Getting Into Great Condition Using an Interval Timer
Outside the programs that are designed to obtain a specific goal, such as increases in 1RM strength, or an increase in muscle mass, etc, conditioning workouts can also be an integral part of a well designed program. In my earlier days, like most western trainers, I generally ignored General Physical Preparedness (GPP)/ general conditioning when focusing specifically on an increase in strength and LBM. The more western approach to increasing strength, muscle mass, or what ever the specific goal, is to simply focus on the training that follows the goal, and generally ignore everything else. For example, if you want to be good at the powerlifts, just practice the powerlifts and so on.
That, more or less, is the classic ‘old school’ western model, although things have changed for the better in recent years as what worked well for western strength athletes has influenced eastern approaches and vise versa and modern coaches have rethought some of their approaches in recent years. However, most of your everyday people in the gym often fail to realize how much has changed in the past decade… One of the most successful strength coaches on the planet, Lou Simmons, is a big proponent of GPP for strength athletes of all kinds regardless of their specific sport. His article on the importance of GPP is a ‘must read’ in my view. (1)
Over the years, an appreciation on my end for GPP was responsible for the addition of my Hybrid/HIIT day as part of Brink’s Hybrid Training Program, which has led to improvements in body composition, strength, and GPP/conditioning, for those who have followed it. There are many ways to go about incorporating GPP into a program, but that’s not the focus of this write up; I encourage people to read Simmon’s article on the topic. Other very successful SnC coaches/competitors, such as Dave Tate and others, are also proponents of intelligently applied GPP. How GPP is applied depends to some degree on the goals of the person, experience levels, etc., so some research is warranted before jumping into it.
Can the intelligent/appropriate use GPP training – besides the obvious benefits to health and conditioning – make one a better power lifter, a better bodybuilder, a better athlete regardless? In my experience and opinion, the answer is yes.
With all that in mind, I wanted to discuss one of my favorite gizmos called the Gym Boss Interval (GBI) timer, and how I recently used it in my GPP/Conditioning day.
The GBI timer is one of those “why the hell didn’t I think of this?!” simple gadgets, that although not essential to a program per se, adds so much convenience to any workout that involves an interval of some sort, you don’t know how you lived without it.
Simply put, it’s an inexpensive timer that will track two separate times intervals and combine them for you into a single program. For HIIT training, it’s a must have gadget. However, I find it useful for various activities that involves any type of interval time between exercises, or rest periods. What follows is a recent GPP/conditioning day I followed that is a current favorite of mine, and how the GBI Timer was used.
This particular day calls for:
•10 minutes of HIIT training
•10 minutes of heavy bag work
•10 minutes of lateral medicine ball wall smashes
I set the GBI timer for a 30 second: 1 minute interval that lasts 10 minutes long. The timer will beep after each interval, so no watching clocks on the wall or display on some machine while trying to focus on not dying during HIIT!
The three sessions for this day are done with minimal rest between them. How much rest? ‘Till you have the ability to go onto the next one. If you can jump right from the HIIT session to the heavy bag work, go for it. I usually need a few minutes to get my legs to work properly and my breathing back…
HIIT session for the day:
The HIIT protocol I use for this session goes like so: after a brief warm up – 5 minutes or so on the treadmill – I will use a stair stepper type machine and will do 1 minute low intensity followed by 30 seconds all out, and repeat. I will do that for 10 minutes, which is literally all I can stand. When I say “all out” I mean 100% intensity, nothing held back, as fast and as hard as my legs can move me, similar say to a full sprint on a track.
Quick important note here: what most people consider HIIT is not. Most people who think they are doing HIIT are not. My full comments on that can be found in my article “HIIT Training, are you really doing it?”
As mentioned above, the Gym Boss Interval timer is worth every penny when it comes to HIIT considering how difficult HIIT is (when done correctly!) and not having to keep track of the intervals allows one to really focus on the effort.
