The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Upper Body High Intensity Interval Training

Written by
Michael Harper, MEd
Posted in
Fit Tips

Monday, Feb 22, 2016

Lack of time is the number one reported barrier to exercise but as with most barriers there are potential solutions, one of which, in this case, is interval training. During interval training, higher intensity work periods (work) are alternated with lower intensity work periods (recovery or relief) within the same workout. This allows more work to be done in a shorter period of time. While commonly used for run training, there are a number of ways this training method can be utilized.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a common application of interval training and is characterized by work intervals performed at maximal or near-maximal effort for a short period of time. To be effective, interval guidelines, as taught in The Cooper Institute’s Interval Training course, suggest the work interval be less than 20 seconds with the recovery interval three to five times as long. For example, a 10 second work interval would be followed by a 30-50 second recovery interval. One application of HIIT is to specifically target the upper body. This can be done by utilizing an Airdyne Bicycle. An adequate warm-up should be performed as well as the seat height properly adjusted prior to beginning. To perform: grasp the handle bars of the bike and rest the feet on the pegs located on the outside of the front fan cage. Then vigorously move the handle bars forward and backwards at near-maximal effort for 10 to 20 seconds. During the recovery, place the feet on the pedals and at a slow pace, pedal while moving the handle bars slowly back and forth for 30 to 100 seconds depending on your goals. Then repeat. The video shows an abbreviated version of performing upper body intervals on the Airdyne Bike.

High-intensity training isn’t for everyone though. Proper screening is crucial prior to participation. Also, the intensity should be adjusted relative to each individual’s level of fitness. With higher intensity exercise, there is often more joint stress. This means that having adequate levels of muscular strength and endurance should precede participation. For high risk individuals or those just starting out, an alternative to consider is Moderate Intensity Interval Training (MIIT) which is performed at a slightly lower intensity than HIIT, yet harder than steady state exercise.

Cress, M., Porcari, J., Foster, C. Interval training. ACSM’s Health & Fitness J. (19)5:3-6.