Interval Weight Training- What To Know

Garage Gym Athlete
Interval Weight Training- What To Know

Hey, Athletes! Interval Weight Training- What To Know  Episode of The Garage Gym Athlete Podcast is up! 


  • Jerred is doing this one solo
  • He gives a brief history on training at GGA
  • He answers questions about the interval weight training style GGA has implemented lately
  • And A LOT MORE!!

Diving Deeper…

If you want to go a little bit deeper on this episode, here is a link to the study for you: 

    • No study this week

Garage Gym Athlete Workout of the Week 

Don't forget to watch today's podcast!

Interval Weight Training- What To Know

Thanks for listening to the podcast, and if you have any questions be sure to add it to the comments below!

To becoming better!

- Jerred

Podcast Transcript

Jerred: This is the Garage Gym Athlete Podcast, and we're here to build autonomous athletes and put phenomenal programming into every garage, basement, and spare bedroom out there. I'm Jared Moon, and I'm with Jill Courtney. We are strength and conditioning coaches who have turned over 20, 000 people into Garage Gym Athletes over the last decade.

And we're here to reduce the information overload that exists in the health and fitness industry today. We're going to do that by covering relevant science and give actionable takeaways, not only from the data, but from our years of experience. So let's dive in.

What's up ladies and gentlemen, Jared Moon here and welcome to the Garage Gym Athlete podcast. Today, I'm going to be doing a Q and A on interval weight training. So this is very specific to our Garage Gym Athletes, which to be honest, that's who I care about most when I'm doing this podcast and who I'm thinking about when we're recording.

And so if you're not. Doing interval weight training and specifically on the hard to kill track. This will just really just be educational for interval weight training and how to approach it. But we have gotten a lot of questions and I thought this would be a good forum to answer some of these might be a shorter podcast.

We'll see by the time we're done, but I have a series of questions here that have been repeated in the community and I'm going to dive into them. So the first thing I want to hit on is what is interval weight training? If you go a couple episodes back, you'll see the title. Interval weight training.

That's the best place to learn everything you can as far as history, why I think it's effective, why we're implementing the style of training at Garage Gym Athlete, why we've been, why I've been experimenting with it, and then, why it got introduced so dramatically on the Hard to Kill track. So you can learn all about that in, in that previous episode that has interval weight training in the title.

It's I don't know, probably four or five episodes ago. You can go check it out. But the brief, what is interval weight training? It's mixed modality training. Typically you will hit like a heavier barbell movement. And then immediately after that barbell movement, you'll hit some sort of monostructural.

So like a machine or running or something like that, going for a specific heart rate, typically around zone four. And that could be roughly for anywhere from one and a half to three minutes. So you, it goes from barbell movement straight to running in zone four, hard for three minutes. Then you get a rest period and then you repeat that typically three times before you take a longer break.

And then you repeat that with a different barbell movement and it can be the same monostructural. After you've done that, you have accessory movements at the end, typically lifting. That's the real like base level, what is interval weight training. And big picture, like I said it's mixed modality training.

It's a way to dramatically increase strength VO2 max without having to focus specifically on only being a strength athlete or only being an endurance athlete, something like that. This is maybe one of the best forms of concurrent training out there. Without having to get into the mismatched world of CrossFit or anything like that.

There's a lot more structure to it. So anyway, that's what interval weight training is, and I think it's really effective. And to be honest, we've gotten a lot of great feedback in the community between people reporting faster Spartan Race times, how they're crushing longer Zone 2. Runs and zone two rocks and VO two max tests and all these different things.

So a lot of things are going well, we've been getting a lot of great feedback on it, but I wanted to answer some questions cause it can be hard to approach interval weight training and really understand how you should be approaching everything. So one of the first questions we get is that the movements aren't taxing enough.

And so what that means is, as I mentioned, you'll do a barbell movement and then you're going to go do, let's just use running for most of the example, today's podcast, just cause it'll be easier and anyone can do that. So if I did heavy back squat, and then I did running for two minutes and I'm supposed to be in zone four.

Two minutes is already a hard, like a short window. It's hard to get your heart rate up to zone four in two minutes. And so that's what athletes are asking. Hey, it's not taxing enough. What should I be doing? If you think about it. If you're doing back squat and it's heavy enough for, let's say eight reps, then you go to, you go immediately to this monostructural movement.

