Research Reviews (1): High-Intensity Training Periodisation

This is a new section in the Journal that will cover the areas of endurance training and exercise physiology. Everything that comes to the light and is practically useful for runners

Some background. We all know that successful athletes incorporate high volume low intensity training AND high-intensity session (HIT) in their training in order to maximize adaptations. Training specificity is an important principle of training. If we stress metabolic systems or tissues with appropriate stimulus, they adapt to withstand higher stress the next time.  HIT sessions generally could be described as sessions that involve exercise intensities greater than 90% VO2peak and elicit blood lactate concentrations above 4 mM. For runners, those sessions are 800m, 1K , 1 mile intervals. However, since HIT training programming involves manipulation of many variables, such as interval duration, recovery period, repetition number etc., it is still debatable what is the optimal approach to HIT training.

A new paper (still unpublished) came out from the team of Norwegian researchers:

The Effect of Different High-Intensity Periodization Models on Endurance Adaptations (Sylta et al., 2016)


The purpose of this particular study was to look at different HIT models and the effects of HIT progression on muscle adaaptations and exercise performance.

Simply, they wanted to test if athletes training for speed should start first with shorter intervals and then progress to longer high-intensity intervals or vice verca

HIT protocol used for the study

Methods. 63 well-trained cyclists (VO2max 61.3±5.8

Divided into three groups completed 12-wk training protocol and 24 HIT sessions

Group I: Increasing HIT (4x16min, 4x8min, 4x4min two times each week)

Group II: Decreasing HIT (similar, just in opposite)

Group III: Mixed HIT


What test did athletes undergo before and after intervention period?

Standard physiology assessment was carried out before athletes started HIT training protocol, assessing physiology and performance, such as:

Power4mM - workload at set blood lactate concentration (determined during incremental test using 5-min steps)

VO2peak – peak oxygen consumption

Peak power output (PPO)

HRpeak – peak exercise heart rate

Peak blood lactate

Power30s – average 30-sec all-out power determined using so called Wingate test

Power40min – all-out 40min time-trial (TT)

Main findings? All three groups (irrespective of HIT progression they undertook in 12-wk cycle) improved 5-10% in their Power40min,  VO2peak, PPO

What is the significance of the results for a runner and coach? That simplifies HIT programing, especially for sub-elite runners, and mixing up HIT sessions of longer and shorter duration might be as effective as following rigid and organized approach. Practically that means that similar training effect could be achieved balancing short (3 min) and longer (approx. 10 min) intervals in one week during speed training cycle, compared to actually following the progression from short-to-long, or in opposite. This makes training more fun!