Struggling with your interval sessions? A new study reveals how to get fitter with just 4-second reps

·2-min read

Opponents of long interval sessions, rejoice! A new study suggests regular intervals of just four seconds can improve your fitness and musculature.

The research, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, got 11 healthy, active young men and women to push themselves through 30 repetitions of four-second, all-out intervals on bikes, with 15 seconds rest in between.

They completed this session three times a week for eight weeks – totalling just 48 minutes of training over two months. Other than these intervals, they did no other exercise.

At the end of the eight weeks, they had added 13 percent to an aerobic fitness goal and 17 percent to their muscular power measured by how many watts they produced while pedalling the bike.

The results would suggest that just four seconds of all-out effort, repeated multiple times, is enough of a stimulus to make already fit people even fitter. And if you don’t have easy access to a watt bike, fear not: The researchers provide alternatives in the shape of four-second sprints up a hill or running up stairs two or three at a time.

Before you swap your running schedule for this four-second fix, however, there are some fairly large caveats to consider. Many previous studies have shown that lots of low-level movement throughout the day – such as walking or easy running – is beneficial from a metabolic health perspective, in a way that long sedentary periods followed by bursts of intense exercise is not.

As study lead Dr Ed Coyle stated: ‘In general, it would be a good idea to get up and move all day – and then sometimes also to move in a way that is physically intense.’

4-second running reps

After a 10-minute warm-up, including some strides at 90 per cent intensity, run up a gentle gradient at maximum capacity for 4 seconds. Walk back down for 15 seconds and repeat 30 times.

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