Nerd Lab: Variable-Paced Intervals and Vibration Plates

In this special Nerd Lab episode, we focus on three recent studies published by Dr. Bent Ronnestad that are all focused on improving time at VO2max.

young man riding bike on the road
Photo: Shutterstock

In last week’s episode, we addressed the question of whether the increasingly popular standard for assessing intervals—time spent near VO2max—is an effective metric. In this Nerd Lab episode, physiologist Rob Pickels and coach Trevor Connor dive into three studies published by top researcher Dr. Bent Ronnestad that use that metric to assess the effectiveness of varied-intensity intervals and vibration plates.  

Comparing Different Approaches to Five Minute Intervals 

5×5 minute intervals are a favorite of Connor’s and he has always favored doing them at a steady intensity. This first study by Dr. Ronnestad puts into question whether steady is the best way to do them. Elite cross-country skiers are asked to do five-minute intervals three ways: once at a steady intensity, once where they do the first two minutes harder, and finally one time where they vary between 40 seconds harder and 20 seconds a little easier. What Dr. Ronnestad discovered may make Connor rethink his approach.  

Looking at the Effect of a Vibration Plate 
This second study conducted on elite cyclists had the riders do five-minute steady intervals on a vibration plate to see if the vibration would increase time near VO2max. The results were surprising, but still don’t quite have us sold on vibration plates. 

Combining Vibration with Variable Intensity Intervals 
This final Ronnestad study had cyclists perform five-minute intervals at a variable intensity, again on a vibration plate, to see what effect both had on time at VO2max. A surprising result was that the athletes’ oxygen consumption went up, but their heart rate didn’t, which defies what our hosts have learned about physiology, a question that even stumped Dr. Ronnestad.  

While we’re not going to recommend going out and buying a vibration plate, these three studies raised a lot of interesting questions for endurance athletes and the best ways to train. We finished the episode explaining what we took from this research and what recommendations we have for training. 

So, put your nerd glasses on and let’s make you fast!  

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance sports training. There’s a bit of a history to this episode, Rob. We actually sat down about a week and a half ago to record this episode, we’re talking about a few studies from Dr. Ronnestad that Rob found and really quite enjoyed, thought they were pretty fascinating.

Trevor Connor  00:26

We read them, we came to the recording to sit down and talk about these studies, and they’re all based on this concept of training at higher than 90% of VO2 to max intensity. I think I was the jerk who walked into the room and went, can we make this assumption?

Trevor Connor  00:45

Instead of doing any recording, we talked about this for a while and debated it for a bit and then went, well, we need to talk about this. Whether you really can based training or say that intervals are more effective, because you spend more time at greater than 90% of VO2 max intensity. Hence, our episode last week, episode –

Rob Pickels  01:07


Trevor Connor  01:08

251 was that conversation.

Rob Pickels  01:12

So fortunately, people don’t need to listen to an hour’s worth of that today. I think that we’re gonna we’re gonna keep going with this, we’re gonna move forward with the assumption that training at greater than 90% increasing the time that you’re spending with your oxygen consumption is higher than 90% of vO two, Max. We’re moving forward today with that being a worthwhile thing with like you said some really interesting research from Dr. Ronnestad. Yep.

Trevor Connor  01:40

So I mean to give the one minute summary that that whole conversation we had last week is there is more and more research coming out, where instead of doing a five week or a 10 week intervention to see the gains that you get from different interval protocols, they’re basically saying, let’s compare intervals by just having the athletes do a single session. And we’ll see which intervals produce more time. And so I’m just going to call it time at VO two Max but the full is greater than or equal to 90% of you to max. But the more time you spend at VO to max, the better the intervals is the assumption here. And we debated that I’m a little more on the I don’t think we can make that assumption alone and use that as the pure basis to say these intervals are better than those intervals.

Rob Pickels  02:25

We’ll call that the curmudgeon II end of the spectrum, I’m always the

Trevor Connor  02:28

imagination and you’ve seen my bike. So I don’t fully feel you can make that assumption. But I am going to say yes, it has been demonstrated that doing work at VO to max intensity has a lot of gains. So if you can demonstrate that you’re you’re maximizing that particular adaptation or that particular stimulus for adaptation, you’ve got a good quality interval. Perfect.

