Author: Dr. Gary Huber

Advancing from Level 1 you are now ready for "Interval Training". An increase in intensity will net greater rewards.

Level 2: Moving Forward

This article is preceded by “Exercise – Where To Begin” and by “Level 1: Getting Started” so if you haven’t read those you may want to include them as you move to this material.

Level 2 - defined as having some exercise experience, casual exercisers. Has been exercising occasionally but needs to increase endurance and/or strength. Classic weekend warrior that exercises only on the weekends perhaps at softball game or a round of golf. Has graduated form Level 1.

Welcome to Level 2 and congratulations on accelerating through Level 1 and passing Challenge Test #1. Your goals at this level should be to keep moving forward and begin to explore your own potential. You may be on a mission to lose weight or simply working to gain strength and flexibility but regardless of your agenda we are going to introduce a tool at Level 2 that will greatly accelerate your progress. That tool is called “interval training”. If you have not engaged in Level 1 then please go back and read the sections on Functional Training and read the attachment regarding “Calculating Your Heart Rate” as this will be useful information as we move forward.

Level 2 will be a continuation of what we have learned thus far. A mix of both aerobic and resistance training but now being combined into more challenging functional training routines. Your goal for functional training is to have 6 to 10 stations and increase the work load to rest ratio. Gradually increase the work interval from 30 seconds all the way up to 60 seconds as you keep the rest cycle minimal. Here is an expected sample of growth as you develop greater fitness:

  • Work = 30 seconds  Rest = 30 seconds   Equal work to rest ratio
  • Work = 40 seconds  Rest = 25 seconds   Alter your intensity if needed
  • Work = 50 seconds  Rest = 20 seconds   Focus on good form
  • Work = 60 seconds  Rest = 15 seconds   This is one tough workout

As you arrange your functional workout stations carefully choose which exercises you put back to back. You will find that alternating a tough station like squats can be done with greater intensity of you are coming off an easier station like simple sit ups. Be sure to include upper and lower body resistance exercises as well as some abdominal work and maybe an aerobic station or two.

Interval Training 

Interval training is the only way to advance your anaerobic threshold. Anaerobic threshold is the point where your body’s need for oxygen is becoming slightly greater than your heart and lungs ability to provide it. It is that point when you cross over from simple running to true sprinting. You can only maintain this intensity for a brief period but the rewards are well worth it. As you raise your anaerobic threshold your body becomes increasingly well equipped to burn fat at lower intensities. Your metabolic rate increases such that you burn more calories in any given day. Your heart rate and blood pressure also begin to drop thus reducing your risk for heart disease. So if interval training is so beneficial why doesn’t everyone do it? Because it’s hard! It takes you to a place that doesn’t feel good . . . until you are done.

Interval training simply means you exercise at an exceedingly high exertional energy output for a short period of time, followed by a recovery period before repeating the strong exertion again. Each cycle of work and rest is one interval. You can make the work to rest ratio change over time which is how you gradually build greater fitness.

It is only when we exceed our “anaerobic threshold” by training at intervals above our present capacity that we get stronger or improve our fitness level. No amount of “walking” or steady state aerobics is able to advance our fitness like intervals.

There are dozens of different approaches or patterns to interval training and part of the fun of intervals is discovering new ways to use them. I am going to briefly discuss 2 options. Play with each one. Please start slow if this is your first time doing intervals and gradually build up. Any kind of aerobic equipment can be used: treadmill, elliptical, rower, stationary bike, road bike, running, etc. 

Tabata interval training 

Warm up for 5 to 7 minutes and prepare for an “all out” maximum effort. Do not start until you feel warmed up enough to engage in such a workout. Once warmed up set your clock or timer and begin:

  • 20 seconds all out effort – sprint as hard as you can go. Then . . .
  • 10 second rest period – keep moving but just work to catch your breath.

Repeat this cycle eight times for a total of 4 minutes of extreme exertion. Then either do a slow cool down or continue on if you like at a more comfortable pace to complete your desired workout time.

