When we talk “interval training” we tend to think of a single type: we perform a certain round of work, followed by a short rest, then another burst of work, etc …
However, you should know (especially for combat sport training) that there are actually several different interval styles, with different benefits. Aside from rest/work ratios, other factors come into play in different interval types that are crucial to targeting different aspects of conditioning.
A well-rounded regime involves all of these types, so let’s break them down!
Interval Training Types
1. Power Intervals
The goal with these intervals? To increase explosive power output.
Obviously, most of us know the value of explosive power in life and in the ring. This type of power allows you to move fast and with force, as well as help you change directions quickly: all crucial functions needed in the ring.
Typically, intervals that are expected to increase explosive power include a variety of plyometric movements, which are great. The problem, however, as Joel Jamieson in Fight magazine states, is that these movements aren’t dispersed with enough rest to make them effective:
“Almost everyone is familiar with plyometrics and the entire paradigm of plyometric training was designed largely developed to serve this exact purpose. Alactic power intervals are an effective blend of plyometrics and intervals, and while most interval methods fall short in improving explosiveness because they are often performed in a constant state of fatigue, reactive power intervals take a unique approach and produce far better results.”
In other words, explosive power relies on short bursts utilizing fast-twitch muscle fibers. When we do plyometric intervals (which can increase explosive power) we tend to do them until we’re fatigued, which doesn’t improve output.
Instead, we would want to perform exercises that are commonly used for plyometrics like hurdles, box jumps or broad jumps, medicine ball throws into a wall, explosive push-ups, etc … but perform them at 6-8 seconds of maximum intensity work, followed by at least 90 seconds or more of complete rest. And, aim for a full 5 minutes rest between different exercises.
2. Tempo Intervals
Sometimes we reach a conundrum where we want to continue to increase conditioning, endurance, and stamina … but also don’t want to slide into the dangerous corner of over-training.
Tempo intervals are a good way around this. Invented by coach Charlie Francis, he used to have his sprinters perform what he called “tempo runs” on lower intensity training days. These runs were generally short sprints of 12-15 seconds at 75% or less of their maximum speed, with about 1 minute or so of rest between sprints.
Even though sprinting is a heavy-duty explosive and anabolic activity, Francis believed these lower intensity aerobic intervals played a key role in building work capacity, as well as speed.
As far as our training goes, we can use the standard Francis runs, or perform the same amount of work on a speed bag or punching bag. The key is that the intensity of the work intervals is kept at 75% or less of your maximum, with the duration no more than 12-15 seconds. You can rest between intervals for 1 minute or until your heart rate comes down to 130-135, whichever comes first.
3. VO2 Max Intervals
Now for the heavy-duty intervals: VO2 Max intervals.
These are designed to not only strengthen your heart, but to help you maintain strength and power by delivering more oxygen to your muscles. “VO2 max” simply refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your system is capable of delivering to your working muscles, and part of being able to do that is by pushing your cardiovascular system to the max.
In the ring, a strong heart will help you deliver more oxygen, which can mean the difference between lasting, or gassing.
These intervals aren’t easy, however; you have to prepare to reach your maximum heart rate, as challenging your heart muscle at this level is the only way to improve it.
Each interval is longer than the ones we’ve previously discussed. Here, you’ll aim for each work interval to be 2-4 minutes long, with your goal being to reach the highest heart rates possible during each rep. Then, you’ll want to have a complete rest of at least 2-3 minutes between reps.
To determine your maximum heart rate, it helps to use a heart rate monitor. However, some of the predictions for your personal heart rate peaks are inaccurate, so judge by your amount of effort and feeling.
Also, a key note: these intervals are extremely taxing on your system, so try not to do them more than once or twice a week.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, not all intervals are created equal – and that’s a good thing! By utilizing different styles, you can create a more well-rounded regime and set of explosive power and endurance conditioning.