The back squat may be perfectly fine because back squat is incredibly taxing. It's very metabolically demanding to do back squat for eight reps, a heavy weight. So if you're struggling with it in a lower body movement, like the back squat or the front squat, my suggestion is keep the reps the same, but you're going to have to increase the weight.

And it's going to be a weight to where you can still get the assigned number of reps. Let's call it eight reps, but it just needs to be a little bit more taxing for you. And and my bet is most people aren't struggling there where people are probably struggling is when the movement is something like strict press.

So when you're doing a strict press overhead and then you go to run, it might not be metabolically demanding enough to do a strict press and to, you might not get out of the zone too. And the strict press, you can do that on a heavy enough back squat, eight reps. You can get into zone three, low zone four, depending on your fitness level.

So with a strict press, if it's not taxing enough, my only real recommendation. Again, you could go heavier, but that'll max out pretty fast with something like strict press. Is a more, way more aggressive warmup. So we have programmed warmups and things that we think that you should do. If you are struggling with this, it could just mean that you're in pretty good shape.

That's a good problem to have, but ultimately I think that your warmup just needs to be more thorough. Don't be afraid to get really warm, get loose, grease the groove, wherever is needed, but then make that warmup a little bit more aggressive with the monostructural movement that you plan to do.

So if that's running, you plan to be running all day. Do a couple of sprints, do, a couple of 200s or something like that, or anything that kind of starts you off very primed, you're in that higher heart rate zone and you're not like in this zone one zone two, okay, I'm warm. Like really get the blood flowing, really having a solid primer is going to be my recommendation.

So better warmup, more aggressive warmup, even if that means you have to stretch your warmup from 10 minutes to 15 minutes, do the normal 10 minutes and then spend the next five minutes really just focusing on getting that heart rate. Elevated. Next question that we've been getting is like, how hard should you go?

Because this can also be a little bit misleading. If you don't have a good enough warmup and you go straight into your very first interval weight training interval. You're going to feel like you can just empty the tank, right? Like you're going to go, let's say you do those back squats, then you go run as hard as you can.

You're going to feel like you can just empty that tank, right? And so that's going to get harder as you go on to each interval. And that's how interval training works. Like the first one's normally the easiest, and then it can just stair step down from there. But again, my answer for this one is how hard should you go?

You should try and match the heart rate that we have established for you in the programming, which is typically going to be high zone three or zone four, depending on what we're targeting. And you need to get to that heart rate zone. And if you're not, it goes back to answering how exactly how did the last question, you need to be more aggressive in your warmup and all honesty, you need to be more aggressive in your warmup.

Don't be afraid. Like it's all training, right? Like the warmup. Everything you do in training is beneficial. So don't be scared to go into the warmup, be more aggressive, add a little bit of time to it and get the heart rate higher in that warmup session. So I'm going to, I'm going to say you should be matching the intensities necessary, but you don't want to sandbag it.

And that's the thing I want to hit on the most is. You don't want to end a session and be like, ah I could never really get an end to zone four because I don't want to say you're wasting your time, but you're really what you're doing there. If you're like in zone two during the lift, and then you're also in zone two during the interval, we're getting, we're not getting the VO2 max benefit that we want.

You're not hitting the intensities that are required to, to get better in this area. And we're only doing it twice a week. So we really want to make sure that you hit those target areas. So it's very important that you get to the desired heart rate zones, or at least as close As you possibly can, and another thing I'll say on that is, are you do you have the proper equipment to track your heart rate?

Because anything wrist based is going to be very difficult to do this. Again, two minutes is a very short time window to successfully track heart rate with anything wrist based. Even if you have some of the better wrist based devices, which could be the newer, more expensive garments. Apple Watch is pretty good.

From what I understand, Whoop is pretty good. I haven't had one in a long time. Adding a chest strap. To training like this specifically could go a long way because you're going to get the more instantaneous feedback on the heart rate and you don't have as much of a delay. If there's a 15 second delay, that's a significant percentage of a two minute activity.

Some people had concerns about specialized movements like box jumps or something like that thrown in there. That's definitely should be a concern. So if you Basically, it's a safety concern is like if you are getting incredibly taxed and then you move on to something like box jumps, which is not the conditioning movement, this might be the accessory, right?

