Interval Training Improves Your Endurance, Better Than Endurance Exercise!

June 10, 2009

I’ve been a fan of HIIT and interval training for well over a decade. It jacks up the metabolism, increases your natural fat burning hormone (HGH) and simply helps you lose a lot more body fat than diet alone. None of this is news to those familiar with interval training. What many people don’t realize is that interval training also increases your ability to do endurance exercise. The crazy thing is that intervals may be more effective at increasing endurance than endurance exercise itself!

interval training

[I was looking for a good exercise photo, but nothing wow’d me. Instead, I just put up a photo I liked with great use of color.]

The Interval Training Study With Surprising Results

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology back in 2005, took 16 subjects and divided them into 2 groups. Eight people did two weeks of sprint intervals, and eight people were the a control group who did nothing over these two weeks. Both groups were tested for endurance capacity, before and after these two weeks. They found that the interval group doubled their “endurance capacity” in this short time period!

Note: Here is a PDF abstract of the study: Six Sessions of Sprint Interval Training Increases Muscle Oxidative Potential and Cycle Endurance Capacity in Humans

Better Endurance Benefits Than Endurance Exercise

So we know that HIIT has been proven to increase endurance more than people who do nothing, but what about people who do endurance exercise? The researchers say that the result of their interval study is…”comparable to or higher than previously reported aerobic-based training studies of similar duration”. The subjects in their study, increased their endurance capacity more than an endurance study…where the participants did endurance exercise for a total of 20 hours in two weeks (2 hours per day for 5 days each week).

15 Minutes of HIIT vs 2 Hours of “Regular” Cardio?

It is kind of crazy to think that doing HIIT can increase endurance capacity more than doing endurance exercise itself. This will be a pretty big paradigm shift for a lot of people. This study isn’t new by any means, but this info still hasn’t reached mainstream. To this day, I rarely see people doing any type of interval work in the gym. It really is mind boggling! We have known for 15+ years that HIIT is superior to burning fat…and for the past 5 years that interval training may be one of the best ways to increase endurance.

What This Means for Endurance Athletes

I still believe that you must include endurance exercise if you are an endurance athlete. You have to strengthen the tendons and muscles to be able to endure the pain involved in endurance exercise. What I would recommend is a mix of intervals along with your endurance training. That way you get the best of both worlds.

What This Means for Everyone Else

I like to “milk” a little more fat burning after HIIT by throwing in some steady state cardio. This also conditions my body and joints a bit for sports that require me to run for extended periods. It feels good to know that I can run for 20-30 minutes without feeling body aches the next 2-3 days. That being said…I do limit this to about 1-2 times per week these days. If you are just after getting lean there probably isn’t any real need for long periods of steady state cardio.

Note: I do believe we need to walk more. I am going to do a detailed post on walking soon. I think that there are big, big benefits of walking and staying active throughout the week. I didn’t always think this way, but a findings from a recent study have been a big eye-opener!

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Norbi June 13, 2009 at 4:02 pm

RockStar,

yes, I figured it out in the meantime. 🙂

Irish,

that HIIT is BRUTAL! 🙂

admin June 13, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Yash,

I still have people that look at me funny when I’m doing “interval type” work. I have had people ask questions while I’m doing it. It is tough to answer them because typically I’m catching my breath at the time.

Rockstar,

Anything along those lines will work very well. Getting that heart rate jacked up works well in stripping off the body fat. I still like to mix in low volume strength training to make the muscle a bit harder and defined…but this will certainly get you lean.

Josh,

I like to do the strength training first, but there could be a specific benefit of doing it after HIIT. You would train to be able to maintain strength even when out of breath. This is a good skill for a fighter or an athlete to have. The amount lifted wouldn’t be as much, but it could translate to better athletic performance, because it mimics what happens in some sports. Good call.

Norbi,

Glad you found my site. I really appreciate it that you take the time to comment on most of the posts. Keep up the great work!

Dash,

Yeah…if someone is going to run a marathon they certainly need to include runs of longer distances. I’m sure the mental aspects of a longer run are much better than these short workouts. Some of these intervals or body weight circuits are tough!

Dave,

I’m glad you like the photo. At some point I want to try to work up to an average of 1-3 miles of walking per day. I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet, but I think it is something to aim for.

