6 reasons why you should be doing interval sprints

A big vertical jump is a function of good movement mechanics and high levels of relative power. As a result we understandably talk about improving an athletes jump technique and about getting stronger and more explosive. However what we haven't paid as much attention to is the relative side of things.

If you are overweight or carrying a few extra pounds you might be powerful, but some of that power is going to waste trying to project that excess fat into the air. In short, extra body fat contributes nothing to jump height, so if jumping high is your goal, you need to be lean.

interval sprintsInterval Sprint Training: Want to get leaner? Try interval sprint training.

So what is the quickest way to strip that excess body fat away? Diet is usually the best place to start, and you can't really go too far wrong with a steady intake of fresh fruit and veggies, lean meats, poultry and fish, and a variety of healthy fat sources (avocados, nuts, etc), but once you have that under control the next thing to look at is exercise. Which brings me to the topic of this weeks article: interval training. Presented below are 6 good reasons you should be doing interval sprint training if you need to lose some excess body fat.

What Is Interval Training?

Interval training is basically alternating levels of intensity during a workout. Lower levels of intensity are interspersed with higher levels, creating an alternating of aerobic and anaerobic activity within the same workout. This allows the body to burn both fat and carbohydrates more effectively.

1. Interval Training Saves Time

Aerobic benefits can occur in one-fifth to one-half the time with interval training over traditional cardio. The small bursts of energy expanded make your body work harder, allowing for a shorter workout. For example, rather than spending 45 to 60 minutes on aerobic activity five times a week, you could be doing interval training for about 20 minutes three times a week and get the same results.

2. Burn More Calories with Interval Training

By increasing intensity during your fitness routine, your body will need to work harder than when performing just a steady cardio workout in the same time frame. By alternating low-intensity with bursts of high-intensity, your body doesn't have a chance to adapt to a workout so you burn more calories to meet your body's energy needs.

3. Burn More Fat with Intervals

During exercise, the body releases catecholamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, into the system. These chemicals increase in response to the stress that higher-intensity exercise puts on the body. They combine to form a powerful fat burning effect, including stubborn, hard-to-lose fat that may not respond to other workout methods.

sprint trainingLook Lean Like Lolo: Lolo Jones doesn't appear to have a bodyfat issue from all her sprint training

4. Interval Training Increases Endurance

By alternating levels of low-intensity exercise with higher-intensity bursts, the cardiovascular system is strengthened, thus increasing endurance. Varying intervals also train the body to use lactic acid more effectively, allowing for longer workouts and greater performance.

5. Benefits beyond the Interval Training Workout

Interval training increases the time period after your workout where the body is still burning calories and fat. The alternating of intensity levels also improves insulin and brain functions, allowing for increased fat-burning on subsequent workouts. Interval training also increases growth hormone and corticotrophin, which has the ability to suppress the appetite.

6. Intervals Can Be Incorporated with Strength Training

If you like to have a complete workout with strength training and cardio combined, interval training can work in this case as well. This is similar to circuit training, as you move from strength to cardio and repeat for the duration of your workout.

7. (BONUS REASON) Interval Training Helps Maintain Lean Muscle Mass Better Than Regular Cardio

Performing interval sprints helps maintain lean muscle mass far better than long duration, low intensity cardio. This helps increase your resting metabolism which will allow you to burn more calories at rest.

How to Do Interval Training

Because interval training is basically just varying the intensity levels throughout your workout, it is easy to incorporate into an existing routine. You can create your workout once you determine three factors:

  • Ratio of high and low intensity periods
  • Length of time spent at each intensity
  • Which intensity level to devote more time to

The standard ratio for interval training is 3:1, and may be increased to 2:1 when you are ready. The length of time you spend at one intensity level should range from ten seconds to three to five minutes. This keeps the body from adapting. Generally, more time is devoted to the lower-intensity level, but it can be switched for a more difficult workout.

A sample interval training workout for a beginner might look like this:

  • 5 minutes of moderate walking to warm up
  • 30 seconds sprint
  • 90 seconds light walking
  • Repeat desired number of times
  • 5-10 minute cool down and stretching

power trainingHigh Flying Demar DeRozan: Demar, like all high flyers is not carrying too much bodyfat either!

VerticalJumping.com Note: Rest periods do not have to be constant. The more intervals you do the more tired you are going to get. In order to maintain intensity on the sprints it is quite ok to take longer rests as the session goes on. For example one of my favorite interval sprint session formats is as follows:

  • First 3 intervals - 30 seconds sprinting, 60 seconds rest
  • Next 4 intervals - 30 seconds sprinting, 90 seconds rest
  • Last 3 intervals - 30 seconds sprinting, 120 seconds rest

This works out as an average of 2 minutes per interval plus rest giving a total workout time of about 25-30 minutes including warm up and cool down. Using a heart rate monitor to determine the level of recovery between intervals I have found this approach to allow for a more consistent level of intensity across the workout (i.e. my last 3 intervals aren't that much slower than my first 3) and it allows me to perform more work per session.



Having a low percentage of body fat is very important for having a big vertical jump. If you are looking to strip off some excess pounds than the combination of fixing your diet and interval training is very hard to beat for getting results fast.

This article was written by the team at Orbit Fitness - Western Australia's largest supplier of fitness equipment to residential and commercial customers.

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