Interval training is a potent weapon for torching body fat, raising cardiovascular fitness and boosting blood flow to your brain, which is why all the best professional athletes build interval workouts into their training schedules. Over the last few years our RSNG contributor has spoken to some of the world’s most successful athletes, unlocking priceless insights into their most effective and challenging interval workouts.
So, we decided to bring you some of the best hacks from the pack. Structured around short, sharp bursts of exercise that are easy to weave into your daily schedule, these high-performance workouts are designed to shed unwanted weight, crank up fat-burning metabolism, and enhance fitness levels. They will also improve your lactic threshold – enabling you to exercise at a higher intensity before a build-up of lactic acid flames your muscles – and release mood-boosting endorphins, helping to sharpen your body and mind. If you’re new to this kind of training, check with your doctor before attempting any of these sessions, and if in doubt consult a personal trainer – now, get sweating!
Anthony Joshua: Heavyweight World Champion
‘I do fasted cardio before breakfast to build my fitness and burn fat. Unless you wake up two hours before you train, it’s hard to have a breakfast first anyway, and we like to start early. Every fight is based on three-minute rounds with one-minute rests so I head down to a 400m track and complete a 900m run within three minutes, followed by one minute’s rest. I’ll do that up to eight times.’
Jos Buttler: England Cricketer
‘I now do more circuit-based and CrossFit style training – lots of different exercises but without much rest in between. It is mainly power-based activities like squat jumps, Olympic lifts, clean and jerks, and weighted chin-ups. I need a level of fitness which allows me to recover fast. With some of these sessions I do four or five exercises with very little recovery.’
‘The best way for a guy to get in shape, lose weight and feel toned is by doing circuits’
Geraint Thomas, 2018 Tour de France Champion
‘We do a lot of spiked efforts. Even if you are riding at your threshold, in a race it’s never constant (unless you are in a time trial) so we do a lot of spiked efforts, with 15-second sprints every few minutes, or one minute at higher watts, and then we come back and try to recover at still quite a high pace. That stuff certainly brings you on a lot.’
Nathan Redmond, Southampton Footballer
‘These days it’s not so much about long runs but short, sharp runs similar to in a game. We do one running session which is called ‘four fours’: that means four minutes on and four minutes off. It’s a really good session for fitness.’
Mark Foster: Six-time Swimming World Champion
‘The best way for a guy to get in shape, lose weight and feel toned is by doing circuits. If you’re not an Olympic athlete or a professional footballer there’s no need to train for two hours every day. I find that twenty minutes in the morning or at lunchtime is enough time for a great workout. Men become very good at excuses but we can all find the time to do a 20-minute circuit of press-ups, squat thrusts, star jumps, abs exercises and lunges.’
Sam Oldham: Team GB Gymnast
‘I start off my training early in the morning at 7.30am with hill-running, which is basically interval running up and down hills. It is the best cardio for me because it directly relates to gymnastics – it’s like a short floor routine during which I might do six tumbles – and it helps me keep the weight off.’
‘Hills work as intervals – you ride up them hard and then recover before the next one’
Johnny Sexton: Ireland Rugby Star
‘Being fit really helps you to control your breathing. We don’t do as much long-distance stuff these days; it’s all about sharp, high-intensity sprints. Back in the day we did 400m and 3k runs, but now it is more like 10m turn-around sprints or longer 70-80m intervals.’
Harry Tanfield: 2018 Commonwealth Games Time Trial Silver Medalist
‘A good training session is 30 secs on, 15 secs off, for 15 mins. For me, that means doing 30 secs at about 500 watts and recovering at 250-260 watts so you are never quite recovering and it just builds and builds. By the end of the 15 min block you’re pretty nailed. But you do three blocks of that.’
Barry Geraghty: 2003 Grand National Winner
‘I do a lot of circuit training because it’s the best way to keep your metabolism really high. It’s mainly bodyweight stuff like push ups, squats, lunges and core work on a gym ball. I generally try to exercise half an hour before eating food, even if it is only with a 15-minute circuit, because it gets my metabolism nice and high before I eat. I do a lot of skipping which is great for raising your metabolism.’
Alistair Brownlee: Double Olympic Triathlon Champion
‘When you ride fast and then rest for a bit, it causes a spike in your heart rate and helps your body deal with lactic acid. But you don’t need to make it too complicated. Yorkshire is perfect because the hills work as intervals – you ride up them hard and then recover before the next one. Or you can just sprint to the next tree or lamppost.’
WHAT NEXT? If you want to train like a World or Olympic champion then check out the book by brothers Ali and Jonny Brownlee: Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story by Ali and Jonny Brownlee.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.