You may be tempted to ease into an intense interval workout with a slow start, but research suggests that going hard from the beginning of your workout will produce better results.
This tip can be used for improving fat loss because it increases the overall intensity of your workout, producing a greater calorie burn in the post-workout recovery period. It’s also relevant strength/power athletes who need conditioning and for endurance athletes who want to improve maximal oxygen uptake, although the actual programming will naturally vary for each.
A new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested what happens when male physical education students performed interval training in which they start out with a higher intensity (faster speed) and then decrease intensity over the duration of the workout. The programs used a training scheme based on the “critical velocity model” that is described at the threshold intensity above which maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is reached. Based on this intensity participants did one of three protocols:
- Sprints of 30 seconds with 15 seconds rest at 125 percent of max,
- Sprints of 30 seconds at 105 percent of max, or
- Mixed intensity that used a “fast start” at 125 percent of max for the first 15 seconds and then decreased the intensity to 105 percent of max.
Results showed that the mixed intensity with the “fast start” allowed participants to perform above 95 percent of the VO2 max for significantly longer than with the other two protocols.
Clearly, starting your workouts with a bang can allow you train at a greater intensity and get more out of your training time. On average, the mixed fast start allowed the participants to train above 95 percent of VO2 max for 151 and 169 percent longer than the 125 percent and 105 percent protocols, respectively. The higher the oxygen use, the greater the calorie burn, making a fast start protocol ideal for helping you lose body fat.
For strength and power athletes, the specific programming parameters of conditioning should mimic the demands of the sport. Sprint intervals with strength training and modified strongman exercises such as sled training should produce the best results.
For the general public, try a fast start when doing high-intensity intervals, but remember to prioritize strength training. Use a fast-start interval program as a “finisher” at the end of your workout to exhaust all your energy stores. Or if you have more training time, do intervals in a separate session all together.