Military Applicability of Interval Training for Health and Performance

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Gibala, MJ, Gagnon, PJ, and Nindl, BC. Military applicability of interval training for health and performance. J Strength Cond Res 29(11S): S40–S45, 2015—Militaries from around the globe have predominantly used endurance training as their primary mode of aerobic physical conditioning, with historical emphasis placed on the long distance run. In contrast to this traditional exercise approach to training, interval training is characterized by brief, intermittent bouts of intense exercise, separated by periods of lower intensity exercise or rest for recovery. Although hardly a novel concept, research over the past decade has shed new light on the potency of interval training to elicit physiological adaptations in a time-efficient manner. This work has largely focused on the benefits of low-volume interval training, which involves a relatively small total amount of exercise, as compared with the traditional high-volume approach to training historically favored by militaries. Studies that have directly compared interval and moderate-intensity continuous training have shown similar improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and the capacity for aerobic energy metabolism, despite large differences in total exercise and training time commitment. Interval training can also be applied in a calisthenics manner to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and strength, and this approach could easily be incorporated into a military conditioning environment. Although interval training can elicit physiological changes in men and women, the potential for sex-specific adaptations in the adaptive response to interval training warrants further investigation. Additional work is needed to clarify adaptations occurring over the longer term; however, interval training deserves consideration from a military applicability standpoint as a time-efficient training strategy to enhance soldier health and performance. There is value for military leaders in identifying strategies that reduce the time required for exercise, but nonetheless provide an effective training stimulus.

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