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Improved athletic performance in highly trained cyclists after interval training


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 1996 - Volume 28 - Issue 11 - p 1427-1434
Applied Sciences: Physical Fitness and Performance

This study determined whether a 4-wk high-intensity interval training program (HIT) would improve the 40-km time trial performances (TT40) of 8 competitive cyclists (peak O2 uptake 5.2 ± 0.4 I·min-1) with a background of moderate-intensity endurance training (BASE). Before intervention, all cyclists were tested on at least three separate occasions to ensure that their baseline performances were stable. In these tests, peak sustained power output (PPO) was measured during a progressive exercise test, muscular resistance to fatigue was determined during a timed ride to exhaustion at 150% of PPO (TF150), and a TT40 was performed on a cycle-simulator. The coefficient of variation for all baseline tests was <1.7 ± 1.3% (mean ± SD). Cyclists then replaced 15 ± 2% of their ≈300 km·wk-1 BASE training with HIT, which took place on 6 d and consisted of six to eight 5-min repetitions at 80% of PPO, with 60-s recovery between work bouts. HIT significantly improved TT40 (56.4 ± 3.6 vs 54.4 ± 3.2 min; P < 0.001), PPO (416 ± 32 vs 434 ± 34 W;P < 0.01) and TF150 (60.5 ± 9.3 vs 72.5 ± 7.6 s; P < 0.01). The faster TT40 was due to a significant increase in both the cyclists' absolute (301 ± 42 vs 326 ± 43 W;P < 0.0001) and relative (72.1 ± 5.6 vs 75.0 ± 6.8% of PPO; P < 0.05) power output after HIT. These results indicate that a 4-wk program of HIT increased the PPO and fatigue resistance of competitive cyclists and improved their 40-km time trial performances.

Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit of The Medical Research Council; and The University of Cape Town, Department of Physiology, Medical School, Observatory 7925, SOUTH AFRICA

Submitted for publication October 1995.

Accepted for publication March 1996.

This study was funded by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the Nellie Atkinson and Harry Crossley Research Funds of the University of Cape Town, and ABSA Bank.

Address for correspondence: Dr. John A. Hawley, Department of Physiology, University of Cape Town Medical School, Observatory 7925, South Africa. E-mail: JHAWLEY@SPORTS.UCT.AC.ZA

©1996The American College of Sports Medicine