Interval Training

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Is interval training the same as cross-training?

Interval training is not cross-training. Cross-training is a break from your normal workout where you train using alternative exercises. For instance, you could use the treadmill instead of the elliptical, the bike instead of the treadmill, or some other combination. With cross-training intervals, you could switch machines and start intervals (for example, switch from the elliptical to the treadmill), or you could stay on the elliptical and start intervals. A cross-training workout that includes intervals will increase your fitness and performance and can break up the boredom of your normal routine.

I'm a bodybuilder. Should I do intervals?

There's conflicting opinions on this. Some individuals suggest that intervals will burn too much muscle and reduce mass. Others argue that the conditioning from intervals will allow for more weight lifting in the gym, which ultimately leads to more muscle. I suggest experimenting until you find the right combination of intervals and weight lifting that works for you. Cut back on interval training if you find your muscle growth isn't what you expect or you're too tired from the intervals to give 100% to your bodybuilding workouts.

Should I warm up before interval training?

Absolutely. Intervals are tough on your muscles and your heart and so you need a good warm up beforehand. I recommend an 8-10 minute warm-up or performance at your active-recovery intensity before you hit the work intervals. It is always good to listen to your body. If you still don't feel warmend up and ready to begin intervals after the initial 10 minutes, then keep warming up for another five to seven minutes. A proper warm up is essential to injury prevention. As previously mentioned, consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about interval training being too tough on your heart.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015

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