The Interval Training Buzz – What Is New? Part 2

While the study results mentioned in Part 1 of The Interval Training Buzz – What Is New? post are encouraging, if not spectacular, there are some things to take into consideration:

  • Most studies were done on a stationary bicycle (yes, you read that correctly, they used a bike),
  • Most studies used a bicycle, because they wanted to copy the Wingate Test,
  • Most studies used a bicycle all-out protocol for 20 to 30 seconds for 3 to 5 days a week.


Most clients personal trainers work with will literally die when they have to sprint at maximum intensity for 20 to 30 seconds. Before reaching just even 10 seconds of maximum sprinting intensity they probably will have already tore up their hamstring or another muscle group. Also, if you train clients only once or twice a week, do not expect the same results as what the studies showed. High Intensity Interval Training is not for beginners and although the military often do not care if you are in or not in-shape when they expose you to their training methods, they merely use it to separate the haves from the have-nots – can you handle the training or not – are you physically and mentally touch enough to make the “cut?”

The popularity of Interval Training is probably mostly related to it’s effect on metabolism and calorie-burning. It literally changes your body’s homeostasis – one moment you are sitting on your lazy ass and the next moment you sprint all-out like a wild beast – eyes wide open, gasping for air, pulling your legs through as if the devil himself is chasing you. Ever seen a fat sprinter? No sir – they are lean, mean fighting machines. I had the pleasure to work with some of them when I was a graduate student at the University of Oregon – amazing detailed and long warm-ups (sometimes one hour long) ready to explode their bodies out of the starting blocks to run all out for less than 30 seconds. No jiggly fat flying all over the place, but violent muscle fibers doing their job so gracefully – start……………………………………………..finish.



As I already said, Interval Training disrupts the body’s homeostasis, making it more effective for increasing metabolic rate following these workouts. In other words, when you introduce Interval Training to your body one day you will be terrible at it as your body is not used to that type of activity – your body had a different level of homeostasis to whatever you were doing before. You are in fact out of homeostasis because your body’s physiology is not ready to absorb this new level of stress. No worries though, your body will eventually adjust itself and homeostasis is regained. You will get better at Interval Training – become faster – recuperate faster.



Also, research has shown that those exposed to an interval workout have a higher postworkout metabolic rate than those that perform a 30 minute continues rated workout (Laforgia et al. 1997). In fact, some showed that they burned more calories during the 24 hours following the workout (Treuth, Hunter & Williams 1996). Exiting information here, right? You do some sprints for lets say 10 minutes and you burn more calories than running until your shoes fall of your feet!! Sorry readers, it’s not that simple:

  • The amount of calories burned post-workout is minimal,
  • The caloric expenditure during high-intensity interval training is still less than during a longer but lower-intensity workout.

In Sum, High Intensity Interval Training is a highly efficient training method to rep up your metabolic rate and burn some calories. Changes in homeostasis are always welcome otherwise our body becomes stale and complacent. Consider though that it is not the holy grail to fat and weight-loss but that when used appropriately it can help clients from every walk of life. Guess I have to go find my running shoes now.



  • Burgomaster, et al. 2008
  • Chilibeck, et al. 1998
  • Gibala, et al. 2006
  • Gibala, et al. 2009
  • Laforgia, et al. 1997
  • MacDougall, et al. 1998.
  • Meyer, et al. 1990
  • Rakobowchuck, et al. 2008
  • Seiler and Tennessen. 2009
  • Tabata, et al. 1996
  • Talanian, et al. 2007
  • Talanian, et al. 2010
  • Tjonna, et al. 2009
  • Treuth, et al. 1996

The Interval Training Buzz – What Is New? Part 1

Let me start by saying that I rather work a sweat lifting weights, climb a mountain, split or log heavy pieces of wood than to do “cardio” but I’d like to clarify what I think about Interval Training.

It seems that the older I get the more workouts are being reinvented all over again – “old school” workouts can be “good school” workouts – so, what is new? I am sure that those of you that served in a military branch remember the grueling days (and nights) of intense training. The skinny kids got bigger and strong, the fat kids got tinier and lost weight – what is wrong with that?

Then the 80’s came along and the fitness boom started. We all got a little fatter and we all made more money, so we had to go get fit didn’t we? We went to the gym and what did we see there? treadmills and exercise machines – loosing fat running like a hamster and isolating our muscles was the name of the game. If Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger could do it, so could we, right? Wrong….. we got fatter and fatter although we were “in-shape.” The military recruits kept on doing interval type of exercises: they ran hard, they dropped down, they did push-ups, they carried heavy stuff around and they pulled themselves up. AND, they did this over and over again, and again, and again – sounds like Interval Training doesn’t it? What an idea, you train in intervals and you see the results fast – why did we not use these concepts in the gym? Well, you cannot make a lot of money providing those training methods in the gym, it does not look as sexy as the leg-press machine or the elliptical machine.

