Interval training works because it maximizes your time, as interval workouts are tough but pretty quick.

By Jason R. Karp, Ph.D. and Colleen Travers
Updated May 29, 2019
Close up of unrecognizable athletic woman having sports training with kettle bell.
skynesher/Getty Images

Less time in the gym doesn't mean you have to sacrifice fitness if you know this secret: interval training. Research shows that interval training-workouts in which you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods-increases fitness and burns more calories over a short period of time than steady-state cardio (you know: just doing the same thing for your whole workout time).

So how do you get the most out of interval training, and how long should each push and recovery be? One of the many great things about interval training workouts is that there's no single hard-and-fast rule. Different lengths of work and recovery bring different benefits-and they're all good. (There are even HIIT apps.)

These workouts and exercise ideas can help you get started with your own interval training. Just know this: Interval training is *tough*, so if you're just starting to work out, spend a few weeks to a month building your stamina with cardio workouts before adding them to your routine. Once you're ready? Add these interval training workouts or exercises to your gym routine once a week to burn more calories, boost your overall fitness level, and get in and out of the gym faster. That's a win-win-win.

Interval Training Workout #1: Cardio Blaster

This is one of the best interval training workouts you can do to improve fitness. It burns lots of calories in a short amount of time.

How to do it:

  • Warm up for 15 minutes.
  • Run, bike, or row for 3 minutes at 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate (should feel like 8.5 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10).
  • Take 3 minutes active recovery (you're still moving, but at an easy pace) and repeat the 3 on/3 off pattern 3 to 4 more times.
  • Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

Interval Training Workout #2: Sprint Work

Sprinting is great for tightening and toning your legs, glutes, and core. It increases your muscle power, which helps you push harder and makes your non-interval training workouts feel easier so you can challenge yourself and burn even more calories.

How to do it:

  • Warm up for 15 minutes, adding a few 20-second bursts at the end to prepare for the workout.
  • Run, bike, or row for 30 seconds at a nearly all-out effort.
  • Take 3 minutes active recovery and repeat the 30 on/3 off pattern 5 or 6 more times.
  • Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

Interval Training Workout #3: Cardio-Sprint Pyramid

This adds sprint interval training for a fast and fun workout. Here, after each burst of hard work, you'll recover for the same amount of time.

How to do it:

  • Warm up for 15 minutes, adding a few 20-second bursts at the end to prepare for the workout.
  • Run, bike, or row: During the work periods, you should have a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 to 10, followed by 30 seconds of active recovery.
  • Build and taper the workout like this: 30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover, 1 minute sprint/1 minute recover, 2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover, 4 minutes sprint/4 minutes recover, 2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover, 1 minute sprint/1 minute recover, 30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover.
  • Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

Interval Training Exercises to Add to Your Workouts

Figure 8 Lunge

These alternating lunges zone in on your quads and glutes, giving you serious strength and definition.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding handle of kettlebell in left hand, arms by sides.
  • Lunge forward with right leg, bending both knees 90 degrees, and pass kettlebell under right thigh to grab handle with right hand.
  • Pushing off right heel, return to start position.
  • Repeat, lunging forward with left leg and passing kettlebell under thigh to left hand.
  • Continue, alternating sides, for 1 minute.

360-Degree Toe Tap

Trade in trekking along on the treadmill for some soccer drill-inspired cardio that has cardiovascular and circulation benefits, to boot.

How to do it:

  • Place medicine ball on ground in front of you.
  • Alternately tap toes of left and right foot on top of ball, moving around it as fast as you can until you've made a complete circle.
  • Continue for 1 minute (or 30 taps), changing direction with each rotation.

Duck-and-Punch

This move mixes cardio and muscle-shaping strength work in one. Squeeze your glutes to add resistance to each squat, helping you burn calories with controlled movements.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet wide, toes turned out slightly, elbows bent by sides, fists near chin.
  • Lower into a squat and, keeping fists near chin, hinge forward from hips until torso is near parallel to floor; then fluidly sweep torso to the right as you straighten up (as if ducking a punch).
  • Return to center squat and repeat, this time ducking to the left.
  • Continue alternating sides for 45 seconds.

Burpee Box Jump

Combine these two CrossFit cult favorites for killer core and glute work. (BTW, here's how to do a burpee the right way.)

How to do it:

  • Stand behind box and squat, placing palms shoulder-width apart on floor in front of feet.
  • Jump feet back into full plank position.
  • Quickly jump both feet forward near hands.
  • From squat position, jump onto box (step closer to box first if necessary).
  • Jump back down from box and repeat. Do 14 reps.

Single-Leg Mountain Climbers

By isolating each leg in these sets, you'll combine strength training, cardio, and core work.

