Purpose: Recent meta-analyses indicate that sprint interval training (SIT) improves cardiorespiratory fitness (V˙O2max), but the effects of various training parameters on the magnitude of the improvement remain unknown. The present meta-analysis examined the modifying effect of the number of sprint repetitions in an SIT session on improvements in V˙O2max.
Methods: The databases PubMed and Web of Science were searched for original studies that have examined pre- and posttraining V˙O2max in adults after ≥2 wk of training consisting of repeated (≥2) Wingate-type cycle sprints, published up to May 1, 2016. Articles were excluded if they were not in English; if they involved patients, athletes, or participants with a mean baseline V˙O2max of >55 mL·kg·min or a mean age <18 yr; and if an SIT trial was combined with another intervention or used intervals shorter than 10 s. A total of 38 SIT trials from 34 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Probabilistic magnitude-based inferences were made to interpret the outcome of the analysis.
Results: The meta-analysis revealed a likely large effect of a typical SIT intervention on V˙O2max (mean ± 90% confidence limits = 7.8% ± 4.0%) with a possibly small modifying effect of the maximum number of sprint repetitions in a training session (-1.2% ± 0.8% decrease per two additional sprint repetitions). Apart from possibly small effects of baseline V˙O2max and age, all other modifying effects were unclear or trivial.
Conclusion: We conclude that the improvement in V˙O2max with SIT is not attenuated with fewer sprint repetitions, and possibly even enhanced. This means that SIT protocols can be made more time efficient, which may help SIT to be developed into a viable strategy to impact public health.