Denmark,

I like a bit of steady state cardio done 1-2 times per week after HIIT. So do HIIT after lifting, and when you have a bit of extra energy…do steady state after the HIIT. This isn’t something to be done every workout. Typically I’ll add the steady state cardio if I feel like I’m “carb depleted” and had a great HIIT workout. I want my body to be in optimum fat burning mode, if I’m going to bother with steady state cardio. Hope that makes sense.

Michael,

I’ve done a similar workout on a treadmill before. Kind of fun for a change of pace.

Ramon,

I need to take the time to read the Primal Blueprint. When I do, I will definitely review it. I love Mark’s message…plus he is ultra-fit and looks great. He is one of my role models for sure!

Bill,

I have made every mistake in the book. The cool thing about the Internet is that we can mastermind together and help people avoid a lot of these same mistakes. I was a dork in the gym when I was younger as well. Thanks god I’ve seen the light!

Irish,

I really like the Adonis Effect course. I’m actually reviewing Adonis Effect 2.0 before John Barban launches it. It is outstanding. John has a belief on muscle gain that is unlike anything I have ever read. I may have him do a guest post on this HUGE paradigm shift. Stay tuned. Your football sprinting workout sounds awesome! I need to meet a friend at the track so I don’t cheat and rest too long. I have a feeling this is going to be tough!

Jason G,

The traditional stairmaster can be tough, but what I recommend is the Step-mill…the one with the actual physical steps that rotate like a mini-escalator. It is the toughest piece of cardio equipment in the gym.

Partick,

My thoughts exactly (read the comment right above this)!

Monica,

Yep…that is what I would recommend most of the time as your body will be primed to get the most out of steady state cardio at that time.

Rusty

Rena June 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm

You are right on the mark about HIIT. I first learned about this idea on the Body for Life program. It is known that regular cardio will jack your metabolism for an hour after, but HIIT can boost the rate for 24 hours after. So many people don’t know this– GREAT job on your post!
:+)RR

tim June 13, 2009 at 10:03 pm

hey rusty been following your site for a couple years now. I just landed a modeling job and i am going for poloroids next couple weeks I was wondering if there was anything diet wise or workout that i could do to get that extra look i am all ready pretty lean anything be great

M0L June 14, 2009 at 1:59 am

about the tighs…will they get bigger doing the crazy 8 or jumping rope?…im worried about not fitting my pants…and i want to slim them down a lot..what do you recommend to loose size on my legs and trim inner tighs?

PS..just saw never back down..looove the physique..(they have some tyler durdem going on) on the other side…the plot was like a lame remake of karate kid..lolz.. xD

Jason G June 14, 2009 at 2:28 am

Rusty,

Sorry the company named stair master makes step mills. I just misspoke.

kristin June 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

rusty,

i love this article! i first discovered HIIT about 1.5 years ago. But i have a question for you —- when i first did hitt i got really, really lean (hellllloooo abs!) within a matter of weeks. i mean… the flab on my tummy and thighs just melted right off. then my life got very stressful and my clean diet went out the window. i re-gained the flab.

now i’ve been doing HIIT for months but then flab won’t budge!! i lost some fat, but not NEARLY as much as i lost when i first started HIIT. everything else is the same (clean diet now, strength training, etc.). so my question is… what gives?? why is HIIT not working for me this time around? do you suppose my body is conditioned to HIIT so it’s performing more effectively and not needing to burn as much fat as it did the first time around?

btw, when i do HIIT i do:
5-10 mins warm up

30s sprint at 5:30m/hour pace
60s jog at 12m/hour pace
(do this about 10x.. for total of 15mins)

5 mins cool down

then if time: 10-20 mins of slow cardio

myra June 14, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Hi Rusty
where did you get that picture? Only she looks a bit like me!!
I actually learnt about HIIT from your site when you did a post on it about 10 months ago, so Ive been doing it for some time and the weight dropped off my fitness levels increased and it takes the boredom out of it by alternating the speeds. Like you i combine HIIT with steady cardio afterwards. Ive reached my target, if i lose any more i could lose the muscle so im just maintaining it now. I never see anyone else doing HITT which is strange, but my pet hate is seeing people walking for ages on the treadmill!!

Jason the Chinese Guy June 16, 2009 at 2:01 am

hey I was wondering if the elliptical would work well for loosing muscle and fat too. It burns alot of calories even though it’s alot easier than running, that is if the number shown on the machine is correct.

