Interval training helps elite athletes get fitter without overtraining

Elite athletes usually have a jam-packed training schedule. Adding more training often means over-training, which can results in a drop in testosterone level, muscle breakdown and reduced performance. Fortunately, though, there’s interval training: a possible solution according to sports scientists at Tarbiat Modares University in Iran. They discovered that free-style wrestlers become even fitter and produce even more testosterone if they add interval training to their routine.

The researchers got 8 experienced male wrestlers to do interval training twice a week for 4 weeks. The training consisted of six 35-m sprints, with 10 seconds rest between sprints. A session lasted just 4 minutes, including a warming up and a cool down.

On one occasion the wrestlers did their interval training on a day when no other forms of training were planned; on the other occasion they did the training during a separate part of the day. The interval training was never done just before, during or just after another training element.

A control group of 7 wrestlers continued to train as before, doing the same amount of training – except for the interval training – as the experimental group. They did strength training twice a week, plyometric training once a week, and wrestled three times a week. Friday was their day off.

The testosterone level of the men in the experimental group rose by a statistically significant 19 percent. The men’s free testosterone level rose by 8 percent; their cortisol level went down by 13 percent. These two effects were not statistically significant.



The maximal oxygen uptake in the experimental group increased by 5 percent: a statistically significant effect.

And finally, the interval training resulted in the wrestlers being able to generate more power in the Wingate test: a standard measure of anaerobic capacity. In the figure below [click for a larger version] you can see that the wrestlers’ anaerobic and aerobic capacity increased as a result of the interval training.


Because interval training is so quick to do it’s a great way for athletes to make improvements to their condition even though they’re on the brink of over-training because of a high training volume, the Iranians conclude.

“However, it must be considered that anaerobic types of training are very intensive; thus, the volume of the training should be monitored and increased with caution; otherwise, the performance may be reduced”, they warn. “Therefore, the use of a higher number of sprints should be investigated further.”

Physiological and performance changes from the addition of a sprint interval program to wrestling training.

Farzad B, Gharakhanlou R, Agha-Alinejad H, Curby DG, Bayati M, Bahraminejad M, Mäestu J.


Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences, School of Humanity Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


Increasing the level of physical fitness for competition is the primary goal of any conditioning program for wrestlers. Wrestlers often need to peak for competitions several times over an annual training cycle. Additionally, the scheduling of these competitions does not always match an ideal periodization plan and may require a modified training program to achieve a high level of competitive fitness in a short-time frame. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of 4 weeks of sprint-interval training (SIT) program, on selected aerobic and anaerobic performance indices, and hormonal and hematological adaptations, when added to the traditional Iranian training of wrestlers in their preseason phase. Fifteen trained wrestlers were assigned to either an experimental (EXP) or a control (CON) group. Both groups followed a traditional preparation phase consisting of learning and drilling technique, live wrestling and weight training for 4 weeks. In addition, the EXP group performed a running-based SIT protocol. The SIT consisted of 6 35-m sprints at maximum effort with a 10-second recovery between each sprint. The SIT protocol was performed in 2 sessions per week, for the 4 weeks of the study. Before and after the 4-week training program, pre and posttesting was performed on each subject on the following: a graded exercise test (GXT) to determine VO(2)max, the velocity associated with V(2)max (?VO(2)max), maximal ventilation, and peak oxygen pulse; a time to exhaustion test (T(max)) at their ?VO(2)max; and 4 successive Wingate tests with a 4-minute recovery between each trial for the determination of peak and mean power output (PPO, MPO). Resting blood samples were also collected at the beginning of each pre and posttesting period, before and after the 4-week training program. The EXP group showed significant improvements in VO(2)max (+5.4%), peak oxygen pulse (+7.7%) and T(max) (+32.2%) compared with pretesting. The EXP group produced significant increases in PPO and MPO during the Wingate testing compared with pretesting (p < 0.05). After the 4-week training program, total testosterone and the total testosterone/cortisol ratio increased significantly in the EXP group, whereas cortisol tended to decrease (p = 0.06). The current findings indicate that the addition of an SIT program with short recovery can improve both aerobic and anaerobic performances in trained wrestlers during the preseason phase. The hormonal changes seen suggest training-induced anabolic adaptations. PMID: 21849912 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849912

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