Which Is the Best for Aerobic Performance – HIIT or Endurance?

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A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

Long slow distance training refers to exercise that covers a relatively long distance at a slow and comfortable pace. Long slow distance training is associated with aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, walking, hiking and swimming. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), on the other hand, features intense bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by low intensity or complete rests. There has been debate as to which type of exercise reaps the best results when it comes to performance and endurance in athletes.

Benefits of slow distance training include the improved ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, the ability of the body to use fat for energy, and increased endurance. HIIT helps you burn a lot of calories in a short period of time, increase your metabolic rate for hours after of exercise, reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase muscle gain. A study in the Journal of Sports Sciences (Cheilleachair et al. 2016) assessed whether HIIT or long slow distance training was more effective for the endurance and aerobic performance in trained rowers.

Related Article: HIIT Responses in Endurance & Sprint Athletes

The Study

Nineteen well-trained rowers participated in this study. They performed three tests before and after an 8-week training period. 1. A 2000 m time trial 2. A seven-step incremental step test to determine maximal oxygen uptake (vo2max), power output at vo2max, peak power output, rowing economy and blood lactate indices. 3. A seven-stroke power-output test to determine maximal power output and force. Once baseline testing was completed, rowers were split up randomly between a High-Intensity Interval Training and Long Slow Distance Training group.

The Results

The Long Slow Distance Training group featured ten weekly aerobic sessions. The High-Intensity Interval Training sessions comprised 6-8 x 2.5-minute intervals at 100% peak power output with recovery time based on participant’s heart rate returning to 70% of heart rate max. The results showed that those who performed HIIT produced greater improvement in 2000m time trial performance than those in the LSD group. The HIIT group also demonstrated greater improvements in maximal oxygen uptake and power output at lactate threshold.

Takeaway

Eight weeks of HIIT performed at 100% peak power output is more effective than long-distance training in improving performance and aerobic characteristics in well-trained rowers. HIIT should be used for athletes who need to enhance their endurance and aerobic performance.

Related Article: HIIT Is Beneficial for All Ages

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References

Cheilleachair, N.J., Harrison, A.J., and Warrington G.D. (2016). “HIIT Enhances Endurance Performance and Aerobic Characteristics More Than High Volume Training in Trained Rowers.” Journal of Sports Sciences, 35, 1052-1058.

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