I been following your website for more than a year now, and I’ve been doing stubborn fat protocol for half a year. Usually i just do treadmills with intervals warm up with 4.5, then 10, 5, 10.5, 5, 11, 5, 11, 5. After that comes the 5 minutes of resting. Then I hop on the treadmill to do 6~8 mph for 25~40mins. Alotta times I get cramps or somewhere near my left oblique hurts, so I go on the ellipticals instead. My gym offers life fitness elliptical machines but they also have the cybex arc trainer in the link below

ellipticaltrainers.com/model/cybex_homearctrainer.htm

Do you think it would do me any good going on this one? or do you think i should just go on the life fitness ones.

Oh and also I am taking caffeine 30 mins before start lifting, or should i follow the SFP exactly and take it during my weight resistance training timing it 30 mins before I start my SFP.

Do you think it’s too much cardio if I play basketball and go swimming after lifting and Stubborn Fat Protocol?

For your info to answer my questions easier.. I am also following Eat Stop Eat(yes, i bought the book), and my weight resistance training is a 2 day split with almost everything 3 slow/controlled reps per set like you recommended(some exercises like weighted dips, wide grip chin-ups, and standing barbell military press I do 5 reps). I am almost 5″8 and weight around 155 pound. I’d say I am around 7% body fat right now, aiming for 5 or 6.

Sorry I have so many questions.. they just kept coming up when I am typing. It’d be great if you can answer all of them. This site is just amazing. The info here are so educational. I almost read all your articles. Thank you rusty!

Jason the Chinese Guy June 16, 2009 at 2:03 am

hey I was wondering if the elliptical would work well for loosing muscle and fat too. It burns alot of calories even though it’s alot easier than running, that is if the number shown on the machine is correct.

I been following your website for more than a year now, and I’ve been doing stubborn fat protocol for half a year. Usually i just do treadmills with intervals warm up with 4.5, then 10, 5, 10.5, 5, 11, 5, 11, 5. After that comes the 5 minutes of resting. Then I hop on the treadmill to do 6~8 mph for 25~40mins. Alotta times I get cramps or somewhere near my left oblique hurts, so I go on the ellipticals instead. My gym offers life fitness elliptical machines but they also have the cybex arc trainer in the link below

http://www.ellipticaltrainers.com/model/cybex_homearctrainer.htm

Do you think it would do me any good going on this one? or do you think i should just go on the life fitness ones.

Jason the Chinese Guy June 16, 2009 at 2:03 am

Oh and also I am taking caffeine 30 mins before start lifting, or should i follow the SFP exactly and take it during my weight resistance training timing it 30 mins before I start my SFP.

Do you think it’s too much cardio if I play basketball and go swimming after lifting and Stubborn Fat Protocol?

For your info to answer my questions easier.. I am also following Eat Stop Eat(yes, i bought the book), and my weight resistance training is a 2 day split with almost everything 3 slow/controlled reps per set like you recommended(some exercises like weighted dips, wide grip chin-ups, and standing barbell military press I do 5 reps). I am almost 5″8 and weight around 155 pound. I’d say I am around 7% body fat right now, aiming for 5 or 6.

Sorry I have so many questions.. they just kept coming up when I am typing. It’d be great if you can answer all of them. This site is just amazing. The info here are so educational. I almost read all your articles. Thank you rusty!

kristin June 18, 2009 at 7:02 pm

rusty,

please, please, please let me know what you think about my question. the one about one’s body adapting to HIIT. i do understand that you can change up the speed, incline, durationg etc. of your workout… but i also read that 30/60 is a great ratio and increasing the incline builds bulky legs (something i do not want!).

thanks! looking forward to hearing from you 😉

Jason the Chinese Guy June 19, 2009 at 4:14 am

sorry for double posting up there. At first when I posted it up, it didn’t show up for some reason, it just shows a line of white space. So I figured it was too long, and I split the post in two for it to work. Later on I checked this page and the first post somehow worked.

Anyways, I missed one of the interval for my HIIT routine up there. It should be “Usually i just do treadmills with intervals warm up with 4.5, then 10, 5, 10.5, 5, 11, 5, 11, 5, 11.”

And the question about the elliptical machines, there’s also Precor elliptical machines at my gym. Are those ones better for fat loss?

It’d be great if you can answer my questions. Thanks Rusty!

