Take a break from choreography and give your students this athletic challenge on the step. The interval format presented here is easy to teach and can be adapted for all fitness levels. Interval training is a valuable tool for re-energizing students and increasing their fitness levels, and it fits in nicely with other popular “metabolic training” programs. Also, because of its intensity, this class combines well with other formats, such as weight training, yoga or mat Pilates.
Format: athletic interval training on the step
Total Time: up to 45 minutes
Equipment: one step (plus) risers per participant
Music: high-energy, midtempo music (128-135 beats per minute). Because the movements are repetitive and simple, it’s fine to go faster than you would in a choreographed class. Slow down for power moves or increased range of motion. It’s not necessary to use the beat of the music on all intervals. Instead, try using music as background.
- Let work intervals last between 15 seconds and 3 minutes, with the most intense bursts being the shortest.
- Remember that this interval training is anaerobic (i.e., it relies on the anaerobic glycolysis energy system, so encourage participants to exert themselves beyond their comfort zones and to be out of breath at the end of each interval.
- Vary rest intervals from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, as appropriate; the length of a rest need not match the duration of the previous work interval.
- Be aware of students’ fatigue levels.
- Give only as much rest as students need to make an effective effort in the next interval.
- Repeat each interval 2-4 times, with rest in between, before moving on to the next set.
Unilateral exercises have a single-leg lead and must be repeated with the other leg for balance.
Warm-Up (8-12 minutes)
Interval classes require an extended warm-up to ensure that the body is fully prepared for high-level exertion. Use the floor and the step, and gradually increase intensity. For example, a step-touch right and left with basic right can progress into a leap side-to-side on the floor with a jogging basic on the board. Incorporate lateral movements and light plyometrics as preparation for more intense intervals.
Interval #1 Power Repeaters (Unilateral)
Begin with a classic “3-knee repeater.” Focus on bending and straightening the standing leg and using a large range of motion. Tap down after each 8-count to remain on the same lead leg. Add a plyometric hop to just the first knee for a few repetitions, add the hop to the last knee, and then try hopping on each knee lift. Depending on your group, you could progress to a 7-knee repeater with power on the last three, or even on all seven! Repeat to fatigue (about 90 seconds).
Interval #2 March and Go (Unilateral)
Begin on the narrow end with the board to your right. March with your right foot on the step and your left on the floor, making sure you fully extend your right knee, hip and ankle joints. More advanced students can add a push, landing on the same foot and lowering down with control. Complete 4 marches (8 counts), then push across the top of the board twice, leaving you on the side of the board where you began. Repeat to fatigue (about 1 minute).
Interval #3 Fast-Feet Straddle (Unilateral)
Start this interval with a traditional right-leg straddle, stepping in an up, up, down, down pattern. Pick up the pace, keeping knees bent and moving the feet as quickly as possible while maintaining control. Head remains level through the entire movement. Continue to fatigue (about 30 seconds).
Interval #4 Side Lunges From Top
Begin on top of the board, facing the narrow end. Tap your right toe to the floor, turning the left foot, leg and torso slightly to the left. Bend your left knee and lean slightly forward to maintain spinal alignment and load the gluteals. Focus on keeping your weight on the leg that is on the board, barely tapping your toe to the floor for balance. Straighten your leg and torso while switching legs on top of the board. Alternate legs as you continue to lunge. More advanced participants can hop as they switch legs. Continue to fatigue (60-90 seconds).
Interval #5 Lateral Leap
Begin with the long edge of the step to your right side. Leap over the board one foot at a time, bringing the trailing leg over but not tapping it down. Be sure to land with a bent knee and push off to leap over in the opposite direction. Less fit participants can perform the leap behind the board. Continue to fatigue (45-60 seconds).
Interval #6 Shuffle and Jump (Unilateral)
On the floor with knees bent, shuffle to the right and left (4 counts in each direction). Next perform two 2-foot jumps onto the board (modify with V-steps). Land in a squat position, and step or jump back down to the floor after each jump. Repeat in the same direction to fatigue (1-2 minutes).
Cool-Down (~3-5 minutes)
If you are exhausted at the end of these intervals, then you did it right! Continue simple movements (e.g., step-touch or march) to gradually decrease your heart rate. A full cool-down is not necessary if you are transitioning to another format. To get the most benefit for your students, mix and match exercises—taking care to balance linear and lateral movements—to keep the interval section to 30 minutes or less (not counting the warm-up). Finish your class with a complementary format, such as upper-body weights or mat Pilates. This way your students are more likely to put their full energy into the intervals, and they will be thankful for a change of pace!
For two more intervals—Knee and Lunge, and Squat Jumps—please read the full article, “Sample Class: Intervals Stepped Up,” in the online IDEA Library or in February 2010 IDEA Fitness Journal.
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