High intensity interval training or HIIT for short, is a method of performing cardiovascular conditioning that alternates brief periods of high intensity effort with passive rest or low intensity, active recovery periods. HIIT has been an area of interest recently among both clinical and sport performance populations. This is because in many instances HIIT has been shown to be superior to traditional steady state endurance training for improving aerobic fitness and body composition. This method of training is also popular among sports teams given the intermittent nature of many sports that require quick bursts of explosive jumping, running and rapid changes of direction with natural relief periods either due to stoppage of play or change in possession, etc. How HIIT training effects on-field performance among athletes continues to be explored by coaches and researchers.
In a new study published a head of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14 semi-professional female field hockey players were divided into a HIIT group and a control group. The HIIT group performed 2 sessions of HIIT per week for 4 consecutive weeks. The sprints were performed on an 8% incline over 30 meters. The number for sets progressed throughout the 4-week period as follows: 6 sets per session in week 1, 8 sets per session in week 2, 10 sets per session in week 3 and 12 sets per session in week 4. Rest periods of 1-minute were provided between each sprint. Before and after the 4-week period, fitness and performance parameters were evaluated which included a straight line and slalom sprint speed, a shuttle run and repeated sprint ability test. The control group performed the same training as the HIIT group (i.e., field hockey practice sessions) with the exception of the HIIT sessions.
Maximal sprint speed improved by 12.1% in the HIIT group while no difference was observed for the control group. Repeated sprint ability results showed that the HIIT group improved total sprint time by 15.2% and slowest time by 15.6% while no improvements were observed for the control group. Slalom speed did not change in either group. The shuttle run test (a marker of fitness) improved significantly in the HIIT group and did not change in the control group. Clearly HIIT improved upon sprint related tasks among the subjects. Interestingly, slalom speed, which is an agility test, did not improve. This suggests that specific agility training is likely needed to improve this performance quality. Coaches certainly don’t need any convincing that conditioning is important and can improve performance, but this study shows that this can be accomplished with 30 m hill sprints performed twice per week progressing volume from 6-12 reps over 4 weeks.
Jakeman, John R., Judith McMullan, and John A. Babraj. “Efficacy of a four-week uphill sprint training intervention in field hockey players.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2016). Ahead of print.