Short Sprint Interval Training

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Summary

A meta-analysis of the literature demonstrates that Sprint Interval Training (SIT) can increase VO2 max by 4.2-13.4%. Adaptations following SIT are primarily peripheral, increase the oxidative potential of the muscle. (Sloth 2013)

Burgomaster et al (2003) reported 6 sessions SIT over 2 weeks dramatically improved cycle endurance capacity in recreationally trained men and women. During cycling at 80% of VO2max, average time to exhaustion increased from approximately 25 minutes to 51 minutes (~101%)!

Hughes et al (2004) demonstrated 6 sessions of SIT over a 2 week period increased muscle oxidative capacity and altered muscle glycogen metabolism in recreationally active young men. SIT decreased the time required to complete a fixed amount of work (10.4%), increased resting muscle glycogen by 53%, and appeared to decrease reliance on non-oxidative energy metabolism. SIT consisted of 4 to 7 "all out" 30 second Wingate tests, separated by 4 minutes of recovery.

Trembblay et al (1994) compared aerobic versus sprint exercise on the cycle ergometer (see HIIT). The sprint group lost over 3 times as much body fat as the aerobic group despite of only expending less than half as many calories during exercise.

It was recognized that creatine phosphate recovery can take about 4 minutes between maximal sprints (McCartney 1986). Bogdanis (1995) reported after a 30 second cycle ergometer sprint, PCr resynthesis reached 64% of pre-exercise levels after 90 seconds rest and 85% of pre-exercise levels after 6 minutes rest. Full PCr repletion may take longer after repeated sprints than following a single sprint.

Trebblay used a passive recovery between sprint bouts, resting until heart rate returned to 120 to 130 bpm. Yet, active recovery hastens local lactate clearance (Corder 2000) and provides superior performance to passive rest in repeated short-term, high intensity cycling sprint bouts (Signorile 1993).

SIT, or HIIT, not to be confused with traditional interval training is an advanced technique to be used only after at least 6 weeks of a general conditioning program. Here are guidelines and ideas for beginning SIT program and other ways to incorporate this sort of training into your routine:

General Guidelines

  • Warmup
    • Specific to movement
    • Alternate progressively intense warmups between short active recovery periods
  • Workout
    • Near maximal sprints followed by 4 minute
    • Repeat multiple times
  • Duration
    • Begin with 2 to 3 workout bouts for your fist workouts
    • Over the next weeks, progressively increase duration, number of bouts, and speed
  • Frequency
    • 2-3 non consecutive days
    • Ideally, days that weight training is not performed

Traditional Sprints (Outdoor on Track)

  • Warmup
    • 2 min brisk walk then 25% jog (30 sec)
    • 2 min brisk walk then 50% run (20 sec)
    • 2 min brisk walk then 90% sprint (15 sec)
    • 3 min walk
  • Workout:
    • Sprint 100% (5 to 10 sec) then 4 minute walk
    • Repeat multiple times

Incline Walking (Treadmill)

  • Warmup
    • 5 min walk (0 Grade) then brisk walk (Incline Grade)
    • 3 min walk
  • Workout
    • Peaks: Very brisk walk at highest incline that can be sustained for 30 to 60 seconds
    • Valleys: 4 min walk

Stairs (Multiple Flights or Stadium Steps)

  • Warmup
    • 2 min brisk walk then walk up steps
    • walk down steps, 2 min brisk walk, then jog up steps
    • walk down steps, 2 min brisk walk then run up steps
    • walk down steps, 3 min walk
  • Workout
    • Sprint up steps
    • walk down steps then 4 minute walk

Other Modes

  • Sprint Cycling HillCycling hills
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical
  • Rowing
  • Jump Rope
  • Plyometrics
  • Agility Drills

Parents with small children can perform HIIT while pushing a stroller or pulling a wagon. The kids love it and will encourage you to do it regularly!

Sports training: Training mode should be very similar to the sport activity (eg runners should sprint, cyclers should cycle hills, etc.)

Fat loss: Exercises that utilize the largest muscles (Glutes and Quads) may have greatest potential in increasing post exercise metabolism.


Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Boobis LH, Lakomy HK, Nevill AM (1995). Recovery of power output and muscle metabolites following 30 s of maximal sprint cycling in man. J Physiol, 15;482 ( Pt 2):467-80.

Burgomaster KA, Heigenhauser GJF, Gibala MJ (2003). Skeletal muscle metabolic and performance adaptation after short sprint interval training (SIT), Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(5) S20.

Corder KP, Potteiger JA, Nau KL, Figoni SE, Hershberger SL (2000). Effects of active and passive recovery conditions on blood lactate, rating of percieved exertion, and performance during resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14: 151-156.

Hughes SC, Burgomaster, K. A., Heigenhauser, G. J., & Gibala, M. J. (2003). Six bouts of sprint interval training (SIT) improves intense aerobic cycling performance and peak anaerobic power. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35(5);S337.

McCartney NL, Spriet LL, Heigenhauser GJ, Kowalchuk JM, Sutton J R, Jones NL (1986). Muscle power and metabolism in maximal intermittent exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 60, Issue 4 1164-1169

Signorile JF, Ingalls C, Tremblay LM (1993). The effects of active and passive recovery on short-term, high intensity power output. Can J Appl Physiol. Mar;18(1):31-42.

Sloth M, Sloth D, Overgaard K, Dalgas (2013). Effects of sprint interval training on VO2max and aerobic exercise performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12092.

Trembblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metablism, Metabolism. 43(7): 814-818.


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