Strength & Conditioning

UCAN Presents: Dr. Paul Laursen and the Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training

In a special 3-part webinar series, Dr. Paul Laursen – researcher, endurance coach, and high performance consultant – talks about the science of high intensity interval training (HIIT), how to apply it to team sports and concurrent (strength + cardio) training programs, and the unique factors that influence the needs and goals of athletes and individuals who incorporate strength training and cardiovascular training into their programs.

This webinar is a must-listen for personal trainers, strength/team sport coaches, and individual exercisers who strive to optimize their clients’, athletes’, or personal programs. This education series aims to help fitness professionals and individuals alike maximize overall athlete and client outcomes while minimizing or eliminating over-training and the interference effect through smart and informed programming.

Watch Part 1 below and review the show notes. Click on the links to watch Part 2 and Part 3.

Text book: Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training: Solutions to the Programming Puzzle

Online course: Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training Online Course
*Course work NSCA CEU approved

Background: Dr. Paul Laursen


  • University of Queensland in Australia

Career highlights:

  • Edith Cowan University: Australian Olympic program
  • Auckland University of Technology (AUT): Two Olympic cycles (8 years) through combined program of AUT and High Performance New Zealand

HIIT Experience:

  • 20 years studying the science of high-intensity interval training (HIIT); Ph.D. work in that arena
  • As a coach to elite athletes, has applied HIIT in many different sports, including team sports
  • His 2007 literature review co-authored by Martin Buchheit became very popular across both researchers and sport practitioners.
  • Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training: Solutions to the Programming Puzzle is an amalgamation of his and his co-authors’ research and experience in HIIT over the past few decades.
  • Online course: learn the science and application of HIIT taught by 20+ practitioners. Anyone can take this course: in universities, it is positioned around the 2nd year sport science level, but is available for industry professionals like coaches, personal trainers, and all professionals embedded within a variety of sports.

What is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)?

HIIT: “Exercise consisting of repeated bouts of high-intensity work performed above the lactate threshold (a perceived effort of ‘hard’ or greater) or critical speed/power, interspersed by periods of low-intensity exercise or complete rest”

5 Key weapons of HIIT

    1. Longer intervals
    2. Shorter intervals
    3. Repeated short sprints
    4. Repeated long sprints
    5. Small-Sided Games- Team sports HIIT choice

HIIT is just one piece of the performance puzzle

  • An important one: can elicit rapid gains with HIIT if applied at the right place at the right time

“Content is King, but Context is God”

  • Context is God: near-infinite number of contextual variables that can impact content. You can only apply certain content when context is understood

Context- the most important variables to consider when programming HIIT

  • Sport demands
  • Athlete profile: know the person in front of you.
  • Athlete psychological state: sleep, stress, etc
  • Long-term adaptations: what’s the “bigger picture” when programming HIIT? What are the long-term desired outcomes?
  • Events of the day: how HIIT training may or may not impact overall schedule
  • Periodization: how do HIIT workouts fit into the daily cycle, the micro cycle, and the meso/macro cycles?

Content- can only be formed AFTER contextual factors are defined

  • What sort of physiological objectives am I targeting today?
  • Neuromuscular load
  • Integration of sport-specific skills
  • Cognitive load
  • Volume
  • Intensity


  1. Triathlete
  • VO2 peak is a big determinant of race time
  • Physical components are more important in the sport of triathlon, vs tactics and skills.

2. Rower

  • Power at VO2 max is directly proportional to power across a 2000 meter rowing performance.
  • If power at VO2 max can be enhanced, then performance in athlete’s event will improve, resulting in a faster rowing speed.

3. Soccer Player

  • Skills and tactics play a much bigger contextual role in terms of the successful athlete profile and performance outcome

*Important that coaches are well aware of the factors that apply to the athlete(s) they’re working with

Being fitter or faster can’t guarantee success

  • Not being fit or fast enough can be a problem
  • In team sports, biggest priorities are:
    • Skills
    • Player interactions
    • Game insights/decision making

*The physical capacity on an individual basis to cope with the demands of the sport and execute their tactical roles efficiently is critical.

Trying to solve the Puzzle of HIIT Training

How do you blend in HIIT training appropriately so that it’s not interfering with aspects of the overall training program?

  • How do you mitigate interference effect AND optimize adaptations that give the best chance of performing the event or match of the day?

Training Periodization: definitions

  • Macrocycle: the overall yearly plan.
  • Mesocycle: Intentional blocks of training. Can be as short as 2 weeks and as long as 6 weeks. Usually an emphasis on a physiological goal.
  • Microcycle: typically a week. 4-10 days