Sunday, February 16, 2014

Different Types of Intervals

This isn't the post I was planning on writing today, but I've been thinking about the topic, since it's part of the workout I'm doing right now. As I'm sure you know if you've been reading this blog I advocate for intervals for conditioning. But their are different kinds of approaches to intervals depending on your objective.

Interval training can usefully help develop two different traits: maximum power and recovery. Both of these are relevant to HEMA in different ways. Training at and above our aerobic max (VO2max) will increase the body's ability to generate energy at such high intensities. This facilitates the brief bursts of power in a fight. The outcome we are looking for is to increase our maximum power output. Go faster, jump higher, put out more calories per minute.

For optimum power development we need each interval to begin reasonably refreshed. This means taking relatively long rest periods.

We define our intervals by how long the high-intensity portion lasts and the work to rest ratio. The table below lays out the basic programming numbers.

Intervals for Power and Energy System Development

% of Maximum Power*
Typical Exercise Time
Work:Rest ratios
5-10 seconds
1:12 to 1:20
15-30 seconds
1:3 to 1:5
1-3 minutes
1:3 to 1:4
>3 minutes
1:1 to 1:3

* Percent of maximum is not VO2max, which is the maximum aerobic power. When we push into anaerobic training is possible to hit 170% plus of VO2max.

Starting up again shortly after these bursts helps develop the ability to recover quickly and do it again and again over the course of the fight. This is also an important characteristic to develop. This kind of conditioning will also increase your training capacity.

When intervals are restarted again after insufficient rest then your body starts tapping into additional energy systems. Metabolic waste starts to build up and performance decreases from interval to interval. Over time this type of training will shrink the performance decrement - which ultimately is the objective.

When training for recovery and capacity use work:rest ratios of 2:1, 1:1, 2:1. This is the kind of protocol that Tabata made famous and which typically characterize high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs. In fighting we frequently have the opportunity to pull back and take a breather, because of this it is not always necessary to train in this mode.


There are lots of possibilities for using the above to write a program. This is what I'm currently doing:
Sunday: Ten 15-yard sprints, these take about 3 seconds and I have an interval timer running to give me 30 seconds between sprints. ~5 minutes
This is followed by four 1-minute runs with 4-minute walks in-between. I do this on the treadmill which makes keeping track of time easy. The runs are at 10.5 mph currently, which leaves me almost stumbling after a minute. The walk is only 3 mph since it's for recovery.

Wednesday: 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off, for 16 intervals. I alternate between sled pulls and swings for these intervals. The swings are easier than the sled pulls allowing me to dial back the intensity a bit and up the training volume. ~ 16 minutes

Friday: This is my steady state day - 20 minutes on the treadmill. I'm working to increase the speed of the run, not the time.


Pick your interval training to achieve your training objective. A mixed approach works well for HEMA since our energy demands are varied.

The table is adapted from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition by Baechle and Earle.

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