (and I use that term loosely) which makes it much more mentally doable for most trainees.
Check out the video below to see this 15-15 DOSata workout powered by Workout Muse in action for yourself.
The extra 5 seconds of rest truly makes a world of difference and allows for a lot more intensity during each work set. Give this workout a shot and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Interval Application#7- MMA- Combat Strength and Conditioning
One of the hottest sports in the world is MMA with the amazing growth of the UFC over the last 5-10 years. That’s why we at Workout Muse were pumped to work with leading combat strength and conditioning expert Mike Fry of Grappler’s Gym to put together the world’s first ever custom interval workout soundtracks built specifically for combat athletes. Let’s take a look at one of the workouts we created:
Five Rounds of Fury: 40-20 MMA Circuit Training from MMA Rockout
This 40-20 interval workout blends the strength/power component of 30-30 intervals with the endurance/conditioning component of 50-10 intervals. In other words, you get the best of both worlds. As a result, you will feel an unreal post-workout afterburn that I personally have felt for several days after some of these workouts. This is always a good problem to have when it comes to maximal fat loss and lean muscle gain!
The 20-second rest and transition time also allows for the ideal set-up time for more elaborate exercises when using tools like the TRX Suspension Trainer, advanced ballistic Kettlebell movements, or any other intricate exercise variation. For example, moving from a Kettlebell Clean and Press to a TRX Atomic Push-up (feet suspended) would be nearly impossible for most people in a group workout with only 10 seconds between movements as in 50-10’s. However, there are very few exercises that take more than 20 seconds to set-up for, thus the extra 10-second rest as in a 30-30 interval isn’t necessary unless the relative loading is beyond your 40-second work capacity.
It’s important to remember that the best interval protocol is the one you haven’t done in a while, if ever. Changing up your interval workouts prevents your body from adapting to the same routine. I also enjoy the 1-minute rest and transition between each round of 5-minute circuits- and so do your clients, ha ha! You can provide coaching tips and/or show exercise change-ups as your clients get a much needed blow or water break.
The coolest part about of this workout is that it’s built specifically to the energy system demands of a UFC Fight which consists of five 5-minute rounds with a 1-minute rest between rounds. Mike Fry uses this 40-20 protocol to teach his fighters to attack their opponents in focused max effort bursts with short back-off periods to allow for the next high-intensity attack. This is far more effective than a constant lower to moderate-intensity approach for 5 straight minutes- after all, knockouts happen with high force strategically placed strikes, not flimsy and random slapping of the hands.
Well, why should you care about this if you are not a UFC fighter? Well, let me ask you this: have you ever seen how ripped, muscular and conditioned a UFC fighter is? There’s a reason for that- they kill it during their high-intensity interval workouts. Middleweight combat athletes may very well be some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world. Heavyweights? Well, not so much. They could use some 40-20 circuits powered by Workout Muse, and if you are a heavyweight in your own right, so could you!
Outlined below are 6 unique 40-20 circuit training routines, each using a special piece of equipment:
Side Pillar T-Spine Extension and Rotation (L)- Flat, Feet-Elevated
Side Pillar T-Spine Extension and Rotation (R)- Flat, Feet-Elevated
Circuit#2- Ropes Workout
Ropes Double Waves- Up and Down
Ropes In and Out Waves/Side to Side Waves
Ropes Grappler’s Toss
Ropes Overhead Alternating Reverse Lunges
Circuit#3- TRX Workout
TRX Leg Curl
TRX Pike + Push-up
TRX 1-Arm Power Pull/Row and Rotate (L)
TRX 1-Arm Power Pull/Row and Rotate (R)
TRX Single-leg Squat Jumps (switch legs halfway)
Circuit#4- Kettlebell Workout
Alternating 1-Arm Swings
1-Arm High Pulls (switch sides halfway)
1-Arm Cleans (switch sides halfway)
1-Arm Snatches (switch sides halfway)
1-Arm Push Presses (switch sides halfway)>
Circuit#5- Med Ball Workout
1.MB Squat to Press
2.MB Lateral Lunge (L)
3.MB Lateral Lunge (R)
4.MB Snatch to Slam to Burpee to Push-up Combo
5.MB Mountain Climbers
Circuit#6- Band Workout
Band Squat to Overhead Press
Band Hip Walks
Band Reverse Lunge + Row Combo
Band Forward Lunge + Chest Press Combo
Band Squat to Row
One of my favorite people in the world is Dave “The Band Man” Schmitz and he is my go-to traveling partner for most fitness events and seminars. Recently we attended the IYCA Summit in Louisville, Kentucky and we started every morning with a killer interval workout to set the tone for our entire day at the prestigious Brown Hotel. On one morning we went head to head in a Kettlebells vs. Bands 40-20 MMA circuit training workout from MMA Rockout powered by Workout Muse. Take a look below at the power of a good training partner with 3 unique 40-20 circuits using resistance bands and kettlebell exercises:
Bands Vs. Bells Part I-
Bands vs. Bells Part II-
Bands vs. Bells Part III-
I hope this article provided you with some great ideas regarding how to ramp up your own workouts and/or training systems with the various interval protocols described herein.
And don’t forget that our interval training workout music tells you EXACTLY what to do: when to start, when to stop, the exercise order, and even provides countdowns and updates to keep you focused on the task at hand- no more being a prisoner to your stopwatch!
Thanks in advance for joining the Workout Muse revolution