Rob Pickels  02:59

I’m glad that we agree on that underlying principle because the research we’re talking about today, Trevor, there’s some maybe non traditional ways of affecting of altering your training that in some regard anybody can do, but at the same time may or may not be very practical, so I’m looking forward to diving into it. Let’s face it, endurance athletes can be a quirky bunch, and they’re not always the easiest to work with. In Module nine of our craft of coaching series, Joe Friel shares the secrets of his 40 year coaching career that will help you overcome challenges, establish good boundaries, and celebrate your success stories. Check out the craft of coaching at fast talk

Trevor Connor  03:43

So we got three studies, to you were kind of hinted at this get into using vibration plates,

Rob Pickels  03:50

was hinting to the little bit. The first study that we’re gonna start with is from Dr. Ronstadt. And it is titled, increasing oxygen uptake in cross country skiers by speed variation in work intervals. And this is if I remember correctly, a 2021 study. So this just came out in the fall of last year.

Trevor Connor  04:12

And this gets at a very interesting question that I know we’ve addressed before. And I actually looked for the episode where we talked about that, should your intervals be a steady intensity, or, for example, I love my five by five minute intervals. I’ve seen a lot of protocols where you start a little harder for 30 seconds or a minute and then go to that that threshold intensity. And whether it was an episode or a video that we did for the website, I ate a little crow next, I’m still on that now. Just go steady. Don’t do that little bit hard beforehand. And I think you’re probably going to make me eat a little more curl today. Having read this study,

Rob Pickels  04:52

yeah, Trevor. It’s interesting. The content you’re talking about is within our interval training pathway, and it’s from Dr. Steven Chu. hump, if I’m remembering the one that you’re referring to it and the title of that piece of content is intensity changes between fast starts and steady intervals with Dr. Steven Chung. It’s funny that you bring this up because we had a q&a session, if I remember, that might be where I discussed this. Yeah. And I as well, the coaches that we were talking with, were all about the fast start, if I remember correctly, and at the time, I was all about the steady state, because it seemed like it would maximize the amount of work that somebody is doing, and that you don’t necessarily want to begin that interval session with a fast start. But if we update our thinking, based on this 2021 study, that might not quite be true. So Rob, yes, Trevor,

Trevor Connor  05:46

there was a lot in this study, I don’t think we need to go into all the details, what was kind of the the take home the really important message from the study?

Rob Pickels  05:54

Yeah, the really important message from this study is that by varying the effort that the skiers were going, they were actually able to elicit a higher oxygen consumption, then when the skiers were just doing a constant steady effort, right. And so if we think back in the variable efforts, these were skiers who were doing multiple surges throughout each of these five minute efforts, and those surges, were driving the VO to the oxygen consumption higher, even though the time between those surges was actually at a lower workload than in the steady condition. Right. So the increase from the surge, there was not the return back to a lower baseline. And we’re seeing higher oxygen consumption here,

Trevor Connor  06:42

right. So basically, this was kind of a double slap in my face, the steady state group saw the least time at VO to max,

Rob Pickels  06:51

it did both the decreasing where they started with the fast start and then decrease over time and the variable, both of them were higher than the control.

Trevor Connor  07:00

Now what’s important is both of them started harder. The variable group did the over before they did the under Yep. So that was the one thing that was common about both of them. And what you see when they graph this out is you saw in both of those groups, more rapid rise in their vo to hitting a higher vo two much more quickly. What’s really important about this is they attribute that to potentially those two way those fast twitch muscle fibers that can work aerobic ly having to get involved, because you’re doing as above threshold intensity, and being forced to ramp up. So I’m gonna use a technical term there oxidative phosphorylation. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  07:41

exactly. And by involving those higher threshold level, and I don’t mean threshold in terms of the workload, I mean threshold in terms of recruiting these muscle fibers by including them getting them more active earlier in the trial. That is where we’re really seeing the difference in oxygen consumption here. Because I think what a lot of people don’t necessarily understand is, if you say, put your bike at 400 Watts and you go out and you’re pedaling hard, it takes a while for your oxygen consumption to ultimately go from that resting state, and up toward the maximum steady state workload that you’re going to do. And that’s where this interval prescription becomes really important. Because even though you’re doing a 345 minute long interval, the first two, maybe even three minutes of that you aren’t necessarily at a very high amount of oxygen consumption. And you’re not necessarily challenging or stimulating the adaptation that we’re looking to get right.

