Interval Training, Fastest Way to Sixpack Abs?

A lot of people are promoting interval training. Are you just wasting your time with old fashion walking, biking, and swimming? You’d think so from listening to everyone. Is interval training the best way to quickly lose that 20lbs of fat to get ripped abs?

“In the fitness class of life, attendance is 80% of your grade.” Scooby Werkstatt

Well meaning, highly motivated people wanting to whip themselves into shape fast find this fact out the hard way every January.  With their new years resolutions in hand they do too much, too fast and end up injured and then hang up their gym shorts till the next January when they try again. Crossfit, interval training, and other advanced workouts are great but you need to establish a good base of fitness beforehand or you will get injured.  Its far, far better to just walk every day for a year than it is to sporadically do interval training.  In the big fitness class called life, attendance is 80% of your grade!

Interval Training is OLD!

Many people think of interval training as some new-fangled invention – its not!  LIFE is interval training!  Think about your last bike ride or run.  How many times did you stop at stop signs or wait at lights?  Thats real-world interval training!  Was the course flat or hilly?  Again, natures own interval training!

What is interval training

First what I mean by interval training is when you go at 100% intensity at some activity for a certain period of time then rest a certain period of time and then repeat. People give certain names to certain durations, for example Tabata intervals are 20s @100% intensity followed by 10s rest repeated for 4 minutes. The exercise you are doing can be any whole body motion: running, jumping, squats, deadlifts, burpees, stairs, biking, swimming, etc.  Interval training goes by lots of names: winds prints, sprint training, intervals, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), complexes, hybrid workouts, Tabata intervals, and Little intervals. Crossfit, complexes, and hybrid workouts are hybrid weight lifting workouts that are also considered interval training workouts.

Benefits of interval training

– burns more calories in less time
– improves acceleration
– improves speed
– increases endurance

Curious thing though, if interval training burns far more calories in the same amount of time why is it that the all the big health advocacy organizations like AHA recommend brisk walking rather than intervals as the best way to lose weight??? Its because there are other factors to consider when deciding what the best form of carido is!


Interval Training Research

Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment
Jenna B. Gillen, Brian J. Martin, Martin J. MacInnis, Lauren E. Skelly, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Martin J. Gibala
Published: April 26, 2016

Problems with interval training

  1. High potential for injury in the overweight, untrained, and people over 30.
  2. Unclear if 4 minutes of Tabata intervals helps with long term cardiovascular fitness like 20 minutes of daily brisk walking does
  3. For endurance, nothing beats … endurance

The biggest problem with interval training is the high potential for injury – especially with the overweight and undertrained!  Injured people don’t work out!

I’m an endurance athlete, I do triathlons and double century bike races. I can tell you from first hand experience that you can’t prepare for an 8 hour 200 mile bike race by just doing 4 minute tabata intervals. Nothing increases cycling endurance like TITS (Time In The Saddle). Interval training is a small but very important part of performance training in serious athletes.  Not surprisingly, interval training plays a much more important role in sports requiring bursts of speed than it does in endurance sports.


Why walking is so good

The reason that brisk walking is the #1 best way to for the average person to lose weight is that  you can do it anywhere anytime. You don’t even need to change clothes to do it nor do you need to shower afterward. You can do it at coffee break at work or at lunch hour at school. The second reason is that its the safest form of cardio. Injured people do not exercise so although interval training does burn off more calories per minute it does you no good if you get injured on day 2 and spend the next 2 months sitting on the sofa!  Losing weight requires daily exercise and this is a classic case of the tortoise and the hare.  Although walking is about as lame a form of cardio as you can come up with, its easy and safe so its easy to do it every single day of the year!  Whats better 365 days of walking 20min a day or 65 days of intense interval training followed by 300 days of inactivity due to injury?  Its clear.

If you decide to do interval training for weight loss

1) Get a check up first
2) ramp up slowly
3) to avoid overuse injuries, don’t do same activity on consecutive days
4) choose low impact activities till your bodyfat is under 15%

Example program, alternate days of 20min brisk walking with days of 2:1 intervals on stationary bike for 15min.


Although interval training is a very important component of training for performance athletes, its not the best tool for fat loss in my opinion – why? Because the people who need to lose weight the most are the ones most likely to get injured doing interval training. Take someone out of shape and 30lbs overweight and have then sprint and you are asking for injury. IMO, for weight loss, “old fashioned” biking, swimming, jogging and walking are the best ways to lose weight.

I know people get tired of me saying this but its not obvious to everyone so I will repeat it.  You can always out-eat your exercise even if you do 8hrs of interval training a day. Exercise can help you lose weight but its not sufficient.  Losing weight requires just one thing, that you eat fewer calories than you are burning off.  You can do that by exercising more, eating less, or both.

Losing weight is as easy as 1-2-3, exercise a little bit more, eat a little bit less, and drink lots of water.

Scooby Biking

46 thoughts on “Interval Training, Fastest Way to Sixpack Abs?”

