Rethinking High-Intensity Interval Training for Conditioning

September 18, 2012 | Anthony Mychal

Must See Conditioning Videos


High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a popular conditioning method. However, Gassers, Shuttle Runs and Tabata intervals might not be the best option for your sport. Read on to find out why.

The Science Behind Conditioning

Energy comes from different sources depending on length and intensity of movement. Each major energy system is activated when movement begins, but some more than others depending on the nature of the work. The traditional breakdown between energy systems is:

  • Aerobic - long duration (typically longer than 3 minutes), moderate intensity exercise fueled by oxygen
  • Anaerobic - short duration, maximal effort activity fueled by stored energy

However, this split doesn't explain enough, because the anaerobic system is further broken down into two parts:

  • Alactic Anaerobic - short-term energy (10-15 seconds) fueled by ATP-CP
  • Lactic Anaerobic - mid-term energy (60-90 seconds) fueled by glycolysis

For approximately the first 15 seconds, the alactic anaerobic system is pumping hard. Beyond this point, if intensity remains high, the lactic anaerobic pathway becomes the primary energy producer. This is what causes the burning sensation in muscles, and it is the primary energy system behind HIIT training. If activity continues, the aerobic system begins to take over.

So, calling something "anaerobic" isn't specific enough. Throwing a baseball is anaerobic. So is performing as many Squat Jumps as possible in one minute. But they are very different.

Capacity and Power

A single bout of explosive effort—like a 100-meter sprint—followed by a long period of rest is based on alactic anaerobic power. It's a one-and-done quick effort. However, football and other team sports require repeated sprints and efforts over extended periods of time with intermittent rest.

Team-sport athletes are faced with unique demands. They need top-end power and the capacity to sustain it over the length of a game. For example, a pitcher with amazing alactic power might hit triple digits on the radar gun, but his speed will quickly decrease if he doesn't have capacity.

Importance of Aerobic Training

If you truly want to condition for your sport, you need to train both the alactic and aerobic systems. This will dramatically improve recovery between plays.

A recent study put soccer players through a total of ten six-second sprints, with thirty seconds of rest between them. There was a 27 percent drop in power from the first to last sprint. Compare this to the standard 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off HIIT interval. It doesn't even come close. Soccer involves about two to four seconds of sprinting followed by 90 seconds of low-intensity jogging. This means that 70 percent of a soccer match is performed under aerobic conditions.

How to Develop the Aerobic System

Distance running is a form of aerobic training, but not all aerobic training is distance running. Whether it's running, calisthenics, jumping rope or circuit training, aerobic conditioning occurs when the heart rate hovers between 130 and 150 beats per minute.

One of the best forms of aerobic training is tempo runs, taken from Charlie Francis. Instead of sprinting at max speed, jog at 60 to 70 percent of your max until your heart rate reaches the upper aerobic threshold. Rest until your heart rate returns to the lower end of the threshold, and repeat.

Sample Program

Day 1: Alactic Power

  • 40-yard sprints with 2-3 minutes of rest between reps
  • Perform until you start slowing down. Specifically, there should be no more than a 10 percent drop in speed.

Day 2: Aerobic Capacity

  • With twenty minutes on a clock, begin a relaxed and loose jog
  • Maintain speed until you start breathing heavily, then slow down to a walk
  • When you feel almost recovered (not completely recovered), jog again
  • Ebb and flow between 50 to 70 percent of your max effort, and never let your heart rate fall out of the 120 to 150 range.
Learn more about building your conditioning through STACK's Conditioning Guide.

SOURCES

Oetter, E. (2011). "Research review: energy systems, interval training, & rsa." [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/Pdzkrt.

Osgnach, C., et al. (2010). 'Energy cost and metabolic power in elite soccer: A new match analysis approach." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(1), 170-178.3)

Gaitanos, G.C., et al. (1993). "Human muscle metabolism during intermittent maximal exercise." Journal of Applied Physiology, 75(2), 712-9.

Anthony Mychal
- Anthony Mychal is a writer, athlete consultant, teacher and coach. He has a M.S. in health and physical education, a B.S. in health and physical...
Anthony Mychal
- Anthony Mychal is a writer, athlete consultant, teacher and coach. He has a M.S. in health and physical education, a B.S. in health and physical...

Featured Videos

Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,265,894
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 197,143
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 4: Skill Training Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 4: Skill Training Views: 396,957
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,189
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,450,145
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,255
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,916
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,134,125

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

Are High-Intensity Workouts Making You Fat?

Are High-Intensity Workouts Making You Fat?

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

Football Players: 2-Week Crash Course in Football Conditioning

Football Players: 2-Week Crash Course in Football Conditioning

Can You Survive the ‘100 Bears’ Challenge?

Can You Survive the '100 Bears' Challenge?

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trail Running

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trail Running

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

Who Invented the Burpee?

Who Invented the Burpee?

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

YardBarker