Kenny June 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hey Rusty I was wondering… I am really getting serious about being lean, I follow your weightlifting 2 day split routine and was wondering is it okay to do about 25 minutes of HIIT on a Upright stationary bike instead of on a treadmill after im done lifting. Thanks let me know

admin July 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm

M0L,

Your thighs won’t get bigger at all from jumping rope. You should be fine with Crazy 8 Body Weight Circuit as well.

kristin,

You should experiment with the time ratios. Why don’t you try 60 seconds of fast with 60 seconds of slow. Also…try incorporating body weight circuits.

myra,

I pay for my photos…that is why they look so sharp. It adds expense to running this blog, but I think it pays off. I am actually shocked that such a small percentage of people do HIIT. It works so well.

Jason the Chinese Guy,

I really like the elliptical after HIIT. If you want to lose fat it works very well, but probably isn’t harsh enough to be able to do marathon cardio (to lose muscle mass on pupose). I feel the fast jogging that you are doing is the best way to lighten up and lose both fat and muscle (this is why boxers do “road work” and jog a lot when trying to make weight). What you are doing will work well…just don’t do it long term. Get to the point where you are lean and slim, then drop that marathon cardio. Also…I think both ellipticals will work equally as well. I like to use the ellipticals without arm movement (I like the Precor model)…just resting my arms on stationary handles. As far as caffeine goes…I would take it before lifting. Your resistance training actually primes the body for fat buring as well, releases HGH, etc…in a way it works some of the same systems as your HIIT…so take your caffeine before lifting. You sound like you are doing the perfect routine to hit your goals. If you do decide to play basketball or swimming, then limit your HIIT to 10 minutes (8 total intervals)…don’t go as hard and see if you can fit it in before basketball or swimming for maximum fat burning effect.

Kenny,

Yep…I’ve found the upright stationary bikes work extremely well for HIIT. I use those from time to time and experience a serious HGH Flush in about 15 minutes. You probably don’t need to go for 25 minutes…but if you don’t feel exhausted or totally burnt out, then give it a shot for 25 minutes.

Cheers,

Rusty

Markham December 18, 2009 at 8:40 pm

So as a former track athlete intervals are nothing new to me, as I spent 10+ years of my life doing them on a regular basis as part of my regular training.

HOWEVER, I think there is still some confusion around the topic.

Quick story:

Back in the day we sprinters basically did what a lot of people would call HIIT practically every day, constant sprinting at high speeds, short rest periods and going again.

Were we all super lean, in great shape and able to run with the competition?

Sure.

Did it increase our cardiovascular endurance?

No.

Every now and then coach would make us do some distance work with the distance people, especially in the fall, we had one workout a week with the cross-country team.

Well, the girl’s cross country team

It was a hill workout, we’d sprint about 100M up a bill and jog down. In the beginning we’d beat the girls with our superior speed, but they never slowed down, in fact it was their EASY day so they would eventually run by us and laugh.

No seriously, they laughed at us.

Simply put: sprinters are doing intervals every day and don’t have the endurance to keep up with their distance running teammates. In fact even athletes who say run cross-country in the fall or come from an endurance background, who do sprints in track find themselves less fit cardio wise after doing sprint workouts.

So why the results in the studies?

Simple: the people doing steady state cardio at your local gym are going at “lazy speeds”, they’re going at an easy pace they feel comfortable maintaining, and they’re not pushing themselves on a regular basis. I.e. they don’t train like endurance athletes AT ALL.

SO when they do intervals they’re actually pushing themselves, so they get better results than the do from their lazy workouts.

The exercise isn’t the problem, it’s the 1/2-ass approach.

They’re not building cardio capacity as they don’t push themselves, unlike an endurance athlete who is pushing for personal bests at various distances, pushing themselves against teammates/training partners, etc.

No endurance athlete trains in that nonsensical 60-70% of max effort fat burning zone that someone came up, nor do they use machines in a gym. No, they’re outside running, in a pool, riding a real bike, etc.

It’s not comparable.

Trust me, give me 10 athletes that I train the traditional way for a 5k and have someone else train 10 athletes with HIIT and my guys will wipe the floor with them.

Ask anyone in the track, swimming or cycling worlds and they’ll agree.

This is not to say intervals aren’t of value to endurance athletes, they use them too, just differently. When I ran (and coached) the distance guys would run several miles, than do track work and then run some more. The track work developed their speed and ability to kick, whilst the endurance work developed, well, endurance.

-Markham

Jordan January 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Hey Rusty, I’m new on this website, I love it !
I need to build MASSIVE levels of endurance in the next month or so,
I need to run a mile in about 4.5 or 5 minutes,
and i’m not such a good runner.
what’s the best possible thing I can do?

