Wikipedia’s definition of interval training:
Interval training is broadly defined as repetitions of high-speed/intensity work followed by periods of rest or low activity.
Most of Wikipedia article at this writing is a discussion of interval training as used by long distance runners. But,
More generally, it can refer to any cardiovascular workout (e.g. stationary biking, running, rowing, etc.) that involves brief bouts at near-maximum exertion interspersed with periods of lower-intensity activity.
In his Turbulence Training program, Craig Ballantyne recommends cycling over running for interval training for fat loss because it’s less likely to result in injury, though on paper, he says, running on a track would probably be best. Elliptical machines take third place behind running & cycling in his book. For cycling, he recommends stationary bikes because it’s easier to make the switch from the work to recovery/rest & back again on a stationary bike.
As of this writing, Wikipedia goes on to say:
It is believed by many in the fitness industry that this method of training is more effective at inducing fat loss than simply training at a moderate intensity level for the same duration. It has been said that in some instances — like long-distance running — moderate-intensity exercise for long durations may actually preferentially burn muscle tissue as opposed to adipose. At present, however, there is no conclusive research to support any of these claims.
Oh well, who knows what we should consider “conclusive” research to be. But what Ballantyne has learned through his research in the literature on exercise physiology is intriguing:
The best explanation for the success of [fat loss programs based on strength-training supersets & interval training] is that training with intensity results in a large metabolic disturbance in the body. That requires more calories to be burned by the body in attempt to return the body to normal.
In comparison, the effects of aerobic training are simple. You burn calories while you are doing it, but once activity ends, that’s it. No more calories burned and definitely no muscle gained! However, when you create a metabolic disturbance in the body, such as that which occurs from strength training or interval training, you will have a more potent stimulus for change in the structure of your body. That is, you should have a more potent stimulus for fat loss and muscle growth.
— Turbulence Training for Fat Loss, p. 6
The “metabolic disturbance” Ballantyne refers to is what suggested to him the name Turbulence Training. Which I predict will become a generic, uncapitalized term as more & more people begin to use it. (It’s already been in use for several years. I’m a latecomer to it.)