Trevor Connor  08:41

You know, I think another benefit or another thing to be aware of with us, is again, emphasizing that recruiting those those two a fibers to work oxidatively. That’s really important. In my books. I mentioned this in last week’s episode, and I’ll mention the study again. So there’s a fantastic study called effects of taper on endurance cycling capacity and single muscle fiber properties. Where they had high level I believe, was high level cyclists go through a taper for an event. And I looked at what physiological changes were received that account for this enhanced ability when they get to that race. And the biggest change they saw was in those two a fibers, they were able to just suddenly work much, much more aerobic ly, they were able to use oxygen to generate power. So interesting that you’re you’re seeing this little bit with this decreasing or with this variable, it seems to potentially be recruiting more fast twitch to a fibers you’re getting more of that oxidative phosphorylation with them. So you’re getting a little bit of that stimulus to the type to a fibers that is really essential. If you want to be on your best best race form. One of the messages I’m getting from this is doing something like this could be a good type of interval as you’re getting closer to it. Round.

Rob Pickels  10:01

Yeah, Trevor, you know, you love to be tapering for your events and ramping up. Uh, you know, for people like me who aren’t necessarily training for any one thing in particular, it’s not like, I’m going to Masters nationals anytime soon, I have actually been sprinkling this into my training. And in all honesty, they’re not easy. I’m not gonna lie, especially now in the offseason, when my fitness is a little bit low. This is one of those workouts that I got to work out today, I think I’m going to do a variation of this. I’m dreading it, but I’m also looking forward to it because I know it’s give me pretty good bang for my buck.

Trevor Connor  10:37

Well, I was about to bring that up, because that’s where I’ve gotten to as call whatever you want. I like my steady intervals. But I’ve seen enough research as a, there’s something to this, but I think I wouldn’t give this to an athlete in December, January, partially just because they’re just getting back into training. And these are hard this hurts. It’s a slap in the face. It really is. Yeah. So I think the the adjustment I might make is to continue with the steady for the first half of the base season. And then that’s the adjustment we make is let’s throw in that 30 seconds to a minute. Yep, harder. So if you’re doing a five minute interval of maybe 30 seconds harder, and then you do the four and a half minutes normally, yeah, something like that,

Rob Pickels  11:17

in in here, this particular research, they did 3/42 surges at basically your maximal aerobic power. Within that five minute, I don’t necessarily know or think and maybe this is more research needs to be done. That that is the perfect way to go about this. And, Trevor, I think that you’re definitely on to something, the first few times you’re doing this, maybe you just start out with that fast start and then you settle in. And then after a couple of weeks, maybe add in a second surge. And then when your fitness is pretty strong, then you can add even more surges. Personally, though, and just the way my mind works, I love Sergi things in general, even when I’m just doing true threshold work. And I’m aiming for 90 to 95% of my FTP, I oftentimes will throw in some short surges over a threshold and then settle back in again, I’ve always found that to be pretty effective training is a surgery guy, Rob, I’m a surgeon. It’s one of my strengths to tell you the truth. So I guess maybe it’s because I like training it. So I think

Trevor Connor  12:18

one other study even though this wasn’t originally part of this nerd lab, but just worth mentioning, there’s a 2021 study by Beltrami, called cardio respiratory responses to constant and vary load interval training sessions, they basically did the same thing. But in this study, they did it with cyclists and runners, they found pretty much the same results. The only thing that’s kind of different worth pointing out in this study is that they saw that the effect was much greater in cyclists than runners.

Rob Pickels  12:48

Interesting. I think that it is worthwhile to point that out. I’m glad that you brought that in. Because even though it’s not a Randstad study, and he’s kind of the theme of today, this ronstan study is specifically about Nordic skiers. And so it’s great that we do talk about the fact that in other sport modalities, this is seemingly a worthwhile intervention.