What else happened is that the rehab and the cardio research world influenced our gym workouts: “Check out this exercise man, it isolates my pinky flexor muscle” (or whatever ludicrous muscle isolation) was the language in the gym. The cardio buzz was this: “If you run longer than 90 minutes you burn fat” – I would rather see paint dry on the wall than run even for 15 minutes. Give me the hard sweat from lifting things up and down and I’m happy.

Now that you know my personal opinion about training I’ll get serious. What is Interval Training?

I am sure that for a long time athletes of all kind used interval training to get stronger, bigger or faster but it was not until the famous exercise physiologist Per-Olaf Astrand found out that by breaking up a workout in smaller segments that more total work could be performed at a higher intensity; fitness levels improved faster – no more 90 minute runs needed. This pretty simple concept was the start of what we current refer to as Interval Training.

Now, for the science geeks like me, it seems that Interval Training accomplishes almost everything besides changing dippers. Not only does Interval Training improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness (Tabata et al. 1996), it also improves several important health factors. Vascular health (Rakobowchuck et al. 2008) improves, cardiovascular disease risk factors drop down (Tjonna et al. 2009) and Interval Training can reverse the dreadful obesity associated metabolic syndrome (Tjonna et al. 2008). Also, muscle physiology improves or increases when exposed to Interval Training as it’s enzyme activity increases (Gibala et al. 2006; MacDougall et al. 1998; Talanian et al. 2007), as well as it’s oxidative capacity to process carbohydrates and fat (Burgomaster et al. 2008; Chiliback et al. 1998).

Although the above benefits of Interval Training can make significant changes in our health; it can even save your life, unless you are getting close to having a conversation with the eye in the sky it probably is not convincing for most folks. But wait, their are more goodies associated with Interval Training!! It can make you loose weight – now your clients are interested and will start listening to reason and research.

Continues in Part 2



Is Movement Self-Organized?

You might think, what does this mean, movement is self-organized? Well, let me explain this to you and why an understanding of this concept is important. I have personally said this over and over again, “the body does not care how it moves, it just wants to get the task done.” Now, some movement patterns that occur when we complete a task or movement such as picking up a dumbbell off the floor can be done correctly or incorrectly, but that is a whole other discussion in itself. What I am referring to is that more and more research demonstrates that movement just happens naturally – we move without thinking about how we move. Let me give you an example: if I drop a pen in front of 20 people and I ask each of them to pick it up, we would see 20 different movement patterns to accomplish this task. Now, some of their patterns may look similar, but if we do a detailed analysis of their movement patterns, they would all be different. Now, why is all this so important? In the last couple of years I have seen a great influence of using corrective movement patterns in the world of exercise and healthcare professionals. I do not mean that is bad as my own Kinetic Integrations Exercise Professionals (KIEP) methodology includes a corrective exercise method to resolve movement dysfunctions  but I think the pendulum has swung to far – a lot of people operate as if all movement is bad, thereby all movement needs to be corrected. My Kinetic Integrations (KI) methodology also respects self-learning – in other words self-organization and I think we all should allow this natural phenomenon to occur so people can learn to move more naturally.

A more and more popular system that is based on this concept of self-organization is called the Dynamic Systems Theory or sometimes called Dynamic Pattern Theory. The Dynamic Systems Theory fans (including myself) argue that most motor program theories fall short in explaining complex movements as well as in  demonstrating the relationship between the mover and it’s dynamic environment.  It is pretty easy to explain how  simple movements occur such as the biceps curl. Through a hierarchical manner, the brain’s command center  issues instructions that are carried out by the limbs and muscles – a simple process. From a Dynamic Systems  Theory model things change though when movements are complex like when a baseball shortstop jumps over a  sliding-in base-runner while at the same time making an accurate throw to first base – not such a simple  movement process isn’t it?. This theory proposes that a movement pattern emerges out of self-organization as a  function of the ever changing environment. Think about it, do you really believe that shortstops practice an  immense variable pattern of jumping-throwing over a base-runner? I don’t think so. In other words, the  arrangement of a movement pattern will be the result of responding to the task imposed by a given situation rather  than being generated by a motor program.

Please consider this when you are working with your clients when teaching them a new skill or retraining a skill through rehabilitative therapeutic exercises.

Gleick J. 1987: Chaos: Making a new science. New York, Viking Penguin.

Kelso J. 1984: Phase transitions and critical behavior in human bimanual coordination. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology.

Kelso J. & Scholze, J. 1985: Comparative phenomena in biological motion. In H. Haken (Ed.), Complex systems: Operational approaches in neurobiology, physical systems, and computers. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Shapiro D, et al. 1981: Evidence for generalized motor programs using gait-pattern analysis. Journal of Motor Behavior.