Building Your Base Bigger

Are you on a tight schedule? Only have about 20 minutes to get your conditioning done?  That’s not a problem because there are different ways to condition the aerobic system.  I stand by my statement that everyone should try to spend some time using the cardiac output method and/or the tempo method at the very minimum for a month or so, if not as a weekly recovery tool.  I understand sometimes you just don’t have the time.  I’m a new dad and 100% agree that schedules made with the best intentions often must be altered.  That is where High Resistance Intervals, threshold training and High Intensity Continuous Training come in handy.  Not only are they useful for those of us with little time to dedicate to training, they can and should also be programmed in to your schedule if you have all the time in the world.


High Resistance Intervals

High Resistance Intervals or HRI training is a very effective way to train the aerobic system by using the alactic system for a short bout, followed by adequate rest, repeated a whole bunch of times.  How many times? Generally, 15-20 times.  This method is much like tempo intervals in that you work for about 10 seconds and recover for about a minute or until your heart rate returns to 130-135 bpm.  The difference is in the intensity of each interval.  While the intensity of each interval during tempo training is quite low, this method requires a greater effort.  Each interval you will push as hard and as fast as you can against a heavy resistance.  I have found this method to be very effective on an airdyne bike and rowing erg if you are in a gym setting.  You can also sprint up a very steep hill or sprint with a sled.  The nice part about using an airdyne bike or a rower if you have them is that you also train the upper body with these machines.  HRI will increase the power of the alactic system and because the training heart rate is kept below lactic threshold the aerobic system is also improved.  It is best do do this type of training 1-3 times per week.


High Intensity Continuous Training

Another very effective form of aerobic interval training is called High Intensity Continuous Training or HICT.  This is not yet a well-known or widely-used form of aerobic training but is incredibly effective.  This method involves a high resistance but low speed.  Two very effective ways to complete this training method include using a spin bike with very high tension and explosive box step-ups.  The spin bike’s tension should be so high only a maximum of 30 rpm is possible – you will likely have to start pedalling and build up to the tension needed.  The first time I show this method to people I always get asked if I’m serious.  Yes, I’m serious.  It needs to be that high.  To use step-ups, choose a high box and step up explosively every 3 seconds, alternating legs, continuously.  When you are a bit more experienced with this method try adding a load such a weighted vest or light dumbbells.  The high load recruits the fast twitch fibers but the extremely slow speed allows you to go for longer, resulting in an increased aerobic capacity of your fast twitch fibers of the working muscles.  In simpler terms this means that you can perform at a higher intensity for longer.  The continuous part of the name comes from the fact that you will pedal or step non-stop for a minimum of 5 minutes.  I generally start people off with 2 sets of 5 minutes, with 5 minutes off to get accustomed.  From there we will build up week by week to 15 to 20 minutes per set.  It is important to keep your heart rate below lactic threshold to train aerobically.  For most people this is somewhere around 165 bpm.  The easiest way to gauge if you are still training aerobically is if you can breathe with your mouth closed during activity.  If you need to gasp through your mouth, then slow down a bit until you can close your mouth again.  HICT can be used 1-2 times per week.


Threshold Training

This method is used to increase your anaerobic (lactic) threshold.  This is the work load that requires your body to switch to anaerobic metabolism to keep up with energy demands.  A higher lactic threshold means you can operate aerobically at a higher intensity or work load.  This means that you can place a high load on the system for longer because as we know, the aerobic system has a far greater capacity than the aerobic system.  The way we increase this is by forcing the body to train around the level of lactic threshold.  You can use almost any form of exercise if your heart rate is at, slightly above or below your threshold.  A favourite of mine is a 20-meter circuit that goes as follows:

10m bear crawl, 10m skip, 20m jog back repeated for 3-10 minutes per set.

This tends to get people’s heart rate right around 160-170bpm.  After each set you should rest for a 1-to-1 or a 2-to-1 work-to-rest ratio and repeat for a total of 2 to 5 sets.  Deciding to train for shorter or longer bursts and just how many to complete depends on the demands of the event you are training for.  The goal with this type of training is to take the aerobic system to its limit and increase that point to improve overall endurance.


So, here we have 3 different types of intervals, all training different characteristics but ultimately improving endurance in some way.  These methods can be useful for many different sports, as well as police, fire, EMS and military fitness training.  If you have never tried any of these methods, I encourage you to take one for a ride in your next training block.  As always if you want to know more about any of these methods email me at and I would be more than happy to explain the detail and how it can benefit your training.

7 Replies to “Building Your Base Bigger”

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