Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2015) 14, 29 - 36

Research article
How to Regulate the Acute Physiological Response to “Aerobic” High-Intensity Interval Exercise
Gerhard Tschakert1,2, Julia Kroepfl2,3, Alexander Mueller1, Othmar Moser1,4, Werner Groeschl1,2, Peter Hofmann1,2, 
Author Information
1 Institute of Sports Science, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
2 Human Performance Research Graz, University of Graz and Medical University Graz, Graz, Austria
3 Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
4 Center of Sports Medicine, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Peter Hofmann
✉ Institute of Sports Science, Exercise Physiology & Training, Research Group, Max-Mell-Allee 11, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
Publish Date
Received: 30-07-2014
Accepted: 29-09-2014
Published (online): 01-03-2015
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The acute physiological processes during “aerobic” high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) and their regulation are inadequately studied. The main goal of this study was to investigate the acute metabolic and cardiorespiratory response to long and short HIIE compared to continuous exercise (CE) as well as its regulation and predictability. Six healthy well-trained sport students (5 males, 1 female; age: 25.7 ± 3.1 years; height: 1.80 ± 0.04 m; weight: 76.7 ± 6.4 kg; VO2max: 4.33 ± 0.7 l·min-1) performed a maximal incremental exercise test (IET) and subsequently three different exercise sessions matched for mean load (Pmean) and exercise duration (28 min): 1) long HIIE with submaximal peak workloads (Ppeak = power output at 95 % of maximum heart rate), peak workload durations (tpeak) of 4 min, and recovery durations (trec) of 3 min, 2) short HIIE with Ppeak according to the maximum power output (Pmax) from IET, tpeak of 20 s, and individually calculated trec (26.7 ± 13.4 s), and 3) CE with a target workload (Ptarget) equating to Pmean of HIIE. In short HIIE, mean lactate (Lamean) (5.22 ± 1.41 mmol·l-1), peak La (7.14 ± 2.48 mmol·l-1), and peak heart rate (HRpeak) (181.00 ± 6.66 b·min-1) were significantly lower compared to long HIIE (Lamean: 9.83 ± 2.78 mmol·l-1; Lapeak: 12.37 ± 4.17 mmol·l-1, HRpeak: 187.67 ± 5.72 b·min-1). No significant differences in any parameters were found between short HIIE and CE despite considerably higher peak workloads in short HIIE. The acute metabolic and peak cardiorespiratory demand during “aerobic” short HIIE was significantly lower compared to long HIIE and regulable via Pmean. Consequently, short HIIE allows a consciously aimed triggering of specific and desired or required acute physiological responses.

Key words: Intermittent exercise, exercise prescription, acute physiological demand, mean load, peak workload duration

           Key Points
  • High-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) with short peak workload durations (tpeak) induce a lower acute metabolic and peak cardiorespiratory response compared to intervals with long tpeak despite higher peak workload intensities (Ppeak) and identical mean load (Ppeak).
  • Short HIIE response is the same as in continuous exercise (CE) matched for Pmean.
  • It is possible to regulate and predict the acute physiological response by means of Pmean for short HIIE but not for long HIIE.
  • The use of fixed percentages of maximal heart rate (HRmax) for exercise intensity prescription yields heterogeneous exercise stimuli across subjects. Therefore, objective individual markers such as the first and the second lactate turn point are recommend prescribing exercise intensity not only for continuous but also for intermittent exercise.
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