Feel free to lower how high you're jumping or another option would just be to do something different altogether. A lot of times when we're suggesting athletes sub things out. I know that you might not be the coach or programmer and have the depth of knowledge that we may have, but just try to think of what were they trying to accomplish here if I wanted to sub this out?

Because if I'm, if I am prescribing something like a box jump, I'm not doing that to increase your heart rate. I'm doing that really for the plyometric benefit, the jumping, right? The jumping and landing. I think that's really important to maintain athleticism. So knowing that is a goal. With something like box jumps, then you could do tuck jumps.

You could do any kind of jumping movement. You could do broad jumps, anything that is getting that same benefit. That same stimulus is what you need to be looking at. Another question we get, I feel like I've hit on is how much does the heart rate really matter? I really already hit on that. It really does matter getting into the proper heart rate zone percentages for your interval weight training sessions, because these are more aggressive, higher heart rate things, but there's a lot of recovery built into them as well.

So This isn't like a CrossFit workout where we're just going as hard as we can for 15 straight minutes. It's a hard 3 minutes, roughly, on some of these, and then you get a break, right? So you want to make sure that those intervals are at the appropriate heart rate. And really it only matters when you move to the monostructural movement, not as much as the lifting movement.

I've got some questions on Measuring VO2max and when to expect improvements in VO2max. I'll start at the back end of that question. So when to expect improvements in VO2max when you're doing interval weight training. Typically 12 weeks is the minimum threshold I put for the improvement of VO2max.

You can notice it faster. Especially if you had some like low hanging fruit. If you already had a really good aerobic base and all you needed to do was add in more of this top end stuff, you could see it a lot faster than that. But if you're starting from scratch, I would say 12 weeks and then measuring VO2max.

I've got questions on how to do that. The best way to do this it's all estimated anyway, right? All of these watches Apple watch and Garmin do this and they do a pretty good job at estimating your VO2 max. You might want to look into it a little bit more about like how they measure it, because typically you have to be running and you have to be outside for it to really measure your VO2 max accurately.

I'm sure some of these devices are starting to try and do it other ways, but typically how the algorithm works. They're following very specific formulas on how to calculate VO2max, and that typically means they need GPS measured distance outside, they need the heart rate data. So again, if you have a chest strap, I would wear a chest strap for a VO2max test.

Typically, I think the minimum distance for some of these tests, again, it might be different per device. So you could quickly Google like measuring VO two X with VO two max with Apple watch or with Garmin and see really what the minimum threshold is. A lot of times it's 20 minutes and it might not be distance dependent.

It might be 20 minutes and it might be outdoors and they'll tell you these things, so it's not like a hidden formula, but if you're not doing that, then you're not going to really know. If you have some sort of baseline, like you've already done a run, then in the past, you probably have a baseline of, Oh, it already measured my VO two max.

And then just knowing that's a threshold test, it's not going to measure as well. Like you doing an interval weight training session and it telling you your VO two max properly after that, because it's not following any real formula or algorithm to be able to do that properly. So what you need to throw in here is something that we're not going to program would just be this additional.

Let's call it 20 minute run outdoors. That's hard, like a hard effort, 20 minute run. And that's the biggest thing I should hit on when you're doing these VO2 maxes. If you just go for a leisurely 20 minute jog and let's just assume it's 20 minutes again, Google your specific device on what they're using to measure.

But if it's just a leisurely jog. For 20 minutes, then your VO2 max estimate will be low. Like it's not going to be very high. So what you're definitely want to going to, you're going to want to do there is a hard run. Like you should look at this as a maximum effort activity, given that it's maximum effort across time, right?

Or across duration. So you have 20 minutes of activity that you're trying to squeeze out, choose the appropriate maximum heart rate that you'd be able to sustain in a run. And then you'll get to your threshold there. That'll be able to calculate your. VO two max. So knowing that's the best way to measure it and knowing how, what the effort should be, that's how you can really tell if you're getting improvement.

And I was seeing this a lot when I was doing my ultra training, because I had that type of run several times per week. And sometimes going hard at least once per week in my runs for that duration. And so I'd get updated VO2max almost weekly. And so that's why I was able to see my run training had been the same for a long time.

Like I was doing the hard intervals. I was doing the long zone two and the super long runs and all this stuff. But my VO2max had increased initially, let's say over the first six months of running. And then it just stayed the same. And then I added interval weight training in. And that's when my VO2max started to tick up again, just like a point or two.

