Involves alternating high-intensity training and low intensity active recovery. Interval training is very stressful and should not be performed until the client has a firm base of aerobic conditioning (i.e., not a beginner). Interval training is associated with an increased VO2max and anaerobic metabolism.
Interval Training Examples:
Involves work of approximately 2-5 minutes per interval. The goal is to work toward affording equal amount of time for rest (periods of low-intensity exercise; i.e., work to rest ratio of 1:1). Clients complete 3-8 sets.
This type of training is stressful and should not be done more than three times per week.
Steady State below LT
Pre-Intermediate or Intermediate: (intermittent tempo training)
5:1 x 3 sets
(start with less work if necessary; i.e., 3 min work and 90s recovery)
@ 75% HRR
(start with lower if LT is lower)
Build to continuous at @ 75% HRR (or at client’s LT)
4:1 x 3 sets
@ 80% HRR
Build to 5-8 sets of 5:1 or 8:2
3:2 x 3 sets
@ 85% HRR
Build to 5-8 sets of 4:2 (i.e., 2:1 ratio)
2:3 x 3 sets
@ 90% HRR +
Build to 5-8 sets of 3:3, 2:2 (i.e., 1:1 ratio)
*Help your client reach the prescribed intensity with a combination of incline/resistance and speed/cadence*
** Recovery is done at low intensity to allow HR and breathing to recover sufficiently for another interval. Ensure your client is recovered to a point of at least <70% of HRR (or less than their LT) **
Repetition Training (REPS):
A form of interval training to develop speed and endurance. Repetition training involves short bursts of very high-intensity (nearly VO2max or above VO2max). The work intervals are between 20-90s with the work:rest ratio varying between 1:3 and 1:5 (or more rest if needed). The physiology adaptions associated with REPS include improved running speed and economy and increased anaerobic metabolism. This type of training is reserved for clients with a firm base of aerobic conditioning and a VERY GOOD level of CV fitness.
Repetition Training (REPS) Examples:
The work intervals last about 20-90 seconds; the work to rest ration varies between 1:3 – 1:5, or more rest if needed. Clients complete 3-8 sets.
This type of training is very stressful and should not be done more than once or twice per week.
Steady State prescription
Build to 5-8 sets of 60s:3 min
Build to 5-8 sets of 45s:2.5 min
Very Very Hard
Build to 5-8 sets of
- *Help your client reach the prescribed intensity with a combination of incline/resistance and speed/cadence*
** Note, 20s is hard to complete on a treadmill – this is generally done on a field/track.
Other General CV Prescription Reminders:
- Light Intensity Physical Activity results health benefits (despite not often having CV training benefits)
- Exercise intensity is inversely related to duration
- Low and Moderate intensities will improve endurance and maximum oxygen uptake in undertrained or moderately trained individuals but is less effective in well-trained athletes, who require higher training intensities in order for additional physiological adaptations to occur.
- Note, long slow distance training is necessary for endurance athletes, where more mileage per week is almost always better (there is data to suggest a diminishing effect around 60 miles/wk).
- Moderate intensity SS is also good for active recovery, muscular endurance, thermoregulatory function, muscle oxidative capacity, and fat utilization purposes
- Generally, your client is at a VG level of initial fitness before they can tolerate continuous vigorous intensity exercise (i.e., a 20-30-minute tempo exercise bout). Also, your client is at a VG level of initial fitness to be doing repetition training (REPS; anaerobic interval training).
- Pace/temp training can also be done in an intermittent fashion (i.e., intervals) still using a training intensity at about LT but employing a series of intervals with recovery. This allows clients with a moderate fitness base to experience vigorous intensity exercise in a tolerable way.
- Beginner clients should do their CV training on non-consecutive days. Similarly, the introduction of vigorous intensity should happen on non-consecutive days.
- Interval training and repetition training can be an effective way to change body composition, increase fitness, and make exercise fun; however, as a trainer, you have to find an appropriate equipment, intensity, and duration to suit your client. If you are not careful this type of training could cause injury, negative affect, a decrease in exercise adherence, and a decrease in your client’s self-efficacy.
Intensity Description Reminder:
No problems talking
Can continue forever
Can continue for hours
Difficult to maintain
100 or higher
Completely out of breath
Unbearable to continue
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2013). Physical Activity Training for Health (CSEP-PATH) Resource Manual. Ottawa, ON: CSEP.
Coburn, J. W., & Moh, H. M. (2012). NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training. National Strength and Conditioning Association. Human Kinetics: Windsor, ON
Peterson, D. D. & Rittenhouse, M. A. (2019). A Practical Guide to Personal Conditioning. Jones & Bartlett Learning: Burlington MA.
Charts From: Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2013). Physical Activity Training for Health (CSEP-PATH) Resource Manual. Ottawa, ON: CSEP.