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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mixed-Intensity Interval Training vs. Steady-Speed Running

Evidence continues to pile up concerning the advantages of interval training. A study by James Clark in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 1773-1781, 2010) compared interval training comprised of runs of varying lengths and intensities to steady-speed running as to which produced greater improvements in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), the gold standard of aerobic fitness.

Study Procedure
The subjects were 32 female league and college competitive soccer players who were divided into 2 groups that trained as follows for 8 weeks:

1) Mixed-Intensity Interval Training (MIIT): The workout consisted of repetitions of the following 6-minute exercise cycle:
  • 30 sec of jogging
  • 30 sec running at 90-100% of max effort
  • 60 sec of jogging
  • 60 sec running at 80-90% of max effort
  • 90 sec of jogging
  • 90 sec running at 70-80% of max effort
      The subjects did 2 cycles (12 min) the first week and increased to 6 cycles (36 min) by the eighth week.

2) Steady-Speed Training (SST): They ran steadily at a "moderate to hard" pace (heart rate corresponding to 60-80% of that at maximal oxygen uptake). Run time was 40 minutes the first week and increased to 60 minutes by the eighth week.

The mixed-intensity interval training group improved in maximal oxygen uptake by over 25% while the steady-speed training group improved less than 17%, a statistically significant difference.

Bottom Line
The mixed-intensity interval training improved aerobic fitness more than did steady-speed running, and required less time per workout. In addition, while it was not tested, it is likely that the sprinting segments of the interval training produced more improvement in sprinting ability, which is essential for soccer and other sports requiring bursts of speed. Thus, it appears that mixed-intensity interval training is advantageous for athletes in various team sports. Steady-speed running is still important for distance runners, who generally work out at various intensities during a training week.

NOTE: This description of experimental results is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation. Anyone engaging in an exercise program should obtain proper medical authorization before doing so.

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