What is Interval Training?


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This article provides an overview of interval training from the perspective of exercise and fitness. Interval training, a derivative of intermittent training, is a ‘fitness craze’ that has been ongoing for a number of decades, although intermittent training (in some form) can be traced back to at least the 1500s.

Although many may recognise the term high-intensity interval training (aka HIIT), which was popularised in the 1990s, professional athletes have been using some form of interval training since the 1950s. Some sports personalities were utilising a rudimentary form of interval training, from the 1920s, before the term was coined.

Regardless of its origins, interval training has subsequently grown into a hug business and, according to IT Brief, Linkedin (a business networking site) had 450 million members worldwide in 2016 (Barker, 2016), of which 37,185 of these members stated they had interval training as a skill.

Defining interval training precisely can be somewhat problematic as it means slightly different things to different people. However, most commentators agree that it is higher-intensity bouts of exercise followed by lower-intensity bouts of passive or active recovery which is repeated a number of times.

Interval training can be applied to a variety of sports and exercises, for example running, swimming and press-ups – limitations are generally the imagination of the individual/coach.

As the reader will (hopefully) come to realise from reading this article, the underlying purpose of interval training, and its permutations, is sound. However, for many, the meaning of interval training has been distorted/confused through the plethora of definitions, hybridisation and accretion of its original purpose.


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