What kind of interval leads to the greatest improvements in cycling performance?
Researchers in Norway asked themselves exactly this question and set out to study it. Starting with 18 elite male national-level athletes from a mixture of road and mountain biking backgrounds, researchers had participants complete 30-second or five-minute intervals and then measured their performance improvements over three weeks.
The study, from the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, found that shorter 30-second intervals resulted in “superior training adaptations on endurance and performance parameters.”
Subjects completed three weekly training sessions of either riding three sets of 13×30-seconds intervals with 15-second recovery between intervals and three minutes rest between sets, or four sets of five-minute intervals with two minutes and 30 seconds rest between sets.
Riders were told to perform intervals with their maximal sustain work intensity.
Interesting results and more evidence that high intensity interval training can have a marked effect on performance. It is important, once again, to mention that short intervals only work if you’re all in. Few people go hard enough, most athletes naturally keep 5-10% in reserve. Short intervals are only successful if you can truly go 100%.