  1. scooby, firstly, great site and info!!!! My question is simple, can you recommend a a workout that doesnt involve the use of shoulders ? The reason being is that i have serious issues with pain in both of them and recently had cortisone injections to relieve the pain, but id like to get back into training and loose at least 30lbs, any help? thanks in advance

  2. hi scooby. scott from scotland here .i have worked out for as long as i can remember on and off and never had a six pack since i was about 20years old but now at 41 decided enuff was enuff and although i have been working hard at the gym for a year and a half and have put some good muscle on i have no six pack. So i was told at the gym i have to eat less and do more cardio ( 10 mins a day after my weights wasn,t going to cut it )any way i was 5 foot 9, 83 kg and 23% bodyfat and after going on a 1800cal diet and upping my cardio too 2 days at 50 mins and 3 days after my weights at 30 mins all hitt training on the bike or treadmill or on the cross trainer after 2 months i am down to 75 kg and 16% bodyfat .So with the right diet and hitt training it does work very well in my opinion . next goal 72 kg and would like to get to 10% bodyfat then start to bulk up to at least 75 -77kg without the fat . any tips on bulking back up without getting back the dreaded bodyfat ,thanks scooby for a great website

  3. So scoob, on the topic of losing weight for the summer (I’m doing it wrong, just started a new weight routine rather than more cardio) what would you say is a good target bodyfat?

    By the calc on the site I’m currently sitting at around 15% give or take. However I find that the majority of that 15% is localized to my gut. Legs have very little fat, same with chest. Just seems to be the gut.

  4. Hey Scooby been a fan for a long time fan, I had a question for you, I’m trying to lose an inch and 1/2 on my waist. My recruiter for the army told me to drink lots of water and go running. I was drinking water out of an empty 2 liter bottle and I would do this for about a week and i notice i was just getting water weight. How much water would be good for 211lb male? I drank to the point where I was going pee like 4x 1 hour. But it stopped me from eating too much. But I would swell up 5-6 pounds the next day.

    Which leads me to another question.. I use to play this game called In the groove it’s an arcade game where you use your legs to correspond with what is on the screen and it’s a good work out. I would play this game any where from 8-11 hours a day back in 2008-2010. I would be burning 8k-11k calories from what the machine said a session. So probably 6k-9k calories actually burned. I would eat anything I want and not gain weight. I was 164 pounds at 5’10 – 19% body fat. I stopped playing in 2011, and took a break for 2 years. I was wondering if this can be explained, when I don’t eat or try to control my calories my weight fluctuates. I would try to eat 4 small meals and would I feel like I gained weight the next day. But if I ate a lot one day, the next day I lose 2 pounds. I’m trying to eat less but it’s making me feel like i’m gaining weight then losing it. What does this mean?

    In short 2 questions are
    1. How much water should a 211 male actually consume without worrying about water gain.
    2. How come when I eat a lot it I feel like I lost some pounds the next day, rather then gaining weight?

  5. I am a 12 year old. I am at a very good level of physical fitness but the one thing I would have to improve on is my cardiovascular fitness. Would you say that interval training (Tabaka) would be a good idea for me? If anyone could help me out here, it would be greatly appreciated.

    1. It could work for you, but so could normal cardio. Scooby’s main point is, that its far more important that you do SOME kind of cardio than what kind it is. In my experience, regular jogging, swimming or cycling is perfect for keeping healthy and improving fitness, but if you find this lacks the intensity you want or it’s too boring for you then do some interval training. I think an optimal cardiovascular training routine should involve both high intensity interval training and some continuous, lower intensity cardio. Personally I like to mix it up; when running, I sometimes jog around a park for a long period of time at low intensity, and sometimes I do hill sprints as a kind of interval training. If you can do both types of cardio that’s ideal, otherwise do one or the other; just make sure youre doing one of the two :)

  6. Hey Scooby, i hope that i can get an answer from you.. I’m 19 years old now but i’m trying to lose my little belly fat since i’m 15.. well i’ve tried a bit of anything (except those ab king pro’s stuff and magic bullshit belts and magic pills) well i tried long cardio every day (30-45 min jogging) for a month and i’ve tried HIIT and guess what, my little belly remains and i still with about 20% bodyfat.. Well looking to my past i may failed at good nutricion.. i tried the smart food subtitutions like water instead of coke and sodas and i eat no cakes and junk stuff.. well after 2 months doing this and long cardio i remain the same bellyfat guy! I want to know if long cardio burns more callories that hiit trainning, for exemple 20 min of hiit against 40 min of joging.. who wins scooby?
    In other hand i think about trying your teenage workout plan since i don’t lift nothing for a long time (like 2 years) do i have some solution? of course i have but what? Nutricion + Cardio? You say that good nutricion + cardio will not burn my muscles right? Sorry about my bad english, i’m Portuguese (in other words i’m from the country of the best deserts and high caloric tasty meals and i hate loving my country food traditions lol) give me some honest advise please and THANK YOU for this website, it’s great.

