It is not uncommon for a small training facility to open and put a $285 clock on the wall.
Or you might order it with a stand for a grand total of $320.
And a large facility will probably buy a few of these clocks…
The clock costs that much and only does one thing in addition to displaying the time. That thing is timing intervals.
You can get the exact same capabilities by downloading a free (or cheap, as low $.99) app on your phone. Something that almost every trainer has done and you can do too, so you can get fit more easily.
Learn more about how to find and use this valuable tool.
Using Interval Training to Get Results!
Interval training is one of the most effective ways to burn massive amounts of calories. Interval training is also effective for strength, power, cardio, and environmental conditioning. Additionally, there are some well-known types of workouts that use a clock which work more effectively with an interval timer (because the timer will beep at you, while the clock just silently keeps going).
Interval training provides many great outcomes because there are infinite ways of setting intervals. You could be working for 20 seconds and resting for 5 minutes or you could be working for 5 minutes and resting 1 minute. Both of those are real examples of effective intervals for running. One will work on your power (e.g. sprinting) while the other will workout on your endurance (e.g. cardio).
-Short burst of work, sometimes a few in a series
- Long work with short rest
- Short work with long rest
-Short to long work
-Appropriate for safety concerns of the situation
-Critical for building adaptability
If your goal is fat burning, then strength and cardio will give you the most bang for your buck. And of course, you need to combine it with the appropriate diet.
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
EMOM is a very popular (and effective) way to structure a workout.
Watching minutes is an effective way of timing intervals without an interval timer because you only have to keep track of when the minute changes. This makes it effective on stopwatches, digital and even analog clocks!
But none of these reminds you when it’s time to work (unless you have a coach or are part of a group training session). You have to watch and pay attention (probably a good thing for many people), but I prefer to use an interval timer so I don’t have to watch the clock and instead can focus on other things such as fast and loose drills.
Terms You Will Need To Know
To use an interval timer effectively you need to be familiar with some terms. This section will explain them.
Work — This is the amount of time you are working. Note: sometimes the rest is included in the work. This will be when it is a certain amount of reps. A classic example is EMOM referenced above. If you are doing 10 squats “on the minute” the rest is how much time is left over from the minute after you finish the squats. Meaning: you don’t need to set any rest because it is “built in.”
Rest — This is the rest before you go back to working. Usually this time is filled with active recovery such as shaking out your muscles, breathing or even just walking.
Round — One cycle of working and resting combined is known as a round.
Sets (multiple rounds grouped together) — Often with interval training we want to “cluster” the work. For example, doing 4 rounds of 10 seconds work and 20 seconds rest could be considered 1 set. If you were doing 5 sets with 2 minutes in between each set, the work is clustered.
Rest between sets — When you are doing multiple sets you also need to know how much time to rest between the clusters. In the above example 2 minutes is the rest between sets.
Warm up (or preparation) — This could mean one of two things, but it always happens first and only once. Option 1 is a large amount of time to get warmed up and ready for your upcoming intervals. For example, 5 minutes of walking or jogging before starting running intervals. Option 2 is a short amount of time to get set up, which is extremely helpful if you are pressing start and doing the intervals. For example, 20 seconds leaves plenty of time to start the timer, walk to your weights, set up and start the first interval. If you started the first interval without this you would rush and (often sloppily) start working.
Cool down — This is the amount of time to recover when you are done. It is usually optional and isn’t used often, typically only when an interval session is part of a larger workout.
Tabata — Many interval timers are called Tabata timers. Tabata is a specific interval protocol (involving 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest intervals) developed by a researcher (by the name of Tabata) that has been proven effective for certain goals. However, many people now use the term to refer to Interval Training in general and these timers often let you adjust to whatever intervals you prefer with the “default” workout a Tabata interval.
