Everyone knows that you need to exercise regularly to burn a lot of calories. And with today’s busy lifestyles, people often want to know what type of exercise burns the most calories to get the best results for the time that they put in. Which brings us to interval programs.
Cardiovascular exercise typically utilizes the most calories per session, when compared to strength training or flexibility work, presuming similar workout intensity levels and duration. By elevating your heart rate to a training level for a sustained period of time, the body uses stored fat and sugars for energy. The greater the intensity and the longer the duration of the workout, the more calories burned.
However, typically intensity and duration are inversely related in exercise. It is very difficult to maintain a high intensity level for a long period of time. To ultimately burn the most calories, then, should exercisers keep intensity high and duration short, or intensity lower and duration longer?
Training with Interval Programs
The best solution to maximizing caloric expenditure during exercise is interval training. Research shows that interval training increases caloric burn, boosts metabolism and enhances overall conditioning.
Training with interval programs means simply varying intensity levels throughout a workout to incorporate periods of steady-state heart rate, maximum challenge and recovery. There are many ways to do this, from changing intensity on the fly to following scientifically set interval ratios.
On cardio equipment, you can take advantage of the many pre-programmed interval workouts, or manually increase the resistance level (or pace or incline on a treadmill) every few minutes so that your heart rate is high. After a set duration (20 seconds to 2 minutes), reduce the resistance level and slow down to recover for the next 1-3 minutes. You may have to adjust the interval duration to keep the workout challenging but doable, and you can decrease work time or intensity and lengthen recovery periods if necessary.
A popular form of interval training is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in which exercisers still alternate between very intense periods of work and short recovery sessions. HIIT typically is done with cardiovascular exercise (but can incorporate strength training) that uses short bursts of very rigorous intervals (such as sprints or burpees) with more moderate intensity periods (such as jogging or riding a stationary bike). Interval duration can range from 10 seconds to 2-5 minutes, and the overall workout typically lasts from 4-60 minutes. A common HIIT formula is a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods – i.e., 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 15 seconds jogging or walking.
A popular form of HIIT is Tabata, which is comprised of 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles), and then can be performed again with different exercises for a sustained workout session.
HIIT can be done using cardio equipment and weights, with a trainer, in a group exercise class, or on your own inside or outside with running and calisthenics.
Heart Rate-Controlled Intercal Programs
Using interval programs for training is simple on many cardiovascular machines. With Octane Fitness elliptical machines, exercisers can choose from numerous pre-programmed interval workouts, such as Random, Interval and Hill routines; then the machine automatically changes the resistance levels to repeatedly increase and reduce intensity throughout the session. Not only do these programs deliver more effective workouts, but they are engaging and seem to fly by quickly.
Another way to burn a lot of calories on an Octane elliptical machine is to take advantage of heart rate interactive regimens, which customize intensity based on your heart rate response to the resistance level and pace, so you are working in the best range. Programs like Heart Rate Hill Interval, Heart Rate Interval, Heart Rate Custom Interval and Heart Rate Speed Interval are great routines that deliver results:
- Heart Rate Hill – This controlled, simulated climb consists of increasingly steeper hills at 65%, 75%, and 85% of theoretical maximum heart rate (or user-specified target heart rate). Each hill lasts two minutes once the target heart rate has been reached. After the biggest hill, recover until your heart rate drops back to 65%, then begin the climb again.
- Heart Rate Interval – Alternates 2-minute intervals at 70% and 80% of theoretical maximum heart rate (or user-specified target heart rate). Intervals last two minutes after the target heart rate has been reached. The 70% is recovery, and the 80% is the work period, and exercisers can adjust interval target heart rates manually at any time during the workout.
- Heart Rate Custom Interval – Exercisers build a custom heart-rate controlled workout of up to 6 alternating intervals of user-defined duration and target heart rates. Interval target heart rates can be adjusted during the routine.
- Heart Rate Speed Interval – Focus on power and speed in this controlled workout that alternates one-minute intervals of 65% and 85% of theoretical maximum heart rate (or user-specified target heart rate). This challenging regimen combines steeper (higher resistance) intervals with changing speeds. Intervals last one minute after the target heart rate has been reached.
For an even greater cardiovascular challenge that blast calories, try Octane’s exclusive 30:30 Interval program, designed by the experts at Athletes’ Performance, which is an exhilarating, push-you-to-your-limits virtual personal trainer.
- 30:30 – This program provides a simple fitness evaluation using 5 sets of 30-second sprint and recovery intervals. For each set, the program monitors heart rate and calculates the average minimum and average maximum heart rates and the average number of beats the heart rate recovers between sprint intervals. Heart rate recovery is a relative indicator of fitness level; a higher number indicates a more rapid heart rate recovery and therefore represents a relatively better level of fitness.
Tackle 30:30 periodically to watch your recovery heart rate indicate your improving fitness level over time.
Boxing Interval Programs
For another fun, rigorous workout, try Octane’s unique boxing regimen, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), which aims to push exercisers to work harder and longer than they would do on their own.
Boxing interval workouts challenge the body cardiovascularly and strength-wise, with periods of intense work broken up by recovery intervals. What makes interval training successful is the balance of work to recovery sessions – with too much of either, you don’t get the best performance. Work intervals that are too long or frequent can lead to diminishing returns instead of all-out efforts; and recovery intervals that last too long reduce intensity and water-down workouts.
Based on various martial arts styles, and using both striking and grappling, MMA delivers a powerful workout. Mimicking MMA bouts and offering another way to train, Octane’s program challenges exercisers with 5-minute fight intervals of varying intensity, where the machine “fights back.” Fight-inspired prompts such as “punch and move” and “throw it” keep exercisers focused during the battles of strength and power against the responsive resistance.
Brief recovery intervals simulate fighters returning to their corners and help exercisers keep pushing.
Important Safety Recommendation
It is not recommended that you perform interval training or HIIT every day. Work hard, but give your body a chance to recover to gain strength and endurance, as well as to reduce your risk of injury. Vary interval programs with steady-state cardio, strength training and other exercise like Pilates, yoga and more for optimal fitness.