Candace February 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

There are several studies that show interval training is a benefit for endurance athletes, going all the way back to the early 1990s. New research just supports those earlier results.

AR March 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Hey Rusty, do you absolutely have to eat after doing some HIIT cardio? For some reason, doing that makes me really sleepy.

dp April 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I wanted to let you know that there are several home dvds on the market that incorporate HIIT training which I think are excellent for both men and women.

1st: Insanity (Beachbody.com) – 60 day program that has a calendar for working out 6 days a week. This is intense

2nd: Cathe STS training set#3 has a series of plyo legs (4 total) that incorporate plyo and weight lifting – I love this series. (cathe.com)

3rd: Cathe HIIT training (3 training sessions) (Cathe.com)

4th: Jilllian Michaels: Banish fat boost metabolism and 30 day shred.
(amazon.com)

I hope this helps because all of these workouts will kick your butt and will be a wonderful addition to this program. I am just getting started with the eating part of this which is where I needed help.

machete July 19, 2010 at 4:41 am

I was wondering if there was anything diet wise or workout that i could do to get that extra look i am all ready pretty lean anything be great

Mike @ Papa Star Health January 4, 2011 at 2:14 am

The Tabata protocol is a burner for sure! it really builds up the lactic acid and you can tell it works…

jt February 12, 2011 at 12:53 am

If you can do cardio at the end of your HIIT, you’re not doing HIIT hard enough! In the study, they pushed the intensity up by a very special protocol to EXTREMELY high levels. By the 4th 30-second interval, you should be FATIGUED to the point of not being able to do any more!
I don’t think you’re REALLY doing HIT per the study you reference! Same goes with Tabata–there’s a LOT of misunderstanding out there. It actually takes a seasoned athlete to be able to work thru the pain you SHOULD feel in a real HIT workout.

Raw Food Guys March 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Very awesome article. I do both explosive exercises and regular cardio. But when I combine a 100% raw food mostly vegan diet the results are Out OF This World :0) Highly recommended

Raw Food Guys

WHM May 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I’ve been walking about 3 miles/day for for over 25 years, eat basically a Mediterranean diet for about 15 years. My weight has stayed within 5 lbs of what it was 25 years ago (150 lbs) when I was in my mid 20s. I’ve recently begun hiit 3 x weekly by sprinting hills in my walk routine. Actually feel more energized at the end of these sessions than before. I’m guessing added endorphins give this effect.

Andreas Schumacher June 6, 2011 at 5:29 am

Excellent article ! I love to swim, incorporate intervall training in the pool, amazing results 🙂

Sincerely

Andreas

john adler June 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Very interesting article. Interval training is not only a fun way to lose weight, but also a quick way. When you burn fat both during as well as after your workout, as with interval training, your workouts are more effective.

Emma Grimes June 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm

A very interesting read. I always believed in this theory that varying your training is key,,, after all you don’t want your body getting use to the one thing, Great read, thanks for posting it.

Ab Exer June 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I like your website, Also knowing your Ab Exer workouts, will help you know the right amount exercise to perform. The Crunches and Sit ups are the popular ab exercise. They give the abs a good workout and they do not put any strain on the back.

Cardio to get abs July 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Interval training is my favorite workout especially after a cheat meal :)) Great results in minutes.

Marcus Ramot August 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I believe not only is Exercise important but you should have a very balanced diet if you want those rock hard abs.

A-TEAM Playground Workout August 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

She is beautiful!

SexyvWeight August 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Trekking is my favorite form of endurance training exercise. Of course this should be coupled with good diets

otaoec December 13, 2011 at 12:22 am

I believe not only is Exercise important but you should have a very balanced diet if you want those rock hard abs.

Online Dating Free Sites February 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

I believe not only is Exercise important but you should have a very balanced diet if you want those rock hard abs.

Free Dating Online February 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

Very interesting article. Interval training is not only a fun way to lose weight, but also a quick way. When you burn fat both during as well as after your workout, as with interval training, your workouts are more effective.

Molly September 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hi, im 13, girl and i really like your article! Just a question:
Right now i have started exercising, and yes i will include HIIT into my exercise..Just, im wondering: I already have cellulite on my thighs, so if i do HIIT will i lose my cellulite and get slim thighs?

And also, how long does it take to see the smallest difference, by that i mean your belly shrinking? Thanks!

Ann May 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

Nice read. I’m a fan of HIIT. So much more fun than trudging away on a stair climber or bike for an hour!

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