If you’d rather spend your time training and doing other things,you can do these tried and tested, the well-documented workouts to make sure your heart is taken care of. The workout designs are not mine, but they are my suggestions to you or anyone you know that are pressed for time or lacks motivation. This article is for you who are a beginner in this specific type of training, interval training for cardio respiratory fitness (read more about that HERE), but the workouts are also suitable for anyone looking to preserve this capacity while focusing more on strength and speed based work.
We’re keeping’em short and sweet!
The 1 minute workout:
This is a concept developed and documented by Marin J. Gibala (Ph.D) and colleagues.It’s based upon the fact that all you need to do is one minute of hard work. Well, the workout itself takes 10 minutes. Still, a 10 minute workout sounds doable, right?
The study was done on sedentary men and is therefore suitable for people who hardly ever do any kind of endurance exercise. The results showed an increase of 12% in VO2max after 6 weeks of training and in total 19% in VO2max after 12 weeks of training.
This is how you do it:
Week 1: 1 session
Week 2: 2 sessions
Week: 3-12: 3 sessions.
Warm-up: 2 minutes on a stationary bike.
Main part: 3 x 20 second all-out sprint with active breaks of pedaling on ca. 50 Watts (W) for 2 minutes. When you rate your perceived exertion (RPE) on a scale from 6-20, you should be as close to 20 as possible. Just go as hard as you can for the 20 seconds.
Cool-down: 3 minutes on ca. 50W
There you go and time can never be an excuse for not taking care of your heart ever again. If you want to hear from Professor Gibala himself I can recommend listening to his episode on The Tim Ferris Podcast HERE. It is really!
Why I call these Tabata-“like” I’ll explain in another article, but this too is a short and intense one for you. Tabata intervals stem from Izumi Tabata (Ph.D) and his team of scientists. Their research (2) shows that these intense bursts may improve both the aerobic (7 ml/kg/min) and anaerobic capacity (28%)in active, male students, where most of them were physically active and were members of varsity table tennis, baseball, basketball, football and swimming teams.
Originally the Tabata intervals should be performed on a stationary bike at a load (Watt) corresponding to 170% of your VO2max. How can that be 100% is your max, right? They ad another 70% to your Watt on VO2max. So if you have tested-your VO2max on a bike and know your VO2max-Watt you can easily reproduce their study protocol and perhaps elicit the similar effects.
If not, then you can not really claim that you are doing Tabata intervals even if you are doing 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off, like the the protocol says. If your are not working on 170% of you VO2max load on a stationary bike you can’t expect the same results from doing different exercises in a circuit or such like.
A big however though: However, Tabata intervals are “effing” hard, as you can imagine. They are so effing hard that you can forget about you using heart rate as a measure for just how hard.
This is how you do it:
Frequency: 2-6 times per week.
Warm-up: 15 minutes of whole body work, like running, rowing or other whole body movement exercises.
Main part: 7-8 sets of 20 seconds hard work and 10 seconds rest in between. Originally done on a stationary bike with 85 rpm (rounds per minute) as the lowest cadence allowed. If you are able to do 9 rounds, 11 Watts should be added to the load, because you were not working her enough.
Cool-down: 10 minutes of easy whole body work.
As you probably understand you have to give it your ALL for those 20 seconds, but for such a short workout where both the aerobic and anaerobic system will be improving it is surely worth it.
A classic: 4 x 4 minutes
This is a workout that suits people of all physical levels. It is commonly used as a VO2max-boosting workout for beginners to intermediate levels (1,2), and is used as a part of an athlete’s tapering program or to maintain his or her cardio respiratory fitness.
There have been several studies conducted with this protocol and they all show solid results and significant increases in VO2max. The size of the increases vary with the populations studied, but the poorer the fitness the better the results. You can do this on a bike climbing a not too steep uphill, on a treadmill on 5.3% incline or running/power-walking uphills outside.
This is how you do it:
Frequency: 2-3 times per week
Warm up: 15 minutes warm-up on an easy pace. You should feel warm and have a light sweat before you start.
Main part: You do 4 minutes of work on 90% of maximal heart rate, then a 3 minute break follows in which should stay active on about 70% of maximal heart rate, whether that means easy pedaling, running or even walking. The continue on to the next interval of 4 minutes.
Cool-down: 10 minutes of easy jogging or pedaling.
You can read more about 4 x 4 in Norwegian HERE
Are you ready to give the maximal gains – in minimal time heart training a go?
Now you have some time- AND gain efficient workouts to try out! You should try one of them out for a while, a period of 6 weeks perhaps because exercising over time in the right amount and right intensity is what will give you results. Also you’ll need to get to know the workout and find out which loads, speeds and so on to use specifically for you. These are all hard workouts that will challenge your discipline, willpower as well as stamina. Go for it, because you have nothing to loose and everything to gain in improving your VO2max, no matter if you know your number or not. I doen’t matter, because it can never be too good!
Go hard and go home!
1.)Gillen et al. (2016). Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLOS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
2.) Tabata et al. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 28(10),1327-30.
3.)Helgerud et al. (2007). Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2max More Than Moderate Training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(4), 665-71
4.)Helgerud et al. (2011). Strength and endurance in elite football players. Int J Sports Med, 32(9), 677-82. DOI: 10.1055/S-0031-1275742