The Progrm x WOD Science
For decades, researchers thought that only high volume (>45 min) exercise at low intensity (easy running, biking) could improve conditioning.
They were mainly biased by the fact that this kind of exercise is predominantly aerobic based, which means that there is always sufficient oxygen available to support the working muscles.
According to the prevailing thought back then, only aerobic based training can improve the cardiovascular system.
Interestingly, in the early 2000’s, researchers started to explore the possibility that shorter bursts of energy production (fi 30s all-out, 4 min rest, repeated 4-6 times) could also improve several aspects of the cardiovascular system and hence conditioning.
The results were quite astonishing as more and more reports showed that very low volume, but extremely high intensity had similar, to even better effects on condition than continuous exercise at low pace.
The term High Intensity Interval training was born.
From then on, multiple studies started to investigate which exercise paradigm was ‘the best’ and ‘the most efficient’ in terms of improving cardiovascular fitness.
The training program we use here is based on a study from Franch and coworkers, which showed that medium length intervals (4 min) repeated for 4-6 times at a hard, but not maximal intensity provided the best results in terms of improving maximal oxygen uptake (the most frequently used metric in science to quantify ‘conditioning).
This type of training was more time efficient and overall better compared to short intervals (15s on 15s off, 30-40 repetitions) and continuous exercise at slow pace.
Using a training program that has been scientifically proven to work, we are confident that we can bring your conditioning to the next level in the most time-efficient way.
References: Franch et al, MSSE, 1998 and Laursen & Jenkins, Sports Med, 2012
How does training improve your aerobic capacity/conditioning?
Multiple body systems become better at transporting, extracting and using oxygen in the working muscles:
- The heart can pump more blood throughout the body in a given time-frame
- The blood can transport more oxygen, because more red blood cells are available
- The muscles can better extract and use the oxygen that is provided by the blood
- The breathing system gets more efficient, as breathing muscle require less energy relatively.
The Warm Up:
It is important to note this warm up is based on the machines you will be using.
Therefore the protocol here is very different to a warm up for Olympic Lifting / Gymnastics warm up.
Data from two recent studies indicates(1,2) that short intense warm-ups are equally good, or even better than longer easy warm-ups before an endurance event such as a ski of cycling time-trial.
This might be unsurprising, since the major goal of warming-up for such events is to increase muscle temperature and decrease tendons stiffness.
In one of the discussed studies, the authors also included a ‘no warming-up’ control group. Basically, they just jumped on the bike without warm-up and biked as hard as they could for 20k.
Intriguingly, their overall performance was identical to the performances of the warm-up groups.
So warming-up for any event is useless?
Not so fast…
Warming-up made the subjects start faster. Although they lost this edge over the course of the time-trial compared to the other groups, starting fast is crucial in many races.
Additionally, there is other research showing that warming-up for strength, power, sprint events is actually beneficial. Same for risk of injury (although that data is a lot less overwhelming…).
Bottom line, very long warm-ups for endurance events are likely not very useful because you risk burning up precious energy.
In stead, opt for short warm-ups wich include a couple of 10s sprints. Finally, you do not want to skip the warm-up up for strength/power events.
Therefore our warm up protocol for the next 6 weeks is very simple:
For 5 minutes before you begin the session:
20 Seconds Hard. (RPE 8 – 9)
40 Seconds Easy. (RPE 3 – 4)
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
An extremely useful way to measure effort. We will be using this system throughout the training program.
This study (Tabina et al, Sports, 2019/ looked at how rate of perceived exertion (RPE) can be used in high-intensity workouts to manipulate pacing).
RPE uses a scale (from 1-10) to ask someone how hard the workout feels. Simple, but effective.
Heart rate and lactate was lower when people were instructed to workout at RPE 6 compared to when they had to go ‘all-out’.
Although they did less reps in total, they were able to keep a more steady pace.
This study indicated that RPE can be used to monitor intensity during a workout.
Important finding as too many people go always all-out during every metcon. It might be beneficial to sometimes eaze off, don’t look at the scoreboard and work on movement efficiency.