SUMMARY: LSD training is beneficial for team sports when utilised to build an aerobic base, but should not be implemented for prolonged periods of time. In intermittent high intensity team sports, interval training should be the primary form of conditioning prescribed
Here is a short summary of an article by Murach et al, published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal in 2013, entitled ‘Is long duration aerobic exercise necessary for anaerobic athletes?’
Pro Endurance Training
Endurance training has long been favoured over and above high intensity interval training to illicit aerobic physiological adaptations. Some of the known adaptations to aerobic or Long Slow Distance (LSD) type training include;
- Enhanced muscle blood supply through increased capitalization
- Increased mitochondrial density
- Fuel storage capacity (CHO sparing effect)
- Increased work capacity
Some strength and conditioning professionals around the world believe that too much endurance or LSD-based exercise is counterproductive for athletes competing in sports that are primarily anaerobic in nature (e.g. rugby, cricket, hockey etc.). These sentiments were brought to light many years ago during a study conducted on athletes performing aerobic and anaerobic training concurrently: in a study on [e.g. Rugby Union / League, Hockey, Cricket etc.] Hickson et al.  found that this method of exercise prescription “blunted” strength gains. The authors of this study concluded that this “blunted” effect on [muscle strength and/or hypertrophy] was due to interference with the muscle’s physiological adaptations. However, some recent research has shown that concurrent training can be very beneficial if constructed correctly, highlighting the importance of Periodisation (a future post will focus more on concurrent training).
Con Endurance Training
As has been previously mentioned, LSD-type training is associated with many beneficial physiological adaptations. However, more recent, in-depth research has showed that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can not only illicit the same adaptations to the aerobic energy system that LSD work does but also allows for adaptations to the anaerobic energy system. However, the inverse argument does not hold true: i.e. LSD training does not illicit beneficial adaptations to the anaerobic system.
Therefore HIIT has been shown to have the following physiological benefits;
- Increased maximal aerobic capacity
- Increased ventilatory threshold
- Increased acid buffering capacity
- Increased time to fatigue
- Increased Peak Power output (PPO)
- Increased substrate utilisation
- Increase Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption
Practically, one of the main benefits of HIIT in comparison to LSD is that far less time is required to illicit these abovementioned benefits.
Other negative consequences of LSD include:
- Elevated cortisol levels due to high training loads
- Induced protein breakdown / catabolism
- Decrease rate of protein synthesis
- Inhibition of IGF-1 & testosterone
LSD type exercise may be beneficial for anaerobic dominant sports when utilised in the correct manner (i.e. to build a base to allow for the implementation of HIIT at a later stage). This holds true for anyone training for weight loss, improved work capacity or training to improve the athlete’s threshold potential. However, if time is limited HIIT maybe the most beneficial to illicit both aerobic and anaerobic adaptations. Furthermore, LSD training significantly increase training loads in athletes participating in High Intensity Interval Sports, increasing the risk of overtraining. Lastly, the old saying of “if you train slow, you become slow” holds true. Thus, the implementation of HIIT, while manipulating rest periods is preferred for sports such as rugby, hockey and cricket to name a few.
Let us know your thoughts if you’d worked with a team and have tried various training modalities?