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Interval training program optimization in highly trained endurance cyclists


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2002 - Volume 34 - Issue 11 - p 1801-1807
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

LAURSEN, P. B., C. M. SHING, J. M. PEAKE, J. S. COOMBES, and D. G. JENKINS. Interval training program optimization in highly trained endurance cyclists. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 34, No. 11, pp. 1801–1807, 2002.

Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of three different high-intensity interval training (HIT) regimens on endurance performance in highly trained endurance athletes.

Methods Before, and after 2 and 4 wk of training, 38 cyclists and triathletes (mean ± SD; age = 25 ± 6 yr; mass = 75 ± 7 kg; V̇O2peak = 64.5 ± 5.2 mL·kg−1·min−1) performed: 1) a progressive cycle test to measure peak oxygen consumption (V̇O2peak) and peak aerobic power output (PPO), 2) a time to exhaustion test (Tmax) at their V̇O2peak power output (Pmax), as well as 3) a 40-km time-trial (TT40). Subjects were matched and assigned to one of four training groups (G1, N = 8, 8 × 60% Tmax at Pmax, 1:2 work:recovery ratio; G2, N = 9, 8 × 60% Tmax at Pmax, recovery at 65% HRmax; G3, N = 10, 12 × 30 s at 175% PPO, 4.5-min recovery; GCON, N = 11). In addition to G1, G2, and G3 performing HIT twice per week, all athletes maintained their regular low-intensity training throughout the experimental period.

Results  All HIT groups improved TT40 performance (+4.4 to +5.8%) and PPO (+3.0 to +6.2%) significantly more than GCON (−0.9 to +1.1%;P < 0.05). Furthermore, G1 (+5.4%) and G2 (+8.1%) improved their V̇O2peak significantly more than GCON (+1.0%;P < 0.05).

Conclusion  The present study has shown that when HIT incorporates Pmax as the interval intensity and 60% of Tmax as the interval duration, already highly trained cyclists can significantly improve their 40-km time trial performance. Moreover, the present data confirm prior research, in that repeated supramaximal HIT can significantly improve 40-km time trial performance.

Human Performance Laboratory, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA

Submitted for publication November 2001.

Accepted for publication July 2002.

Address for correspondence: Paul B. Laursen, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 4072; E-mail:

The authors wish to thank the athletes of this study for their enthusiastic participation during the vigorous exercise trials. We also express our gratitude to Peter Herzig, Sarah Tennant, and Cameron Prentice for their assistance during the lengthy data collection phase of this study, and to Gary Wilson and Margaret Barber for their technical support.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.