Why you should stop doing traditional cardio in sports.

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In the last ten years there has been growing interest in high intensity interval training or HIIT. HIIT is a tool that has been shown in study's to drastically reduce the time needed to get the same benefits from traditional exercise. A study nicknamed “the Norwegian Study” showed that elite college athletes could increase there cardiovascular fitness by 11% in much less time per week than traditional training. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but in already fit elite athletes looking for an edge, its a huge result.  

Benefits

The Norwegian Study, as mentioned above, is what I’ll be quoting from most in this article. In the study, they took a group of elite soccer players and put them on a HIIT program. With just 16 minutes of sprints, twice a week for 8 weeks they showed a number of in game performance benefits including:

11% increase in cardiovascular fitness

100% increase in sprints

20% increase in distance covered 

24% increase in the amount of times a player touched the ball

Even things that didn't have to do with cardiovascular fitness increased, like number of successful passes. These results can be directly translated to other sports, including hockey. By increasing the same performance benefits in hockey a player, someone could get the edge to stand out as an elite player.

Plan

In the study they put the players on the following plan, with intensity levels ranging from 1-10, 1 being walking at very casual pace and 10 being running for your life.

Steps :

1. Conduct a 3-minute warm-up at an exertion level of intensity 1. 
2. Go hard for 4 minutes at intensity 6. 
3. Go easy at intensity 3 for 3 minutes. 
4. Sprint for 4 minutes at intensity 6, and then go easy at intensity 3 for 3 minutes, repeating the cycle until you’ve completed 4 intervals of 4 minutes each at intensity 6. 
5. After the 4th interval, recover for 2 minutes at intensity 1, for a total workout duration of 30 minutes.

Overview

As new studies come out there is more and more evidence that the time exercising isn't the important part to get the beneficial adaptogens from the body. The important part is the intensity of the exercise. This is why you can get the benefits of a 50 minute jog with one minute of HIIT. Even though I only mentioned one protocol for this article there are many different approaches to using HIIT. To learn more about the benefits of HIIT check out this podcast, book or these articles (link one and link two).

Fun Fact

HIIT was internally invented by Bill Orban who was a hockey player from Saskatchewan. He’d noticed that hockey players’ short bursts of on-ice activity were amazing at providing aerobic fitness. Finally, while at the University of Illinois, he observed that one could exercise for long periods at low intensity without necessarily getting any fitter. Putting all this together, he concluded that the speed and effort expended during a workout were more important than the overall length of time one exercised. He went on to design the workout used by Canadian Air Forces in the north, during the Cold War. He called the workout 5BX and was based on the principles of HIIT. Once the workout became available to the public it sold 5.8 million copies and  was used by the comedian George Burns and Britain’s, Prince William.