Heavy Bag Session:
Heavy bag training, if you have never done it, is amazingly taxing. Again, the GBI timer is invaluable to me as I just want to focus on what I am doing vs. looking at the clock on the wall. Although one can certainly alter the intervals on the timer, I like to stick to my 30 second: 1 minute intervals for 10 minutes. I’m lazy I guess.
The heavy bag is 30 seconds of heavy bag work, one minute of rest, repeat for 10 minutes. Heavy bag work is not HIIT training. It is a form of interval training to be sure, but it’s not HIIT, nor is it recommended to attempt as true HIIT. If you have never done any heavy bag work, it’s probably worth getting some coaching there, looking at some vids on the ‘net. Etc. Heavy bag work can be hard on the joints, and done incorrectly, lead to injuries to your wrists, etc. How much actual effort you put into the heavy bag during the 30 second “go” interval, is dictated to some degree by your experience with it, not to mention, that 10 minutes of HIIT that was just done leaves one feeling quite trashed, believe me.
My advice, pace yourself on the heavy bag. Ten minutes of that – immediately following a HIIT session – will be much harder then most may expect. Again, the Gym Boss Timer works great here. No watching the clock (and I don’t like wearing a wrist watch when I train….) just hearing the beep, and focusing on the effort.
Lateral Move Med Ball Wall Smash:
The final third of this death march is the Lateral Med Ball Wall Smash: This one takes a little explaining. If you have worked with a medicine ball, you know they don’t bounce. The “med ball wall smash” involves throwing a med ball with enough force for it to bounce back at you off a wall. You shove it away from you as if passing a basketball to someone using two hands. Ball close to body, shove hard forward with both hands. With a med ball, standing say 3-5ft away, it takes some effort to make it bounce back at you. As you are doing that, you are moving laterally to your left or right. Obviously, you need a length of wall to do it.
Two, the wall you use MUST be made of brick/cinder block/stone. If you try this on a typical indoor wall made of sheet rock for example, you will make big dent/whole in the wall, and owner of said wall will not be happy with you…ask me how I know… At my gym, the building is made of cinder blocks, so as long as I am using an exterior wall, I’m good to go. I usually use an empty aerobics room/studio for this.
I will go left 20-30ft, then back the other way along the wall as far as I have until the 30 second timer of the GBI timer beeps, then rest a minute and repeat. Again, when added to the last two section of this GPP/Conditioning day, this is much more difficult then it may sound. OK, maybe some of the 20 something studs reading this will blow right through this day, but I’m toast afterward.
Finally, I will finish the day off one set of chin ups for 20 reps.
That’s my current GPP/conditioning day – which I do once every 7-10 days depending on how it fits into my resistance training program – using the Gym Boss Interval Timer.
My gym is a pretty typical Golds Gym, various cardio equipment, a heavy bag set up in a corner of one of the aerobics oriented studios, various medicine balls, etc, so none of the above requires anything very fancy. You may have to modify it a bit to fit your particular set up. There are many other ways to use the GBI timer for a HIIT session, GPP day, intervals of all kinds, etc. You don’t have to use my examples above.
You could also be creative and break it up into say 5 minute section, such as HIIT 5 mins, Heavy bag 5 mins, Med Ball Wall Smash 5 minutes, and repeat.
You can also change the interval times as it suits your needs, conditioning levels, etc. The 30 second: 1 minute interval for HIIT is all I can stand, and that same interval seems to work well for the others that follow, but there’s no reason one can’t play with the interval times per se.
Well that’s my write up of the Gym Boss Interval Timer as I use it for my current favorite GPP/Conditioning day, which for me, is incorporated into my overall program, which is focused mostly on resistance training (once a gym rat always a gym rat I guess), but currently I’m more interested in an overall balance between strength, bodycomp, and conditioning, then just one of them in isolation. I have added this “why didn’t I think if that?!” gadget to the Recommended Products section for those interested
See you in the gym!