Trevor Connor  13:06

Yep. And I’ll just read this quickly, because they had two potential explanations for why you saw that higher vo two and you saw greater time at VO two Max with his decreasing protocol. So the first one that says this response has been hypothesized or result from either the relatively higher recruitment of less Oh, two efficient type two fibers. So I already talked about that. And then the other one that I found interesting is the higher lactate during the detrimental sessions suggested of lower pH might have facilitated the extraction of otoo by the exercising muscles by decreasing the affinity between hemoglobin and O two, therefore promoting higher vo two even without elevated Q.

Rob Pickels  13:51

Interestingly, Q is cardiac output. Yeah, so abo to difference, right, more oxygen is being extracted from the blood and utilized because the hemoglobin doesn’t want to hold on to the oxygen quite as strongly because of the acidic environment. Right, that oxyhemoglobin desaturation curve is something that we talked about with Robert Kenefick. I don’t remember the number of the episode, but that came up in that episode there too. Boy just get nerdy. I know, those. Those things make me happy. You know, Trevor, it’s interesting that you mentioned that in this run stats study. They were very similar for the three groups, the control group, the variable group and the detrimental group for measures of lactate, and also ventilation and heart rate and workload. It’s interesting that they found higher lactate in the study that you referenced before, but I do think it’s worth pointing out in this Ronstadt study that those measures heart rate ventilation, lactate were all similar, because it ultimately means that the skiers weren’t necessarily doing more work in any of these, but the oxygen consumption was different.

Trevor Connor  14:54

That was a real head scratcher. And they brought it up in all three studies the fact that even though ox reagent consumption was higher, heart rate was not higher. And normally vo twos your oxygen consumption and heart rate, those lines correlate if one goes up, the other goes up up until vo two Max, things kind of fall apart. But you should if you’re seeing an increase in vo to see an increase in heart rate, and they didn’t, which is really fascinating.

Rob Pickels  15:20

Yeah. And I do think that that’s mostly due to the fact that the higher time at greater than 90% of co2 Max was very much about a faster sort of uptake kinetics, the max vo to during the session was not higher. But you got there

Trevor Connor  15:38

quicker. Yep. And it’s just a case of heart rate just couldn’t keep up exactly. Ventilation here, you can increase your your oxygen consumption quite rapidly. Your heart rate is always slow to respond.

Rob Pickels  15:50

Yeah, one thing before we move on to the next study to point out, you brought up Beltrami back in 2012, they did a really interesting detrimental vo two Max study that I think’s worth mentioning, most if not all exercise protocols for vo two Max are incremental protocols. You do a minute here a minute there you go up maybe 30 seconds is each stage until you can’t go any harder. But this Beltrami study in 2012. And I’m paraphrasing, because it’s not in front of me, essentially started subjects at the highest workload at the maximum speed and grade that they were going to go. And when they were about ready to fall off the back of the treadmill. They just slowed it down a little bit to keep them going longer. So they started with the highest workload, and then they ease it up from there. And they saw a significant increase in vo two max of the subjects were able to achieve. And if I remember right, the title of the paper is essentially questioning is VO two Max really Max?

Trevor Connor  16:51

Well, I mean, it’s good point. I don’t know how many of our listeners have ever gone through a vo two max test, let alone administered one. But there is something really important when you’re administering a vo two max test, which is you have to come up with a protocol where the subject is going to hit their vo to max within about 1112 minutes. Because if they don’t you’ve run into an issue that they are going to fatigue from the effort. And they might stop training before they actually hit that trivia to max.

Rob Pickels  17:20

Yeah, Trevor, when you had that awesome thought I came up with the title of the paper and it’s it’s great. I love it. Conventional testing methods produce sub maximal values of maximum oxygen consumption. Yep. If that doesn’t make you want to read this, I don’t know what does. It’s like this is clickbait. This is 2012 research clickbait. But it’s worth clicking on because it’s a great study,

Trevor Connor  17:41

I actually had a bit of a painful experience with this. I was participating in a heart study where they were doing some cycling experiments. It was a friend was the lead researcher and he asked me to be part of it. So I show up and he had a relatively new student administering the VO two max test. And I think this was the first study she had ever worked on. And so she asked me my age and just goes, Oh, 50 year old so she picks a vo to max protocol for unfit a 50 year old. And I just looked at the protocol, the guys who wrote the protocol that she told me and I’m like, you know that I need to hit vo to Max and 12 minutes, right? She’s like, Yeah, why? And I’m like, that will take me an hour. This ain’t gonna do it didn’t go well. She did not just the protocol. So

Rob Pickels  18:29

it goes. Well, you get your volume training and for the day. Yeah. Hey, Trevor, let’s switch gears here for a second. What if I told you, we could increase your oxygen consumption didn’t even need to work harder, Trevor don’t even need these variable intervals. We can make it easier than that for you.

