published: 25 October 2016
Frontiers in Physiology | www.frontiersin.org 1October 2016 | Volume 7 | Article 495
University of Würzburg, Germany
Michael E. Tschakovsky,
Queen’s University, Canada
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology,
Victor S. Coswig
This article was submitted to
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Physiology
Received: 20 July 2016
Accepted: 11 October 2016
Published: 25 October 2016
Coswig VS, Gentil P, Naves JPA,
Viana RB, Bartel C and Del
Vecchio FB (2016) Commentary: The
Effects of High Intensity Interval
Training vs Steady State Training on
Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity.
Front. Physiol. 7:495.
Commentary: The Effects of High
Intensity Interval Training vs Steady
State Training on Aerobic and
Victor S. Coswig 1*, Paulo Gentil 2, João P. A. Naves 2, Ricardo B. Viana2, Charles Bartel 1
and Fabrício B. Del Vecchio1
1Department of Physical Education, Superior School of Physical Education, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil,
2Department of Physical Education, School of Physical Education and Dance, Federal University of Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil
Keywords: physiology exercise, circuit-based exercise, interval exercise, high-intensity, exercise tests
A commentary on
The Eﬀects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and
by Foster, C., Farland, C., Guidotti, F., Harbin, M., Roberts, B., Schuette, J., et al. (2015). J. Sports. Sci.
Med. 14, 747–755.
The research article by Foster et al. (2015) aimed to compare high intensity interval training
(HIIT) protocols with steady state exercise and conclude that HIIT protocols are not superior to
conventional exercise training in sedentary young adults. We would like to compliment the authors
for the interesting work and ﬁndings, however, it is necessary to point out some relevant issues,
especially regarding protocols conﬁguration and interpretation of the results.
Despite the worldwide popularity of Tabata’s protocol, it is necessary to be more critical about
its use and adaptation. Foster et al. (2015) cited Tabata et al. (1996) for the very brief, very high
intensity interval training used in the study. However, they actually described a protocol similar to
the one published by Tabata et al. (1997), which should be performed until exhaustion with only
5–6 bouts at 170% of the VO2max, and not 8 as used in the study. The original protocol, published
in 1996, proposed 7–8 sprints at a constant load performed until the pedaling frequency dropped
below 85 rpm. Load was incremented when the participants could perform more than 9 sets, and
not only based on RPE decrements.
The Meyer et al. (1990) interval training protocol used by Foster et al. (2015) also did not follow
the original description. The original prescription was based on maximum heart rate (86 ±3%
of maximum), with 1-min intervals and an eﬀort:pause ratio of 1:1, while the protocol described
by Foster et al. (2015) was based on power output (PO), with 30-s intervals and an eﬀort:pause
ratio of 1:2.
In our opinion, researchers should exercise caution when attempting to replicate previously
used protocols, since deliberate changes to these original parameters used will most likely yield
diﬀerent results. In addition, the divergence between the used protocols from the protocols cited
in the references may cause diﬃculties when replicating the study. Therefore, authors should be
more meticulous in indicating these changes and their consequent limitations. Moreover, one
of the major problems with HIIT studies is the wide range of training protocols utilized across
studies, limiting more conclusive inferences. In this way the modiﬁcation of existing protocols
in subsequent studies does not contribute positively to increase our comprehension about HIIT
Coswig et al. HIIT vs Steady State Training
Furthermore, based on our practical experience and
theoretical evidence, it seems unrealistic to perform 8 sprints at
a speed of 90 rpm at 170% of the aerobic power, especially in
sedentary individuals. Experiments in our laboratories indicate
that a reasonable intensity for reproducing the original Tabata
Protocol should use ∼120% of the maximal aerobic power.
Power output reductions were already evident after 8-s sprints
with 15-s rest (Billaut et al., 2003). After ∼10-s sprints it takes
120-s to recover the initial power production (Cooke and Barnes,
1997). How could we expect the maintenance of 170% of peak
aerobic power after 20-s sprints for 8 repetitions, with only 10-s
pause in previously sedentary subjects?
Another limitation is related to enjoyment issues. To our
understanding, enjoyment values do not make fair assessments
when: (i) original protocols are not really followed; and (ii) only
acute measurements are performed. It appears to be obvious that
after 4-min of very intensive exercise an enjoyment scale should
indicate a low value. Therefore, in order to adequately address
the question, researchers should consider long-term adherence
and/or intention to engage in the exercise program (McRae
et al., 2012; Jung et al., 2014). Moreover, even though the Tabata
protocol is reported as less enjoyable, one cannot forget that
it was more time eﬃcient than the other two training models.
The occurrence of similar gains in all measured variables with
a training volume ﬁve times smaller is extremely relevant, since
lack of time is the main reported reason for being physically
inactive (Trost et al., 2002; Gibala et al., 2012).
It is time to give careful consideration to research studies
focused on HIIT. In our opinion, there is a serious problem in
replicating HIIT protocols, and this is a direct result of deliberate
protocol adaptations, along with improper descriptions of the
methods used during the experiments, as well as inadequately
referencing bibliographic citations. Our concern is that this
could lead to signiﬁcant mistakes in both the scientiﬁc and
practical applications of HIIT, which can potentially result in
undesirable outcomes. Especially as the results obtained by these
adapted protocols can vary greatly from the results obtained
in the original studies. Finally, time eﬃciency, motivation, and
health/ﬁtness improvements associated with HIIT potentially
exceeds the acute negative eﬀects of its high intensity, and this
should be considered when discussing its cost eﬀectiveness (Del
Vecchio et al., 2015).
VC, JN, RV, PG, CB, and FD: Conception, drafting the article,
revising it critically, and ﬁnal approval of the version to be
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(2015). The eﬀects of high intensity interval training vs steady state training on
aerobic and anaerobic capacity. J. Sports. Sci.Med. 14, 747–755.
Gibala, M. J., Little, J. P., Macdonald, M. J., and Hawley, J. A. (2012).
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Conﬂict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or ﬁnancial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conﬂict of interest.
Copyright © 2016 Coswig, Gentil, Naves, Viana, Bartel and Del Vecchio. This
is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums
is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the
original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic
practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply
with these terms.
Frontiers in Physiology | www.frontiersin.org 2October 2016 | Volume 7 | Article 495