The Benefits of Utilizing a Timed Interval Training Program
When developing a metabolic training program, one thing that definitely must be considered is timed intervals. This style of interval training tends to be the superior option over regular rep-style training.
Why is this?
First, timed interval training is found to be more efficient. Clients will perform more work in less time, thus they are able to get in and out of the gym quicker than if they were using a similar scheme that had them doing reps for time. Time is often a big concern of those who are training and asking for assistance to improve their program. Therefore, this should be taken into consideration.
Second, research has also confirmed that time-based training may be superior to rep-based training because it focuses on having the client get a much better volume (in total number of reps performed) in a specific time period. High workload volumes may also help boost mental capacity for work, thus triggering further progress improvements. Also when training for time, the client is actually not counting reps, as done in a reps-oriented scheme. This then frees up more of their mind to focus on keeping their form correct and maximizing effort.
Timed intervals are also excellent for all skill and fitness levels as well. Beginners, intermediate, and advanced level trainees can benefit from incorporating timed intervals into their program. The difference will just be the total amount of time that the athlete is performing each interval. Obviously, beginners should use shorter intervals of approximately 30 seconds, while the more advanced trainees can increase that up to 60 seconds or longer.
What Are Timed Intervals?
As may have been guessed, timed intervals are where the client works for a specific time period rather than a rep range. For example, they may aim to perform reps for 30 seconds, 45 seconds, or 60 seconds, doing as many reps as possible in that time frame.
The goal of timed intervals is to be able to accomplish as much work as possible, with as much effort as possible, in as little time as possible. Essentially, the client must want to push their body to the absolute limit.
If a client should have to stop and rest before the time frame is up, that’s fine. But, they should be encouraged to resume as soon as possible, once they can and maintain proper form while doing so. It is critical that good form is maintained at all times, so as a trainer, closely monitor that this does not change when doing timed intervals.
Usually timed intervals are performed by doing the work interval and
then having a brief rest interval after that work period. This is much the same as when planning a HIIT workout with a client. The difference being that now you are using weight lifting exercises rather than traditional cardiovascular based exercises.
An example of a timed interval might be performing a work set for 45 seconds followed by a 15 second rest interval before repeating again.
Benefits of Timed Intervals
Timed intervals offer great benefits. First, they’re excellent for allowing a client to do a large amount of work over a short period of time. As noted previously, this helps save time while taking the body to the next level.
Second, timed intervals tend to be a superior option for group training sessions. They are easy to implement and everyone is following along the same time period. A timer is needed at the front of the class, and when the buzzer goes, the entire group moves in unison to the next exercise. If doing a rep based protocol, clients may finish their reps at different times and therefore making the transition less efficient.
Also, when working in a group setting with everyone on the same page at every second in the workout, it’s easy to assess how it’s going and make changes as needed. This gives you more flexibility and customization options as the workout is progressing along.
Timed intervals also works very well for many different goal levels as well. The trainer can adjust the load to meet their client’s goals very easily. Those goals could be to build muscle, burn fat, gain strength, build power, or improve their cardiovascular fitness level. The load lifted and interval used will largely dictate the way the workout plays out and the fitness benefits reaped from doing it.
Another significant impact according to research published in the Exercise Physiology Division of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is that one is able to effectively increase their cardio fitness right along with their strength fitness while doing this type of protocol. So for those who are looking for a boost to their aerobic metabolism, this training protocol will be very effective.
Likewise, over 100 studies have shown that this protocol of training will illicit excellent improvements in mean strength levels when done for as little as four weeks over the course of a training protocol. The jury is in and you don’t have to exercise for long to reap the benefits. With just a few sessions under their belt, clients can begin making progress. This increases their continuation rates with you as a trainer.
It was also noted in the Human Kinetics 3rd Edition book that using resistance during timed interval work periods enables the individual to increase their overall fat free mass while reducing body fat by up to 1% to 9% depending on the nature of training and the nutrition protocol followed. Make sure to inform clients not to be alarmed if they don’t immediately see the scale decrease when performing this style of training. It’s very possible they are experiencing a body re-composition, meaning they are burning fat and building muscle simultaneously, especially at the beginner levels.