HIIT — High Intensity Interval Training, which is another common name that is commonly misused. The first two words just let you know that you should be working at a high intensity, which is often combined with a short rest (for example the Tabata protocol mentioned above). While any interval protocol that involves intense work could be called by this name this term is mostly used by people who want to highlight the fact that they want you to be working really hard or they have an affinity for acronyms.
Choosing a Timer
As mentioned at the beginning of this article a big wall-mounted interval timer easily visible to a group in a gym or team setting is an expensive piece of technology.
But if you are working out by yourself (or with just a few other people) then downloading an app is probably the best solution.
If you don’t have a smartphone another cheap option is a Gymboss timer which is a small clip-on (or you can buy a wristband) dedicated interval timer. Gymboss provides models from $14.95 up to $27.95 (plus shipping).
There are a few things to consider when choosing a timer.
Saving Workouts — If you have multiple interval workouts that you do regularly you might get frustrated having to change the interval settings manually before each workout. A great feature is being able to save a few so you can quickly (and consistently) set up the timer.
Importing/Exporting — If you and your friends (or coach) use the same app you might be able to send each other workouts. This is a great feature because setting up the workout is the most frustrating part of the process, and this just gets it done and you don’t have to worry about making mistakes.
Sounds — When it’s time to start or end a round the timer will alert you with a sound. Do you want to be able to choose this sound? Most timers have a default noise (which may annoy you) and you might want a few options.
Talking — Maybe instead of beeps you want the timer to verbally call out what you want to do next. Some will simply call out “work” or “rest,” others won’t talk at all. High-end ones will use text-to-speech technology to call out whatever you choose to type in, whether that is just working or resting, the names of exercises, or a quick motivational phrase to let you know to get moving.
Music — Especially useful for longer cardio intervals with short rest. This option lets you link a song (or sometimes a playlist) to an interval. Then while you are running you could have your hard rock playing and be free from it when you walk between the hard intervals.
Price — Once you hear about all these cool features it is easy to want them all. But having them all will cost you. Which features are free and which are paid change from app to app. The good news is none of the apps is expensive. My high-end recommendation costs all of $5.
Full disclosure: I have only used Android interval apps as I have had an Android phone for a long time.
Most Full Featured — Seconds (available on both IOS and Android)
This timer does it all. And gives you almost every feature for free!
Except the ability to save a workout you build. And to make it worse you can only use a workout you build just once. You have to reset your timer from scratch every time you use it if you use the free version.
This is so annoying that if you want a free app this is the worst option. But if you are willing to pay the $4.99, it becomes the best option.
Best Value (Android) — Impetus
This timer mostly does it all. The only major feature that it lacks is text-to-speech.
The one feature that you don’t get without paying is the ability to import/export workouts. Unless you have friends (or a coach) who is planning on sending you workouts this isn’t a problem.
If it is you can get the paid version for just $1.29.
Best Value (iPhone) — Interval timer — HITT workouts.
This also has a free version and a paid version. I have recommended it to clients who have iPhones and none of them has had a problem with the free version. You can read more about the features and cost on their website. I have never used this myself, though, since I am an Android user.
There are many other options out there. Just type in interval, hitt or tabata timer into the App or Play store and see what comes up. Just don’t get too bogged down in the choices, as they all do pretty much the same thing. Pick the first one that fits your budget and has the really important features you want and try it out. If it doesn’t work out as planned then search for another one.
Fitness tools go beyond shoes, treadmills, barbells, kettlebells etc.
A good interval timer is an invaluable tool that you should be using in your training. Especially since you can get really good ones for free on your smartphone.
Also, if you are looking for some good workouts that incorporate intervals you can find more than a few in my new E-Book 18 Bodyweight +18 Kettlebell +18 Hybrid Workouts to Make You Feel Alive because חי (Chai), which includes workouts using just your body, kettlebells or both for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
It is coming out soon and you can be the first to get it (for free) by signing up for my weekly newsletter (which is also free).
Now get your interval timer and get excited to take up your training a notch!