Trevor Connor  18:46

It sounds like you’re doing an ad at one o’clock in the morning on the TV shows. I watch.

Rob Pickels  18:51

All we have to do, Trevor and there might be an ad for this on those TV shows. All we have to do is vibrate you.

Trevor Connor  18:58

Yeah, this is an aerosol Shake Weights. And I’m not lying when I read both of these studies I was thinking about was sitting there on a bike with a shaker.

Rob Pickels  19:10

I love this study. And Dr. Onstad has a lot of vibration research that spans everything from oxygen consumption and endurance training to strength training. Part of me wanted to pull those in, but man who was so we got so unfocused with too many things to talk about. So we’re not covering those today. But let’s start the vibrating cycling platforms.

Trevor Connor  19:33

What I found fascinating by this is we’ve talked many times about marginal gains. This is the let’s dive in and see if we can find one of those true marginal gains that most people wouldn’t even have thought of and this is do your intervals on a trainer and have the trainer on a vibrating plate so you are vibrating while you’re doing your intervals. I want to know who is the person that came up with this idea.

Rob Pickels  20:04

They did they got a commercial vibrating. And actually they weren’t the people that came up with that. There were two researchers that actually did this before Dr. Ron stad. So he can’t claim to fame on the having the idea. But they put essentially, yeah, of commercial grade. And you see these in health clubs and gyms, sometimes on a commercial grade vibrating platform, they mounted the trainer, they had a compu trainer up there, and they had subjects do five minute intervals to see what their oxygen consumption was going to be.

Trevor Connor  20:37

And I think a, an important clarification to make here for anybody listening to this, if you’re a relatively new athlete, you know, if you are not close to your peak, this isn’t even something to be thinking about, you’re gonna see gains from your intervals. I think the whole reason behind this research, is he reached a point with elite Elite endurance athletes, where they are very good at absolutely giving intervals their best, they are given a protocol, they could not do them harder, better than they are already doing them. So the goal here is how do we find a way of having allowing them to continue to do the intervals the way they’ve been doing them, but somehow enhance that adaptive signal?

Rob Pickels  21:22

It’s a great thing to point out. And it’s also something that we discussed in that last episode about time above 90% of vO two Max, recreational athletes don’t necessarily need to focus there to get a lot of the gains that we’re talking about today. Dr. Ronstadt is working with some pretty elite athletes. In this study, it was on cyclists, they were 10 male subjects, their vo two Max was about 80 ml per kg per minute. And their max aerobic power was 471 watts. So pretty strong.

Trevor Connor  21:54

Wrong riders. Yeah.

Rob Pickels  21:55

So in this study, yeah, it was six, five minute efforts, they were able to be self selected. So they their maximum self selected pace throughout the five minutes that was not necessarily controlled. And I think it’s interesting that they point out that the platform that they were on vibrated at 40 hertz, and I believe it was four millimeters of oscillation. I don’t know if that’s important or not, but it’s what they did.

Trevor Connor  22:25

Well, they haven’t brought up. Since this research is really new, they brought up the fact that some of the previous studies use different oscillations, and basically said, don’t know that makes a difference or not, we actually haven’t researched enough, we do not know what the optimal vibration is. Yeah. The

Rob Pickels  22:41

other thing that this was different from other research, other researchers put the front wheel of the bike on the plate, where the Ronstadt group put the back of the trainer on the plate. So it was instead of going up through the tire, it was more into like the frame of the bike in that manner. But ultimately, they all saw the same sort of result. There was the spillage in 2009, filling Gary in 2012. And then this Dr. Ronstadt article, all of them had increased oxygen consumption with the vibration,

Trevor Connor  23:14

right? And plenty of explanations of why is that? Why does vibration do that, and I think the one that resonated the most with me, but Robin Dresden, and what you took from this is that vibration is activating more muscle fibers. So again, you’re seeing those type two fibers being activated at an intensity where under normal circumstances they wouldn’t be, you also might have a little more upper body recruitment, because you’re sitting there shaking his head to hold on to the the handlebars a little more, and those upper body muscles are going to need a little more oxygen. Yep. And then a really interesting one that again, going with the muscle fibers is the vibration might activate muscle fibers that are fatigued and would normally be shutting down a little bit.

