There is little doubt that if you have been around endurance sports long enough, you’ve come across multiple articles discussing the merits of certain types of training and additionally, why they are better than other types of training. Perhaps the most common argument is that of volume versus intensity or in more specific verbiage, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) versus Long Steady Distance (LSD)… and I’m guessing you know what WTF stands for 😉
But They’re An Expert!
Advocates of LSD will likely quote an increase in capillary and mitochondrial density in addition to a host of other benefits. Conversely, advocates of HIIT training typically argue that you get the same benefits of LSD training with HIIT, but you also get the additional benefits from the high intensity.
So which side is correct? Likely both.
No Cookie Cutter Approach (mmmm… cookies!)
The reality is that both HIIT and LSD offer positive physiological training adaptations. Therefore the question often becomes – which one is better?
This question is almost impossible to answer for one very important reason… a singular training practice or intensity does not elicit the same physiological response in everyone. The correct ratio of volume/intensity is individually-based.
For example, someone might respond better to HIIT than LSD, or vice versa. Additionally, as an individual’s cardiovascular fitness changes, so does their response to training stimuli. As an example, an out of shape individual may initially respond better to LSD training but once they reach a higher fitness level, LSD training may no longer increase their conditioning level to the same degree as HIIT would.
There is also the time factor. Just because LSD may be the right training method for an individual from a physiological standpoint, if they don’t have the time to perform LSD training, HIIT is likely the better option.
As you can see, determining the “right” training intensity/volume is not as easy as reading an article on training and then changing one’s training program. Unless a client has historical training data to base their intensity/volume selection upon, choosing the correct intensity/volume is largely a crap shoot.
Trial and Error
In closing, while articles that suggest one type of training over another are very enticing and likely cite professional journals and experts, it’s critical to understand that most training practices do not fall into a ‘one size fits all’ category.
At the end of the day, while seemingly very unscientific, often the best way to determine the correct training type is accomplished via trial and error based on a client’s training adaptations.