How to do it:

  • Start in full plank position, balancing on palms and toes, body forming a straight line.
  • Pull left knee in toward chest, keeping right leg extended.
  • Keeping palms planted firmly on ground and left knee tucked into chest, jump right leg forward.
  • Jump right leg back to full plank position.
  • Continue hopping forward and back with right leg for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs for second set.

X-Jump to X-Plank

Alternate between high and low jumping jacks to fire up your muscles and metabolism in under a minute flat. Make sure to engage your abs as you drop down to your plank for a little bonus burn.

How to do it:

  • Stand, feet together, then squat, crossing wrists in front of knees.
  • Jump up, sweeping arms overhead and bringing legs out wide (body forms an X).
  • Land in squat, place palms on floor in front of you shoulder-width apart and jump feet back so that legs are wide (in a modified plank).
  • Hop both feet forward between hands; repeat, doing X jump. Continue for 30 seconds.

Plié Squat Jump

Use power from your thighs to launch up and land softly in a plié squat to hit your lower-body hard. (And consider some "squat therapy" to get your form down.)

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out.
  • Lower into a deep plié squat with hands clasped in front of chest.
  • Jump as high as you can, tapping heels together in midair. Land with knees soft in plié squat position.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds.

Sidewinder

This move revs your metabolism, sculpts your shoulders, and works the biceps-with your own body weight.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then lower into a squat, placing palms on floor in front of feet.
  • Kick your legs out to the side, as if you're doing a side burpee.
  • Return to the center, stand up, and repeat on the other side.

Double Snap Kick

By pulling your abs in tight, you'll work your core, outer thighs, and glutes all at once.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet staggered, right foot forward, hands in fists near chin.
  • Bend left knee, bringing heel toward butt as you turn hips to left so that left hip is stacked above right.
  • Leaning your torso back slightly to counterbalance, kick out with left leg, straightening knee with toes pointed.
  • Without lowering leg, bend left knee again (bringing heel toward butt) and do another snap kick, attempting to kick slightly higher than the first kick.
  • Touch floor briefly with left foot and repeat. Do 10 to 15 double kicks. Switch sides and repeat.

Zigzag

Do three sets of one minute each, aiming to beat your last set every single time. Don't have a jump rope? Use a rolled up towel or no equipment at all, jump back and forth from a fixed point to get the same results.

How to do it:

  • Straighten jump rope on floor.
  • Stand with feet together to right of rope at one end, facing opposite end.
  • Jump diagonally to left side of rope, keeping feet together, then quickly jump diagonally to right side of rope.
  • Continue hopping forward in zigzag pattern until you reach other end.
  • Reverse jumps back to start. Continue jumping forward and backward for 1 minute.
Advertisement


Comments (30)