  7. I started the Insanity workouts about a month and a half ago. They are very difficult. I was over 30lbs overweight when I started. I agree that interval training can be a risk for injury. However even with my sore knee that I’ve had for a number of years I am still able to complete the workouts. I finished Month 1 of the program and the second month call for MAX interval training. I elected to do month 1 again since I found it very difficult. When I finish this program I am going to start workouts you have listed on the excellent site. Looking forward to staying connected and helping me on my journey to fitness for life.

  8. The recumbent bike is a great option for those who are concerned about injuries.

    Regarding interval training (e.g. HITT, etc.) or LISS, here’s an idea: “Do both!” :)

  9. Scooby, just came upon your site last week and you give excellent advice. Now to my question, I am 60 years old and in pretty good shape. Played a lot of sports and ran when younger. I just started lifting again seriously and wonder what your thought are concerning men during weight training at my mature age.

  10. I have had to study this as part of my degree in sports and exercise science, so maybe I can add some things:

    -HIIT (intervals at near maximal effort sustained for 1- 5 minutes) is great for cardiac health, research suggests even better than continuous.
    -Sprint training or SIT is normally maximal and is more like 6-30 seconds before resting, in terms of health its a little less useful but is good for sports, it could overtrain you if you do it along with weights though.
    -Most athletes don’t really need continuous training, but of course long distance athletes do! (just agreeing)
    -HIIT can be quite easily done on a stationary bike which helps you control intensity and lowers chance of injury of course.
    -Finally, of course this doesn’t make continuous exercise useless, continuous exercise is safer, some prefer it and it is more applicable to long distance races.

    Great article Scooby, as per!

  11. Scooby, I have a phrase that I came up with when dealing with people who didn’t grasp the concept. I call it: TFTE! “Train For The Event!” Your post above merely supports that. HIIT and interval training are both really good options along with the long, steady-state event of walking too. What I normally do for people when helping them train is look at what their goals are and then work back from that to where they are right now. Again, if your event is going to deal with a lot of start-stop movement, then interval training is a very good option. If you are merely going for a fatloss workout, slow-steady walking is a good option too. Of course, there are ways to make it better for fat-loss, i.e. weight vests etc. You just have to figure out how to make an endurance exercise “a little less efficient” so that your body will have to work more over the time period. The human body will adapt and it is all about accounting for that and keeping it improving. Anyway, I enjoy your posts and keep up the good fight against training idiocy that gets pushed out there!

    1. Scooby_Werkstatt

      Hey Tom, Love that – TFTE! I didnt have a good clever acronym for it. I just thought of it as training for what you were trying to achieve. In triathlons its endurance, in sprinting its anaerobic speed, in powerlifting its 1RM. I love TFTE, thank you!

      1. Bitte Schon mein freund! Since I don’t believe in Copyright/Trademark, use it as much as you like!

        The only thing above that I will attribute something too, is how Dan John coalesced the idea of making exercises inefficient in order to get more out of them. I’d intuitively knew that but didn’t verbalize it until I read some of his posting where he brought it to my attention.

        Anyway, thanks for busting down the Common-Sensically challenged ways of exercise schuysters out there and making the simple known for everyone’s exercising improvement!

      1. Nooo, he was talking about those workout DVD’s with Shaun T.! It’s often compared to P90X, except Insanity is high intensity training!! …I also wanted to know whether something like that was healthy (supposedly you lose weight quickly).

        1. I did the full Insanity program. Dropped 12kg (26,46 lb) and lost 14cm (5,51 in) of belly. The program results are amazing, in my body shape and cardio conditioning (can withstand all kind of training in my gym, where my pals are dying on the floor!).

          But I won’t recommend it to everyone, because is VERY HARD to keep the program, I feel sore in a daily basis… But I can tell to all of you here, it changed my body, my mind and lifestyle.

  12. I have tried this style of lifting. great for mass. You will have to also do cardio for better health. I play Racquet Ball it gives you speed , core , and explosive power. all my opinion.I am 54 in the military and can lead from the front.

  13. I am a health advocate, to the point. after 30 years I can still learn.
    while training at FT Irwin, Ca, 100 plus temp, full battle rattle, look it up, no one wanted to move. A Capt. I was there with challenged me to walk the perimiter with him 2 X in AM and 2X in the PM. we then did 4sets of 25 p-ups various ab work and squats while tossing a large rock in the air. After 10 days I had great results. I lost only 4 LBS from my 5’9 , 207 LB but got very ripped to a new level. I reached a goal through a different route. change up is the lesson

  14. Hey scoob great video, quick question, i have always followed your 1 hour a day cardio rule and always thought if i did any more than 1 hour i would loose mass since i also do 1 hour weights, what do u recommend if i decide to do 1-4 hour cardio training for endurance and i dont want to loose mass (no pillow scream plz >_>)

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