By: Anthony Roberts
Back when I was in high-school, almost every magazine had an advertisement for a music club of some kind (Columbia House was the most popular). This was the premise: You pay a penny (.01c), and you get to choose 12 albums from a list – after which, you got a CD every month of their choosing, unless you declined it or canceled the membership. Most people found about two or three (maybe 3-4) albums they actually wanted from the original list, and then got frustrated and filled their other eight selections with albums that they didn’t really want. After that, the monthly choice from the club was usually total garbage, and people never canceled the membership or declined the monthly albums.
As a result, people got a few albums they really wanted, a few that were marginal, and a bunch of crap. This is how most training programs are done. Athletes and coaches take some exercises that work (squats, chins, cleans, etc…), a few that are marginal, and a bunch that really suck. Generally the area the coach or athlete is least familiar with, is the most deficient in the program; that area is almost endurance. If we check out the summer strength and conditioning programs of high-school or collegiate football players, we’d see a decent weight training program with a bunch of senseless distance running tagged on to the end (the monthly album that nobody wants). Across the board, with most sports, we find this to be the case, from football to lacrosse to football (the other kind, also called soccer)
And what happens? Then we get to August and everyone is out of shape; two-a-days start and kids are puking all over themselves. Why? Because these kinds of sports all involve sprinting and explosive endurance, and that’s not what an area optimally trained by pounding asphalt for 45 minutes per day.
The solution? Ditch the long slow distance (LSD) running and do some intervals. A 2007 study examined the effects of LSD running (45 minutes at 70% intensity) versus interval training (4 minutes of very high intensity sprinting with 3 minutes of active rest between sets, repeated 4 times, i.e. 16 minutes of running in a 28 minute workout) on previously trained athletes. The interval training protocol resulted in greater improvements in VO2 max (an indicator of aerobic fitness) and Stroke Volume (amount of blood pushed through the body by the heart).
Interval training is like ordering your favorite songs off iTunes…you get exactly what you need, and you’re not left with a CD collection that includes an unopened a copy of R.E.M.’s Greatest Hits.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Apr;39(4):665-71.
Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training.Helgerud J, Høydal K, Wang E, Karlsen T, Berg P, Bjerkaas M, Simonsen T, Helgesen C, Hjorth N, Bach R, Hoff J.
SourceDepartment of Circulation and Imaging, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Jan.Helgerud@ntnu.no
PURPOSE:The present study compared the effects of aerobic endurance training at different intensities and with different methods matched for total work and frequency. Responses in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), stroke volume of the heart (SV), blood volume, lactate threshold (LT), and running economy (CR) were examined.
METHODS:Forty healthy, nonsmoking, moderately trained male subjects were randomly assigned to one of four groups:1) long slow distance (70% maximal heart rate; HRmax); 2)lactate threshold (85% HRmax); 3) 15/15 interval running (15 s of running at 90-95% HRmax followed by 15 s of active resting at 70% HRmax); and 4) 4 x 4 min of interval running (4 min of running at 90-95% HRmax followed by 3 min of active resting at 70%HRmax). All four training protocols resulted in similar total oxygen consumption and were performed 3 d.wk for 8 wk.
RESULTS:High-intensity aerobic interval training resulted in significantly increased VO2max compared with long slow distance and lactate-threshold training intensities (P<0.01). The percentage increases for the 15/15 and 4 x 4 min groups were 5.5 and 7.2%, respectively, reflecting increases in V O2max from 60.5 to 64.4 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1) and 55.5 to 60.4 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1). SV increased significantly by approximately 10% after interval training (P<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS:High-aerobic intensity endurance interval training is significantly more effective than performing the same total work at either lactate threshold or at 70% HRmax, in improving VO2max. The changes in VO2max correspond with changes in SV, indicating a close link between the two.