Home Blog Strength and Conditioning Programs: Rethinking Interval Training

Strength and Conditioning Programs: Rethinking Interval Training

Written on May 5, 2009 at 9:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Rethinking Interval Training

I love interval training, but one of the problems we commonly run into – particularly if someone isn’t prepared physically to sprint, or doesn’t have a place to do it because of weather restrictions – is that repetitive, low-amplitude motions are our only options.  In other words, it has to just be cycling, elliptical, or stairclimber.  While slideboard work, medicine ball medleys, barbell complexes, and sled pushing definitely help to work around these problems, when it comes down to it, many of them still don’t give certain folks the variety they need in their exercise programming.

In our Building the Efficient Athlete seminar, Mike Robertson and I spoke about the law of repetitive motion: I = NF/AR

In this equation, injury equals the number of repetitions multiplied by the frequency of those repetitions, divided by the amplitude of each repetition times the rest interval.  While you can attack each of these five factors differently (and I will in a future newsletter), the take-home point with respect to today’s discussion is that simply increasing the amplitude – or range-of-motion – in one’s daily life can reduce (or eliminate) the presence or severity of overuse conditions.

For that reason, I often substitute one or both of two different training modalities for client’s interval training.

The first is dynamic flexibility circuits with little to no rest between sets.  In this scenario, we program 2-3 different mobility/activation drills for each inefficiency the athlete displays, and then combine them in a series of drills.  Ideally, as many of these drills are done in the standing position as possible.  Let’s say a client has poor thoracic spine mobility, a horrific Thomas test, bad glute function, and poor hip external rotation.  Here’s what his circuit might look like:

a) 1-leg supine bridge

b) wall hip flexor mobilizations

c) 3-point extension-rotations

d) cradle walks

e) overhead lunge walks

f) walking spiderman with overhead reach

g) yoga push-ups

h) 1-leg SLDL walks

(you can find videos of many of these exercises in the Assess and Correct DVD set, and I’ll have more information on the rest down the road)

Is this circuit going to completely “gas” an athlete?  Absolutely not.  However, it is going to make him/her better in light of the inefficiencies I outlined above – and you don’t have to leave the gym exhausted to have improved.

The second option is to simply take a series of resistance training exercises with a corrective emphasis (sometimes integrates with the drills outlined above) and put them in a series of supersets.  For these exercises, the load utilized should only be about 30% of 1-rep max.  I outlined this option a while back in my article, Cardio Confusion. Here’s an example I used with an online consulting client recently:

A1) Overhead broomstick walking Lunges (3×10/side)

A2) Push-ups (3×12)

B1) Face pulls (3×15)

B2) Body weight only reverse lunges (3×10/side)

C1) 1-leg SLDL Walk (2×6/side)

C2) Band external rotations – arm adducted (2×15/side)

D1) Behind-the-neck band pullaparts (2×15)

D2) Bowler Squats (2×10/side)

This series is preceded by foam rolling and a dynamic flexibility warm-up, and can be followed by more “traditional” interval training.

Like I said earlier, I’m still all for both traditional and non-traditional interval training.  Initiative like I outlined above, though, can serve as a nice change of pace and work in corrective exercise while keeping the heart rate up.  Be as creative as you’d like and you’ll see great results; the sky is the limit in terms of the combinations you can use.

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  • Great stuff as usual Eric!

    I also like using corrective circuits as conditioning workouts as well.

  • In terms of amplitude or increasing the range of motion, the Russian Olympic weightlifting team preached and practiced the exact same thing when it came to developmental SPP exercises. Good stuff!

    Eric Talmant

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