Rob Pickels  23:59

Yeah. You know, Trevor, it was it was exactly the same thing. For me, that’s what I really caught on to was, we’ve talked about the activation threshold to get all of these muscle fibers involved. And if you haven’t listened to the previous episode, yet, that’s essentially, as your body works harder and harder, it produces more force by recruiting more and more muscle fibers. And there are some muscle fibers which most of the time are not activated until you’re working essentially all out. And the suggestion as to the theory that they have, why this is is the vibration is lowering the activation threshold for those muscle fibers and they’re getting involved at a lower than 90% vo two max which is the standard that we’ve been using so far. Now, interestingly, Trevor, they did something unique in this study, where they had the subjects do a maximal leg press before and after to assess if there was any major changes or ultimately reductions and strengthen this vibration. And there wasn’t necessarily so it doesn’t seem as though it took extra out of the body because of the increase oxygen consumption.

Trevor Connor  25:11

Yeah, which was not consistent with some of the earlier studies where there were some vibration studies where they found that the athletes fatigued quicker, exactly, but they didn’t find that in these studies.

Rob Pickels  25:22

And if I remember, right, the previous studies where they found they fatigued quicker was doing a set workload for kind of a time to exhaustion, hoarding, say, 400 watts or whatever for as long as you can, subjects were not able to go as long as the vibration occurred. Yeah,

Trevor Connor  25:40

and they also brought up that might be a factor of the oscillation, it was a different, they were using a different frequency. And it could be that some frequencies really do kind of beat you up and lead you to fatigue. But I can’t remember who was this one or the other one, or both, where they had, I think, um, both, they were taking EMG. So it’s a measure of the electrical activity in the muscles, just this one, I think just this one, and they did find in the vibration protocol, you saw greater EMG activity. So that is the evidence that you’re seeing more fiber recruitment because of the vibration.

Rob Pickels  26:15

Correct. And there was also a slightly higher maximal lactate. But average lactate throughout the trial was essentially the same. Yeah. Now in this trial, just like the first study that we talked about, the major difference, again, seems to not be the absolute highest vo to that subjects hit throughout the session, it was how quickly view to ramped up at the onset of exercise.

Trevor Connor  26:40

Exactly. So these vibration studies are still very new. So there’s a ton here that we’re just kind of hypothesizing and they even say in the studies, we’re still trying to figure this out a lot. And what’s going on is definitely an effect, we’re definitely seeing it. But it seems like the vibration is causing a more rapid and larger recruitment of muscle fibers. And as muscle fibers get recruited, they have a demand for oxygen, that’s going to ramp up vo two and that seems to be where all this is pointing to what’s going on. So you’re getting the same effect that you’re getting from those those decreasing intervals, we were just talking about where you start with the higher intensity and then go to the steady, but you’re getting it without having to do that that

Rob Pickels  27:22

harder effort to start in this study, definitely worth pointing out rating of perceived exertion didn’t change between the two. So it’s not physical effort. It’s not even perceived effort. Granted, RPE was 17 and a half out of 20. On average, these are not easy, don’t get me wrong.

Trevor Connor  27:43

One thing’s actually really appreciated here. And again, this is just one of the reasons Robin, I love to jump on Ron instead studies whenever they come out, because he really thinks these things through often they do interval studies where you bring in very inexperienced athletes, and any coach can tell you, you have to learn how to do intervals, right,

Rob Pickels  28:02

especially in a self paced like this.

Trevor Connor  28:05

So they brought in very high level cyclists who they know could execute these intervals, right? And even talk about that in the study that they were willing to let these athletes because of their experience level self paced because they know that they are experienced enough at intervals, that even just doing the protocol once they’re gonna land on just the right intensity.