And started to maintain there. So just know that's how it's measured and that's how it's tested. So if you really want to see your improvements, you're going to have to continue to throw those runs in there. And with me not running as much now, I'm not getting updates on what my VO2 max is, but it's something I plan to add in the future, just because that's a very important metric overall for everything longevity and your overall fitness and performance level.

Another question we got is heart rate recovery, does it matter? And this is like a, kind of a two, two point question, or it could go one of two ways. Some people were asking, okay, you finish the heavy barbell movement. You finish the heavy, the fast, hard monostructural movement, let's say running, and then we have a threshold of, we don't want your heart rate to get too low, and that's from the initial research on interval weight training.

It was specifically. The below one 10, we didn't get your heart rate below one 10 because you're getting, you're becoming too much of a recovered state. And again, it gets harder to get to those higher heart rates if you are like getting back down to 80 beats per minute or something like that. So does that heart rate recovery matter going too low?

And then the other side of that question is what if it's too high? What if in my two to three minute rest period, I'm, my heart rate's only coming down into high zone three, what do I do there? So I'll answer the first one first. First one, if you're, if your heart rate is dropping too low, again, that's a good problem to have because you are fit.

So congratulations. Also make sure you have a good way to measure your heart rate. I'm going to go back to chest strap always because if your wrist based heart rate is saying, yeah you're at 50 beats per minute, man. Like you're. You're crushing it. Nah, it's probably just wrong. It's just probably reporting your heart rate wrong.

And so that's probably not what's happening, but if you're wearing a chest strap and you're finishing, you went hard, you went from zone four. And then within your rest period, you're getting back down to like zone one or below a hundred beats per minute. That's crazy. You're pretty you're pretty fit individual.

And so the only thing I recommend for people in this category who are tracking their heart rate properly is. I don't want to say do additional activity, but don't sit down, don't lie down, try to walk around, try to keep that heart rate elevated. And I've had that issue on, if we go all the way back to the beginning of the episode when I was talking about like strict press maybe not being as taxing, I would notice it on those days.

My body would recover exceptionally well to, Like a strict press, just some sort of pressing overhead movement, and then getting into zone four, I would still recover really fast. And so what I did was almost like brisk walking, like around my driveway and stuff is I would try and keep my heart rate elevated if it was going too low, because I want to keep it up.

So adding a little bit of activity, even if like you're incredibly fit and that means jogging, that's not, if you just think about interval training in general, that's not that crazy. If you're talking about running 400 sprints, if you run a 400 meter sprint as fast as you can. You can jog like very light jog.

I'm talking like. Zone two, like below zone two effort level jog, like you can, if you're that fit, like you can add that in there and it's not that crazy. So keep moving is ultimately the answer. Now, if it's too high, what do we do about that? That's not as much of a problem. What's going to happen over time is that heart rate recovery is going to improve.

So I would almost recommend the exact opposite for you. We've covered a lot of studies. If your heart rate is maintaining this, Hey, I get up into zone four and then I barely come out of it. I'm low zone four, I'm low zone three by the end of it. That means you have a lot of fitness improvement on the table, which is a good thing.

You can improve quite a bit through this training and your heart rate recovery is going to improve drastically by doing interval weight training if you follow this for 12 weeks, so that's awesome. But again, I'm going to say the opposite of what I was recommending for the really fit individual whose heart rate is going too low is I would sit down, I would lay down.

Laying down specifically in the field position is scientifically proven to recover, get your heart rate recovery. recover the fastest, also putting your hands on your knees and hunching over the old thing that a gym coach has told you to never do. That's also scientifically proven way to recover and lower your heart rate faster.

So I would say sit down. Lie down or put your hands on your knees and focus on your breathing and see what your heart rate does when doing those things, because ultimately you do want to recover as much as you can, or else it's going to be harder to put out the efforts you needed in subsequent sets. I got some questions on which machine just machines in general, like which machine is the best for something like this.

Assuming that you want to stick to one, which is the second part of the question, I'm going to say, if I had to pick one, I don't want to say, I don't want to give you a generic answer and say, whichever one works best for you. I would say whichever machine you have that is incorporating the whole body. So my favorite would probably be the rower.

