How to Keep Cardio Training Simple With Minute Intervals

4/17/2023 4 min. reading

Cardio, strength, and conditioning workouts and training exercises are integral for every athlete’s fitness and performance. 

Regardless of the sport, although some athletes, such as pro runners, need cardio more than others, accelerating, maintaining top speeds, and decelerating are crucial training exercises. 

For coaches, the problem is that there are so many approaches to cardio conditioning exercises, such as the Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) protocol. Some coaches use fitness testing scores (Yo-Yo, mile run, Bronco, etc.) as a basis for interval and distance times. 

However, as many strength and conditioning coaches usually find out, more complex workouts aren’t always popular with professional athletes. Some just stick to what they know. Or go for a 5k run instead. 

One of the best ways to keep it simple is with Minute Intervals. 


What are Minute Intervals? 

Most coaches and athletes are familiar with interval training. 

Interval training “involves a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods,” with some of the most popular methods known as Fartlek training, Spin, and of course, High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

When it comes to running and cardio, there are numerous other approaches, especially among top-performing coaches and strength and conditioning experts. 

All of these exercises and protocols are designed to improve an athlete’s speed, performance, acceleration, and deceleration. 

Let’s take a look at the top three 1 minute intervals you can implement with your athletes . . . 


Top Three 1-Minute Interval Protocols for Cardio Training 

#1: High-intensity, Longer rests 

For this 1-minute interval, get your athletes to go high-intensity for 10 seconds (maximum effort, speed) and then rest for the remaining 50 (anaerobic alactic). 

Repeat as many times as you want, or different athletes’ needs depending on training and fitness goals. 

Gym-based (or bikes at home) are the best cardio exercise equipment, as athletes can push themselves harder than they could run outside or on a treadmill. 


#2: Longer high-intensity bursts 

Another minute interval protocol exercise for athletes is to go high-intensity for 20 seconds (maximum effort, speed) and rest for the remaining 40 (anaerobic alactic). Because it’s a longer burst of high intensity, it should start generating that lactic feeling in their legs. 

Naturally, repeat as many times as needed. It all depends on whether it’s in-season or off-season and whether an athlete has been recently injured or has other specific training requirements. 

Instead of bikes or treadmills, the best approach with this is running shuttle fashion back-and-forth for 20 seconds. 

Athletes could do this over a 10-meter distance, for example. It’s better and easier on their legs and feet than sprinting for 20 seconds in a straight line, reducing the risk of a hamstring injury. 


#3: 50 / 50 High-intensity: Rest split 

This third approach isn’t as high-intensity. Instead, coach your athletes to push moderately hard (rather than max speed) for 30 seconds, then rest for the remaining 30. 

Bikes or back-and-forth shuttle running are the best options for this type of workout. 

Given these are cardio exercises, rowing machines are also an option too, depending on the muscle groups you want to train. 

As far as the number of reps, the most effective approach is to start low for the most high-intensity version of this protocol (10 seconds on, 50 off) and increase (time allowing) 1 rep per week. So, you might start off with 10 reps and increase every week. 

For the lower-intensity sessions, you could go for 10 to 15 reps at a time and increase accordingly every week. 


Benefits of Minute Interval Training for Athletes 

Simplicity: Every athlete will have their phone (with a timer they can set), or a smartwatch with the same features. Failing that, most gyms have clocks, and coaches running the sessions can set a stopwatch. There’s no reason minute interval training can’t be done anywhere in any sports environment. 

Equipment: Any cardio equipment will do the job: treadmill, bike, rowing machine, stair climber, and of course, running either outside or inside. Again, making this approach as simple and easy to implement as possible. 

Easy to program: For every minute interval session, you can start with 10, a nice round number. Makes it easier to remember for coaches and athletes, and then they know they’ve only got to do this for 10 minutes. Make sure to warm up first, of course! 

Plus, if an athlete only has a 5-minute window between one training session and another, they can at least fit 5 reps in. 

We hope you’ve found our article on the minute interval approach to training useful. 


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