Just because your clients are building up their strength endurance levels with this type of training, don’t let that you lead you to believe they won’t build great endurance as well. They will be carrying this exercise load over an extended period of time, they will begin to experience significant muscle adaptations where the muscle fibers are better able to buffer the lactic acid that has been developing and push through the feelings of fatigue. They’ll improve their oxidative capacity, meaning that when they go back to performing straights sets again, they should be able to do more reps at any given weight level. Timed interval metabolic training can be an excellent technique to use to help get clients past any sticking point in their workout program.
Additionally, timed interval training is also an excellent way to improve motor skill performance. The repetitive nature of timed interval training suggests that subjects will be able to improve their performance on such things as their running economy, vertical jump, sprint speed, as well as their swinging and throwing velocity and kicking performance.
This is especially helpful for athletes who may be using this modality of training as it will provide a direct transfer to their sport of choice. Previously, there was a discussion regarding the importance of having specificity incorporated into a training protocol. This is a perfect illustration.
Since mentioning specificity, that brings to mind the next benefit that times interval training will provide: the ability to easily adjust and adapt the intervals being utilized to the sport of choice. If the sport which the client is participating involves longer bouts of exercise, this can easily be accommodated by adjusting the interval length accordingly.
Alternately, if their sport requires shorter bouts of intervals, this might require using shorter intervals with a higher total load to increase the overall intensity level that the athlete is working through.
Finally, trainers also report that clients tend to respond very well to timed interval set-ups. They will enjoy the sessions more and the fact that it is very easy to change these sessions around, gives plenty of programming opportunities that will ensure boredom stays at bay.
By using timed interval training, you may notice you have far better overall client retention resulting in a stronger overall business model.
Ways to Set Up and Structure Time Based Intervals
When it comes to time-based intervals, it might be thought of it as a one-size-fits-all process. Choose the total amount of time to perform and exercise, start the timer and go. Wrong! This is not the case.
There are a number of different ways to structure the times intervals that will help to break up the monotony of workout sessions and keep clients coming back for more.
Let’s look at the various ways to structure timed intervals.
Timed Specific Intervals
The first way to structure your intervals is timed specific intervals. This is the most popular way to work and it is was the example given previously. Work intervals of 30, 45, or 60 seconds with rest periods lasting approximately 15 seconds can be done. Once the rest period is up, the exercise is repeated 10 more times (or however many times the trainer indicates).
Alternately, rather than having the client perform just one exercise for ten rounds in a row, it might be mixed up and stack exercises one after another for the intervals, switching gears after each interval is over.
Both methods work great. The first method will help train one particular set of muscles (the ones being used) to withstand fatigue, while the second protocol will allow a bit more weight to be used as they will be switching from one exercise to the next, thus rest is given between exercises. This allows for at least a partial recovery between working sets so more weight can be lifted.
Density Training – AMSAP/AMRAP
The next manner in which one may structure timed intervals is called density training, which you may more commonly known as ‘as many sets as possible’. This is commonly used in CrossFit circles, however can also be used in other modalities, as well.
With this set-up, a circuit consisting of a few different exercise. The trainer determines how many reps of each is to be performed. The client then must perform as many rounds of those exercises as possible in the time period allotted. The difference between this and the former approach, is the former approach listed a timed interval for each exercise, whereas this approach has a total time limit that you are executing the protocol over.
For instance, the protocol laid out may be:
- 10 squats
- 10 burpees
- 10 swings
The client’s mission is to move through this circuit, hitting these numbers, doing as many circuits as they can possibly do in 15 minutes. They should rest only when needed and always ensure they maintain proper form.
This is a very easy way to structure a workout program in a group setting as each person is going at their own pace, which can be adapted to their skill level. This allows you to work with beginners and advanced trainees all in the same session. Both groups are going to be striving to complete the 15 minutes of work (or however long chosen), but the beginners will likely do a few less rounds per 15 minutes compared to those who are more advanced. The weight load being lifted is yet another good way to adjust the intensity level of the workout to accommodate to all the individuals doing the workout program.
