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I do muaythai and want to do something in between my (infrequent) training session to help my conditioning. I have a conceptual question about what works:

  • On one hand, I often hear that at least 30 min. of constant work is the minimum to actually improve condition
  • On the other hand, Ross Enamait writes that 20 min. of elevated heart rate is enough to achieve an effect, and advises to put a lot of intensity into those 20 min.

So the question is which statement is closer to the truth? What mimimum time should I invest if I want conditioning benefits? How much active rest is allowed?

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Have you considered Tabata or other forms of high-intensity interval training? Just 4 minutes of work and very measurable benefits. –  VPeric Dec 9 '13 at 11:43

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It is false that 30 minutes of constant work is necessary to improve conditioning. It is a myth based on steady-state cardio training only, and is only true in some cases even when training in that modality. For instance, it may take a significant amount of time (circa an hour!) for an experienced long-distance runner to start challenging their conditioning in a low-intensity steady-state run. However, less experienced runners may take far less, and that long-distance runner could challenge their (general) cardio by doing shorter, faster sprints.

Even very short high-intensity efforts (e.g. 4 minutes) have proven to be highly effective for improving conditioning.

Ross is closer to the truth. He is advocating for 20 minute high-intensity, high-density efforts with built-in rests in order to challenge all the metabolic pathways.

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Is this 4 minutes exercise, period, or is this 4 min exercise, rest, again 4 min within short time –  mart Dec 9 '13 at 12:14
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@mart As VPeric commented above, the Tabata protocol is 4 minutes total--including rest times!--and has been shown to produce comparable cardio improvement to much longer steady-state efforts. This is because the efforts involved are of maximal or near-maximal intensity. –  Dave Liepmann Dec 9 '13 at 12:30

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