I think the rower is incorporating upper body, lower body. It's a low impact, like you can go really hard in it. So that's a great one to hit on is one that I would consider. And then also the aerodyne has upper body, lower body in involvement. So either one of those, I think is the best machine if I had to answer that, but otherwise everything's good.

They're all going to improve your fitness. So running is going to be phenomenal. The skier would be phenomenal. Rowing, biker, any of those things, they're all going to work. They're all going to be great. But if you want to like, just say what's optimal, I'd be trying to get all my limbs involved. And then the kind of second question to machines is, can I switch machines?

And I did recommend sticking to a one machine for the duration of the cycle. Just, and that's if you want to see drastic improvement in an area. If you don't really care, if you're just like, ah, whatever, man, like I'm in it. I just want to get some fitness done. Like I want to have some good training.

There's not necessarily a negative benefit to switching machines up every single training session or even within sessions, you can switch it up. That's going to be fine. A ton of fitness is still happening. It's all good for you. But if you were like, Hey, I want to get, I want to see improvement in my run times.

Like I want to actually get faster, I want to see my mile time go down, then it's not good to bounce around. It's not going to be good to do the rower one day and then the bike one day, one day and then the next day you're running. That's not going to be as much of improvement because one thing I've learned in coaching a lot of people and just doing it myself, if you want to get better at running, you have to run.

If you want to get better at swimming, you have to swim. If you want to get better at biking, you have to bike. There is no magic pill where you can do something else and then magically become good at the other thing. Even if you have a massive VO2 max and aerobic engine, it might help with some of your recovery.

But if you throw a runner, like an elite runner on a bike, they're not going to really have the leg strength. They're not going to be the athlete, even though they'll have the engine, they'll have the heart and the lungs for it. They're not going to have the legs for it. And so you really have to train for what you want to be best at.

And then the last question, the wrap things up is how to approach the accessory work. As I mentioned, it's a heavier taxing barbell movement followed by monostructural movement. There are breaks in between. You do that twice. And then you get into accessory movement. Now the accessory movement is pretty important.

And there's two ways you can approach it. The first is as like this skill work, if you just want to go through the motions because the, it was very taxing, the training, that's fine. You're going to, you're getting more of a performance benefit if you do that. And then you go through the motions at the end of the accessory work.

You're going to be. You'll be doing a lot of good things. Like you're getting movements, you're hitting different movement patterns, and you're getting different movement planes. So it's going to be good, even if you just go through the motion. So make sure that you're doing the accessory work.

And if you want to approach it, like skill work, that's fine. There's still a lot of benefit to it. But if you are trying to maximize everything that you're doing, you need to go into that last part of the training session, the success story, work at the end with the same mindset as you did the interval weight training.

And that is, I am here to improve. I'm going to go hard and it doesn't, this has nothing to do with heart rate, but if we're doing some sort of lift, you're going to want to make sure that lift is heavy, hard, maybe done to failure. If it's more of an isolation movement, if you're doing like a bicep curl, let's go ahead and take that.

Heavy, heavy for the rep scheme that we've given you. If it's 10 reps, make it a heavy 10 reps, things like that. So just keep that in mind. If you're looking to maximize muscle growth and performance, then you need to go into that last bit of the accessory work with the same mindset, but if you don't care as much about muscle growth or anything like you can just go through the movements and you'll still get a ton of benefit really can't go wrong with doing the accessory work, make sure you're doing it.

Don't skip it. But then just think about your goals and then that will dictate how you drive when you're doing this part. So hopefully that answers everyone's questions on interval weight training. If you have any more questions, hit us up in the community. Would love to answer more so far.

This cycle is going really well. If you want to join, if you're listening to this, you've made it this far. And you're like, I am not on the program, but I want to be sounds awesome. Go to garagegymathlete. com, sign up for a free trial. We are doing plenty more interval weight training stuff. At Garage Gym Athlete, you can jump in the cycle right now.

It's a good time to jump in. We'd love to have you start a free trial, do a couple of workouts. And for all of our athletes asking these questions and trying to get better, really do appreciate each and every single one of you, but that's it for this one. Remember if you don't kill comfort will kill you.

Like these ideas? You need GGA. 

Garage Gym Athlete is the "tip of the spear" for our training. We identify training weaknesses, solve them through our program design, and validate it with science. 

For ongoing daily training that exploits everything we have discusses here and more, check out Garage Gym Athlete.  

Start FREE Trial