Density training brings a number of great benefits including improved metabolic response from training (enhanced calorie burn both during and after the workout is over), increased strength and power output, improved mental tenacity, as well as increased muscular endurance.
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
The next method that can be used with timed intervals is referred to as “every minute on the minute”. This is a great way to challenge clients and reward them for a job well done. With this protocol, they are given one minute to complete a certain task. This might be performing ‘X’ number of reps for one given exercise or doing ‘X’ reps of three exercises in a row (whatever has been decided). The faster they complete these reps, the more time they have to rest before the next minute sounds.
This is another set-up that tends to be very popular in the CrossFit niche and is a great way to reach new heights in fitness level. While watching clients finishing faster and having more time to rest indicates that it is time to make the workout harder. It is best if the client only has 15-20 seconds at most to rest before the next minute starts. Keep this time period in mind.
Importantly, watch that the trainees are not ‘cheating’ their reps using this protocol. As fatigue sets in, they may begin doing half reps or using improper form in order to get done faster and have more time for rest. If this occurs, the trainer will need to shorten the number of rounds (use fewer minutes) or use a slightly less intense exercise set-up.
Rather than having them squeeze 3 exercises into the minute, try two. Or, take down the total reps the have to hit for each minute. This protocol requires a careful match of fitness level and skill to intensity level.
Time Under Tension – Isometrics
Finally, the last way that a trainer can set-up a workout using the timed interval protocol is time under tension. To do this, the trainer will primarily focus on isometric training, which involves a static hold of a particular exercise, thus increasing the total time under tension.
For example, their mission may be to hold the plank for 2-3 minutes straight while keeping good form, or use a wall squat instead. Making them do a push-up and then holding that bottom position, is yet another way to really challenge the upper body and core to a large degree. A split squat hold is another excellent example of a move that can be done using this protocol and will really help to enhance overall hip mobility and flexibility.
One big advantage of this type of training is that it tends to be far less taxing on the joints, as there is no high impact forces coming down on them. For any client who is suffering from joint pain, this might serve as an excellent way to help them get past their injury without causing aggravation. It’s also an excellent protocol for building muscle endurance, as the client will be required to hold each position for an extended period of time.
Keep in mind there are two ways to set up these isometric exercises. The client can either hold a static position while opposing pressing against resistance, or the client can push against an immovable resistance such as a wall. Both are excellent ways to build muscle strength and endurance and improve athletic performance.
Having a closer look at the many different ways to set up a times interval program demonstrates this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach and that there are many different ways to approach this.
How to Use Time Based Training in Your Business
The great news is that time based intervals are great for any trainer to utilize in their business practice. They accommodate to just about any client, so there should be no problem introducing them into their training protocols.
Remember, that all the styles noted above are interchangeable and as a client makes progress on one strategy, it’s highly likely they will see great progress on another as well. Another nice thing about timed interval training is that they make it very easy to see how a client is progressing. A trainer can easily evaluate performance by looking at how many reps the client is performing against what they have done previously. If they’ve increased reps (or done more work in less time), they are making progress. This serves as an excellent method for periodic performance appraisals as well.
As a trainer integrates timed reps into their training system, don’t think they have to do these all the time. Some trainers may benefit from adding them occasionally to their training programs, while others may focus on using them almost to the exclusion of all else. Variety is always nice and appreciated by clients, so do try and mix things up as often as possible.
The ‘Every Minute On The Minute’ protocol is also a great tool to use to look at what level of overall work capacity a client is at, and to determine just how much total volume and work they may be able to handle during coming workouts ahead.
These are the main points to know and remember regarding timed interval training. This type of training deserves special attention, as it is so beneficial to so many different clients and should be at the foundation of any good metabolic training program.
Once a trainer is comfortable with the various methods of performing timed interval training, it would not be long before they discover which methods they enjoy most and which methods the clients seem to be most benefitting.
As this training is very intense, avoid doing it every single session with clients. Doing so may quickly lead to burnout. Therefore watch for signs of fatigue before they get to be too great to manage.
Remember that rest is just as critical as intense sessions to seeing results, so know when to back off and do an easier session before moving on to another timed interval session.
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