Today’s blog will explain what is an anaerobic interval.
As a trainee or qualified fitness professional, you’re probably familiar with the term “anaerobic interval,” but do you really understand what it means?
- What is anaerobic?
- What is the benefit of anaerobic interval training?
- What is an interval?
- How can you progress an interval using timings?
- Watch the 8-minute video tutorial
- Plus 3 mock questions to test your knowledge
Start by watching the 8-minute video tutorial below:
Watch: What Is An Anaerobic Interval?
What is Anaerobic?
Firstly, let’s define what anaerobic means.
When we exercise, our muscles and bodily systems require energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).
Our bodies have three different energy systems that create ATP:
- the Creatine Phosphate system,
- the Lactic Acid System,
- and the aerobic system.
The first two are both anaerobic systems, which means that they do not require oxygen in order to make ATP. Instead, it uses stored glycogen.
However, the final system is aerobic which does must oxygen.
We will use all three energy systems all the time, yet we will be biased to one of these depending on the environment and the demand we place on the body.
This is also the case during cardiovascular training sessions like…
rowing, swimming, running or cycling.
A training session that uses the anaerobic energy system will be intense with heart rates at or above the anaerobic threshold.
The anaerobic threshold is the point where the body switches from predominantly aerobic to predominantly anaerobic metabolism.
This occurs when we are working at or above 80% of our maximum heart rate (MHR) or an RPE of 8/10.
The downside of training at this intensity is that the supply of energy dwindles quickly. This means an anaerobic intensity cannot be held for more than 3 mins.
This is where an anaerobic interval comes in – it involves working at or above this threshold for a period of time, followed by a rest period.
What are the benefits of an Anaerobic Interval?
So, what are the benefits of incorporating anaerobic intervals into your clients’ training?
One major benefit is improved VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
VO2 max is a key determinant of cardiovascular fitness, and anaerobic intervals have been shown to be an effective way of increasing it.
Additionally, anaerobic intervals can be an effective tool for fat loss.
High-intensity exercise has been shown to increase post-exercise metabolic rate, meaning your body continues to burn calories long after you finish your workout.
Anaerobic intervals can improve overall cardiovascular fitness by increasing the strength and efficiency of the heart and lungs.
Another benefit is that higher-intensity exercises are often programmed for shorter time durations. This means clients can fit in more short training sessions even if they are busy.
What is an Interval Training System?
An interval is a cardiovascular training system.
It is characterised by a period of work followed by a period of rest. This has to repeat in a unified manner, so each interval is identical.
Intervals can be performed at different intensities and durations and can be positive, neutral, or negative in terms of intensity.
Positive intervals involve a short work period, followed by a longer rest period.
i.e. Work = 1 min. Rest = 2 mins.
Neutral intervals involve work and rest intervals that are the same length.
i.e. Work = 1 min. Rest = 1 min.
Negative intervals involve longer work periods with shorter rest periods.
i.e. Work = 2 mins. Rest = 1 min.
The pattern of intervals should repeat in a regular pattern and can be progressed over time by changing between positive, neutral and negative intervals.
You can also progress the intensity from Aerobic Intervals to Anaerobic Intervals.
What is an Anaerobic interval?
In a nutshell…
It is a cardiovascular training system the work intervals are anaerobic heart rates for a period of time less than 3 mins. This is followed by a rest period at a lower aerobic heart rate. Then repeat this same work: rest pattern until the end of the session.
Remember the work must be above or equal to 80% MHR, and the rest must be aerobic (below 80% MHR) to allow for recovery.
An example of a positive anaerobic interval may look like this…
- A safe and effective warm-up to ready the body and mind
- 1 minute work @ RPE 9/10 or 90% MHR
- 2 minutes rest @ RPE 6/10 or 60% MHR
- Repeat x 10 intervals = total 30 mins main component
- A safe and effective cool down
When to plan anaerobic intervals?
It’s important to note that anaerobic intervals are not suitable for everyone. Clients who are new to exercise or who have underlying health conditions may not be able to tolerate the high intensity of anaerobic intervals.
As always, it’s important to work with your clients to develop a safe and effective exercise program that meets their individual needs and goals.
In conclusion, anaerobic intervals can be a valuable tool for improving VO2 max, promoting fat loss, and increasing overall cardiovascular fitness.
Test your knowledge with today’s mock questions:
[NOTE: The answers are below the 3rd question]
Q1: At which intensity is the anaerobic threshold?
A. 50% MHR
B. 70% MHR
C. 80% MHR
D. 95% MHR
Q2: Which is an example of a Negative interval?
A. 1 min work and 3 mins rest
B. 1 min work and 1 min rest
C. 2 mins work and 2 mins rest
D. 2 mins work and 1 min rest
Q3: Which statement best describes an Anaerobic interval?
A. A cardiovascular training system whereby the work intervals are less than 70% MHR. This is followed by a rest period at a lower aerobic heart rate. Then repeat this same work: rest pattern until the end of the session.
B. A cardiovascular training system whereby the work intervals are anaerobic heart rates for a period of time less than 3 mins. This is followed by a rest period at a lower aerobic heart rate. Then repeat this same work: rest pattern until the end of the session.
C. A cardiovascular training system whereby the work and rest intervals look random. There are varying times and intensities throughout one session.
D. A resistance training system whereby the exercises are strenuous and require regular rests.
Answers to the mock questions are :
Question 1= C, Question 2 = D, Question 3 = B
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There’s not just one Cardiovascular Training System
There are over 16 Cardiovascular training systems that are taught in the Level 3 PT syllabus which can be overwhelming to distinguish which training system to use and when to plan them.
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