You may need to start slow and gradually build up to such an effort. Here is a 12 week graduated schedule to get you there. You can also give it an 70% effort to start and work up to “all out”.

Week 1 is 10 seconds all out followed by 20 seconds rest for 6 cycles or 6 repetitions. That is written as 10/20 x6. Week 2 sees an increase in reps to 7. At week 4 you increase the duration of work to 15 seconds and reduce the rest to 15 seconds for 5 reps. Week 8 the work increases to the full 20 seconds all out while the rest is now reduced to the short 10 second interval. As you increase the number of reps each week you will arrive at 8 full reps or cycles by week 12.


Tabata 12 week graduated course

Week 1

10 work / 20 rest x6 reps

Week 2

10/20 x7

Week 3

10/20 x8

Week 4

15/15 x5

Week 5

15/15 x6

Week 6

15/15 x7

Week 7

15/15 x8

Week 8

20/10 x4

Week 9

20/10 x5

Week 10

20/10 x6

Week 11

20/10 x7

Week 12

20/10 x8


The 8 Peaks Program

This is another approach and can be used interchangeably with the Tabata. The idea is very similar and all of the above guidelines apply. Start slow and build up if this is new to you. There are still 8 cycles but these are a bit longer. Start with a 5 to 10 minute warm up and when you are ready begin:

  • 30 seconds all out, as hard as you can go – don’t let yourself slow down
  • 90 seconds rest – a longer recovery. Catch your breath and as you feel

good again then start to build slowly preparing for your next all out effort.

Repeat this for 8 full cycles which will take 16 minutes but only 4 minutes of it is hard.

Intervals should not be done more than once or twice a week. Daily use of intervals training will cause too much stress on the body and lead to overstraining syndrome as well as spiked cortisol. Be smart with your training at all times and listen to your body.

Breathing hard is a part of good exercise but if you ever experience chest pain, lightheadedness or feel close to passing out then stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor and seek emergency help if appropriate. Remember that this type of hard training is the best way to avoid a heart attack, not cause one. Work up to it gradually.

CHALLENGE TEST #2 – you should be able to complete these challenges as a demonstration of readiness for level 3 and beyond.


  • Run a mile in under 9 minutes.
  • Bike 15 miles in less than 70 minutes
  • Elliptical or treadmill with wattage meters – generate more than 150 watts of power and maintain it for 10 minutes.
  • Swim ½ mile (800) yards without stopping to rest.


  • Push ups – standard push ups, body in a plank position
    • Men need to perform 20 repetitions without a pause.
    • Women need to perform 15 repetitions from the “knee” position.

Knees stay on the floor and from knee to head is a plank position.

  • Pull ups (chin ups) – pull your body weight from a complete hanging position up to a point where your chin is above the bar.
    • Men need to perform 6 repetitions.
    • Women need to perform 2 repetitions.
  • Squats with dumbbells in each hand – 10 repetitions. The knee should bend to, but not beyond 90 degrees in the performance of this exercise.
    • Men hold 35 pound dumbbells in each hand.
    • Women hold 20 pound dumbbells in each hand.


  • Burpees - perform 15 repetitions in less than 40 seconds.
    • How to do a “Burpee” - from a standing position drop to a frog position with hands on the floor. Now thrust your legs backward in unison to land in a push up position. Now in one movement spring back to the frog position and then stand erect. That is one repetition.
  • Jump rope for 45 continuous seconds
  • Box jumps, 10 repetitions in less than 30 seconds.
    • Using a sturdy box, jump from a standing position to the top of the box and then back down to the floor.
    • Women to use a 12 inch box.
    • Men to use an 18 inch box.
  • Renegade rows with 15 pound dumbbells x 16 repetitions. No time limit, no rest.
    • Renegade row: place yourself in the push up position but with your legs spread apart at least 18 inches and your hands holding 15 pound dumbbells. Now pull the left arm back to the left hip carrying the dumbbell. Pause for a one count and return the hand back to starting position. That is one repetition. Now proceed to do the same using the right arm. That is your second repetition.