Physiological comparison of intensity-controlled, isocaloric intermittent and continuous exercise†


VO2 fluctuations are argued to be an important mechanism underpinning chronic adaptations following interval training. We compared the effect of exercise modality, continuous vs. intermittent realized at a same intensity, on electrical muscular activity, muscular oxygenation and on whole body oxygen uptake. Twelve participants (24 ± 5 years; VO2peak: 43 ± 6 mL˙ min−1˙kg−1) performed (i) an incremental test to exhaustion to determine peak work rate (WRpeak); two randomized isocaloric exercises at 70%WRpeak; (ii) 1 bout of 30 min; (iii) 30 bouts of 1 min work intercepted with 1 min passive recovery. For electromyography, only the CON exercise showed change for the vastus lateralis root-mean-square (+6.4 ± 5.1%, P <.01, 95%CI 3.2, 8.3) and mean power frequency (−5.2 ± 4.8, P <.01, 95%CI −8.2, −3.5). Metabolic fluctuations (i.e. Oxygen Fluctuation Index and HHb Fluctuation Index) were higher in the intermittent modality, while post-exercise blood lactate concentrations (4.80 ± 1.50 vs. 2.32 ± 1.21 mM, respectively, for the CON and INT, P <.01, 95%CI 1.72, 3.12) and the time spent over 90% of VO2 target (1644 ± 152 vs. 356 ± 301 sec, respectively, for the CON and INT, P <.01, 95%CI 1130, 1446) were higher in the continuous modality. In conclusion, despite a similar energy expenditure and intensity, intermittent and continuous exercises showed two very different physiological responses. The intermittent modality would lead to a larger recruitment of fast twitch fibres that are less mitochondria-equipped and therefore may be more likely respondent to mitochondrial adaptations. In addition, this modality induces greater metabolic variations, a stimulus who could lead to mitochondrial development.

European Journal of Sport Science