Research published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise by the University of Stirling suggests that people who do fewer repetitions during high intensity interval training (HIIT) get better fitness outcomes than those who do more.
Studying people performing high intensity cycle sprints found that those who did fewer repetitions of sprint intervals on a bike actually saw greater improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness than those doing more reps.
In fact the team found that the optimal number of repetitions in the high intensity cycle sprints- which they called ‘supramaximal’- was just two. After two sprints, each additional sprint in a training session reduced the fitness improvement by 5% on average.So less was really more.
Fitness levels in the study were measured by VO2max, which is the maximal amount of oxygen the body can use in 1 minute.
The importance of this research is that it could prove that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of time to work out as a short, high intensity workout could be even more beneficial than you think.
Dr Niels Vollaard, Lecturer in Health and Exercise Science in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, said:
"Lack of time is frequently cited as one of the main barriers to people becoming or staying physically active. High-intensity workouts have begun to tackle this problem, allowing people to get maximum health benefits while working out for a shorter time."
"We found improved cardiorespiratory fitness does not suffer when people complete fewer sprint repetitions and that this may even produce better results. The optimal number of repetitions appears to be just two, so workouts based on supramaximal sprints can be kept very short without compromising on the results."
It is important to note that this research is only applicable to ‘supramaximal ‘exercise that is on specialized exercise bikes that enable you to perform such high intensity workouts. But it does help those of us who sometimes feel that we don’t have time to do a really good high intensity workout. The team at Stirling are now working on explaining why this is the case and what is happening in the body during HIIT workouts.