Anonymous
April 22, 2019
A breakthrough Yoga Program that melts away flab and reshapes your body in as little as one hour a week. https://bit.ly/2S3Fk9s
Anonymous
April 17, 2019
A very useful Workout Program for Women is http://bit.ly/2oGlztV
Anonymous
April 13, 2019
The Secret to Losing Unwanted Weight Fast and Keeping It Off: https://bit.ly/2pRzPPy
Anonymous
April 9, 2019
27,293 people have lost 20 pounds or more eating all the foods they love. Find Out how In This Free Video: https://bit.ly/2OYgw2B
Anonymous
April 7, 2019
Hi, my name is Kate and I would like to share my story. A few years ago, my body was full of cellulite. I used to be disgusted at how much cellulite I had. But, with patience and determination (and a lot of research!), I managed to almost eliminate it. All it took, was the right exercise program and a way to manipulate estrogen metabolism. Read my story here ...==> https://bit.ly/cellulitecured
Anonymous
March 12, 2019
Hi, my name is Ellen and I'm 30 years old. My weight loss journey started when I read Emma's story online. Emma's husband abandoned her for a younger woman. She turned to food for comfort and gained a lot of weight very fast. Luckily she discovered an amazing workout program that allowed her to achieve the best shape of her life. Read her story here >> https://bit.ly/getabikinibody
Anonymous
March 10, 2019
It's been a year since my husband practically threw me away like GARBAGE for being too fat and disgusting, as he called me.And that’s when I decided I’d had enough… No matter what it took I was going to look great! The first thing I wanted to do was to get rid of cellulite. After much trial and error, I finally found a program that taught me the correct body movements to stimulate all 90 muscles of my lower body and the right way to optimize my hormones through nutrient balance. The end result is astonishing. Cellulite is gone.The firmness and tightness of my body is something I've never felt before.I feel proud of myself. And so can you... Visit ==> http://bit.ly/cellulitefreenow
Anonymous
February 20, 2019
This controversial method can make you lean fast: https://bit.ly/2DmMBxk
Anonymous
February 14, 2019
A breakthrough Yoga Program that melts away flab and reshapes your body in as little as one hour a week. https://bit.ly/2S3Fk9s
Anonymous
February 14, 2019
A breakthrough Yoga Program that melts away flab and reshapes your body in as little as one hour a week. https://bit.ly/2S3Fk9s
Anonymous
February 7, 2019
Hi, let me tell you Helen's story. She is in her late 30's and she is a mom of 3 adorable children. She has always struggled with her weight especially after the birth of her third child, 6 years ago. She just stopped taking care of herself. That is one of the main reasons why her marriage fell apart, 3 years ago. Her husband didn't even want to look at her naked for years. He actually told her that he felt betrayed. And the worst part? She also felt that she betrayed herself. She was feeling ashamed, guilty and embarrassed, which made her too weak mentally to be able to lose weight. Continue here >>> https://bit.ly/bodyweightburnnow
Anonymous
January 30, 2019
My life is totally transformed after I followed this diet. https://bit.ly/2safCoC Have Lost 27 pounds in last 1 month and feeling great about myself.
Anonymous
January 30, 2019
Hi, my name is Kate and I would like to share my story. A few years ago, my body was full of cellulite. I used to be disgusted at how much cellulite I had. But, with patience and determination (and a lot of research!), I managed to almost eliminate it. All it took, was the right exercise program and a way to manipulate estrogen metabolism. Read my story here ==>... http://bit.ly/cellulitecured
Anonymous
January 21, 2019
Lost 41 pounds and 4 dress sizes. I am in the best shape of my life. Wish I had seen this amazing video earlier: https://bit.ly/2xZoIIy
Anonymous
January 11, 2019
Did you know there’s a “deep detox” you can do first thing in the morning to burn more fat? And the good news is It only takes 13-seconds! Here it is: https://bit.ly/2x45lQy
Anonymous
February 22, 2019
Interesting.
Anonymous
December 7, 2018
Eat this “superfruit” before bed to burn more fat: https://bit.ly/2G7zzXt
Anonymous
December 4, 2018
This controversial method can make you lean fast: https://bit.ly/2DmMBxk
Anonymous
December 1, 2018
sss
Anonymous
December 1, 2018
Hello, I am 62 yrs old and found that by using a natural diet supplement really helps synergistically with interval training. (I have a bit less endurance than I used to ; ) Hope this helps everyone!
Anonymous
November 29, 2018
Wanna increase muscle size, strength and performance ? i found this powerful product that is a safe, legal and side effect free i tried it myself and it realy shows good results for more info check in here -> bulkm.net
Anonymous
October 31, 2018
hey i found a rapid weight loss program that can help you lose up to 23 pounds of pure body fat in just 3 weeks!!! watch this video here -> 3weeksdiets.net
Anonymous
October 25, 2018
Did you know there’s a “deep detox” you can do first thing in the morning to burn more fat? you can burn 1.2lbs daily and It only takes 13-seconds! watch this video : flatbelydetox.net
Anonymous
October 20, 2018
Lost 41 pounds and 4 dress sizes. I am in the best shape of my life. Wish I had seen this amazing video earlier: https://bit.ly/2xZoIIy
Anonymous
July 12, 2018
A very useful Workout Program for Women is http://bit.ly/2oGlztV
Anonymous
July 7, 2018
Did you know there’s a “deep detox” you can do first thing in the morning to burn more fat? And the good news is It only takes 13-seconds! Here it is: https://bit.ly/2x45lQy
Anonymous
July 1, 2018
My life is totally transformed after I followed this diet. https://bit.ly/2safCoC Have Lost 27 pounds in last 1 month and feeling great about myself.
Anonymous
April 3, 2018
best workouts I've ever done in my office and my office is here Seattle Interval Training
Anonymous
February 3, 2018
I'm 65 and it's just a matter of moments really, before the tribe abandons me on a raft to live out my final hours. Before any of that happens I want to put in a pro-active word or two. I say exercise, exercise and exercise. Daily I engage in an intense 15 minute session meant to stress my heart and let the rest of my innards know who's boss. It all appears to be working out fine. My heart continues to beat even though I regularly ask it to beat a lot faster for no reason other than to make it beat faster. There's a zinger to this story. I've had multiple sclerosis for half my life. That monster has more or less been slain because I'm in a very solid remission and this terrible disease won't likely tilt my world any longer. The neurologist calls me his lucky man. I'm just looking forward to the next session with my MAX Trainer M5. The benefits are endless.
Anonymous
July 16, 2017