Comparison of responses to two high-intensity intermittent exercise protocols

The objective of this study was to compare peak cardiorespiratory, metabolic, and perceptual responses to acute bouts of sprint interval cycling (SIC) and a high-intensity intermittent calisthenics (HIC) protocol consisting of modified “burpees.” Eleven (8 men and 3 women) moderately trained, college-aged participants (age = 21.9 ± 2.1, body mass index = 24.8 ± 1.9, V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak = 54.1 ± 5.4 ml·kg·min) completed 4 testing sessions across 9 days with each session separated by 48-72 hours. Using a protocol of 4 repeated bouts of 30-second “all-out” efforts interspersed with 4-minute active recovery periods, responses to SIC and HIC were classified relative to peak values. Mean values for %V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak and %HRpeak for SIC (80.4 ± 5.3% and 86.8 ± 3.9%) and HIC (77.6 ± 6.9% and 84.6 ± 5.3%) were not significantly different (p > 0.05). Effect sizes (95% confidence interval) calculated for mean differences were: %V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak Cohen’s d = 0.51 (0.48-0.53) and %HRpeak Cohen’s d = 0.57 (0.55-0.59). A low-volume, high-intensity bout of repeated whole-body calisthenic exercise induced cardiovascular responses that didn’t show significant differences but were ∼1/2SD lower than “all-out” SIC. These results suggest that in addition to the benefit of reduced time commitment, a high-intensity interval protocol of calisthenics results in vigorous cardiorespiratory and perceptual responses and may confer physiological adaptations and performance improvements similar to those reported for SIC. The potential efficacy of this alternative interval training method provides support for its application by athletes, coaches, and strength and conditioning professionals.