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High Intensity Interval Training: Variations

Now that you have the concept of interval training down and have started to get your cardio-vascular system adapted to this new type of training, there are some variations to HIIT that you can take advantage of to mix up your workouts.

In the standard HIIT you exercise for a consistent interval, say 1 minute in length, with a fixed work to rest ratio for the entire set.

The Ladder

The ladder, sometimes also called a pyramid, is when you change the work to rest ratio during the set, gradually increasing the work portion until you get to the maximum work period and then working your way back down the ladder, decreasing the work portion until you reach the starting point.

An example of a 20-25 minute ladder workout:

3-5 minute warm-up: very low level work, gradually increasing to the end of the warm-up period, followed by:

  • 15 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 20 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 25 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 30 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 35 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 40 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 45 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
    (work to rest ration 3:2, this is the top of the ladder, now work your way back down)
  • 40 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 35 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 30 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 25 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 20 second sprint, 30 second recovery period
  • 15 second sprint, 30 second recovery period

3-5 minute cool-down: low level work, gradually decreasing to the end of the cool-down period.

Ladder Variations

Take this same pattern and have each interval be longer (longer work, longer rest), but have fewer rungs on your ladder.

Follow a similar pattern but adjust the starting ratio to 1:3 with the top of the ladder at 1:1

Instead of increasing the work period, keep a steady work period and gradually decrease the recovery period until you reach a minimum rest period, and then gradually increase the recovery period until you reach the starting point. For example, have the work period be 30 seconds, start with a 1 minute recovery period, and with each rung reduce the rest by 10 seconds until you are resting only 10 seconds, then increase the rest period by 10 seconds per interval until you are back to a full minute recovery.

Set Distance

Another great way to set up intervals is with a set distance rather than time. This is especially useful for sports where you want to go a specific distance before stopping. For example, you might run one length of the basketball court, or swim one length of the pool.

Intervals last for a set period of timeā€”it needs to be long enough for you to sprint the distance and have a recovery period. The exact time might vary, but try to start with a rest period that is at least as long as the work period. During that interval you sprint one length.

The faster you go, the longer the rest period you have. As you repeat your intervals, it will probably take you longer to go the set distance, therefore your rest period will shorten.

A sample HIIT workout in this model:

  • 3-5 minute warm-up: very low level work, gradually increasing to the end of the warm-up period.
  • Start at zero seconds. At full sprint, go one length. Rest until one minute has passed from when you started.
  • Repeat 5-15 times.
  • 3-5 minute cool-down: low level work, gradually decreasing to the end of the cool-down period.

In only 15-30 minutes all of these variations on the high intensity interval training workout will increase your cardio-vascular fitness level and reduce fat.

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