Rob Pickels  28:27

Yeah. And looking at this, it was six five minute efforts. Two and a half minutes of rest. mean power output 352 Watts, five minutes times 630 minutes at 350 watts. Todd is stronger than I am. I’ll tell you that. I listeners we just launched our new podcast series Bastok FEM tune in to hear a co host, Julie young and DD Barry, former pro cyclists and US national teammates chat with a stellar lineup of experts to explore female physiology, nutrition, training through pregnancy and more. Check it out at fast talk All right, Trevor, we know that if you vary your interval intensity, or if you vibrate yourself, you’re gonna consume more oxygen. What do you think happens if we combine the two together?

Trevor Connor  29:21

I think we’re just gonna have a fun day this I don’t know Rob, I’m I’m searching for your answer for you.

Rob Pickels  29:30

You’re going to consume more oxygen Trevor. That’s what you’re going to do. There is in effect if you take the two of these concepts and put it together and that is our third study today.

Trevor Connor  29:41

So when you asked me that question, I just had this picture on my head because as I said, I the whole time I was reading these vibration studies. I would just picturing a cyclist sitting there holding a shake wipe

Rob Pickels  29:52

the thing you have to shake the shake wait though.

Trevor Connor  29:56

I thought he just held him shakes. No,

Rob Pickels  29:58

I don’t. Don’t you shake it.

Trevor Connor  29:59

I Never use the shake. Wait, I just I thought they were battery operated and they shaken your hand.

Rob Pickels  30:04

I always thought that they were like spring loaded in you had to shake before they use a battery? I don’t know, I think somebody should weigh in, hit us up on the social let us know who’s right. But

Trevor Connor  30:13

regardless, you you asked me that question, I was just picturing this poor cyclist holding the Shake Weight and one hand, having to do this 32nd Above Threshold effort going, Oh my God, why did I volunteer?

Rob Pickels  30:27

They had to sign informed consent for that. Yes, they did. So this was an interesting study, adding vibration during varied intensity work intervals increases time spent near maximal oxygen uptake in well trained cyclists. And this was an interesting paper because it was a follow up to a previous study that was done that saw no improvement by adding vibration. In that study, if I remember, right, they added vibration to when the cyclists were already working hard.

Trevor Connor  31:00

So if you think of this as an over under that study added the vibration during the overs, this study added it during the Unders

Rob Pickels  31:07

Exactly. And we know from the first study that the overs the hard section, or already essentially using all the oxygen you can, because we’re recruiting all of those muscle fibers. And adding vibration didn’t really add anything to that situation. That said,

Trevor Connor  31:24

there was another study where they they had the vibration throughout the intervals. And this study where the vibration was just during the Unders still didn’t produce quite as much vo to consumption or time time a vo two Max as when they had the vibration throughout. Sure.

Rob Pickels  31:43

So yeah, in this study, they were doing again, five minute work intervals, they were varying between 100% Max aerobic power. And then the under was kind of this in between Max aerobic power and FTP. And they did add the vibrations just to that. Trevor, do you remember how long the under periods

Trevor Connor  32:02

were new? You’re gonna hit me with a question. I wasn’t ready.

Rob Pickels  32:05

You don’t need to it was 40 seconds over in 60 seconds under. So one minute. So three minutes total out of the five minute effort. Okay, I had to do the math in my head. So results that we saw here, this increased time above 90% of vO to Max 26%, which I think is a pretty significant amount.

Trevor Connor  32:28

Yeah. So going back to what we were talking about before, when they compare this to where they had the vibration throughout, I think they were seeing an increase around 50%. The number 58 is coming to head, my head but I’m not seeing it on the page right now. So about half of what you see when they have the vibration throughout.

Rob Pickels  32:44

Yep. The other thing to note here and you had brought this up in our previous article discussion, there was higher muscle activation in the vibration of this as well. So potentially recruiting the same mechanism recruiting more of those type to a fibers. Again, in this study, there were a lot of variables that weren’t different between the vibration and the non vibration trials, there was no difference in heart rate, there was no difference at time greater than 90% of heart rate Max. Interesting vo two max time above was higher. There was no change in ventilation. So how much air people are moving in and out. No change in lactate and no change in leg muscles sensation. They had sensational leg muscles apparently.

Trevor Connor  33:29

That’s what I found the most interesting in these vibration studies that they throw out some theories of why it might be but they haven’t definitively said here’s the reason. But you see in both of these studies, and in some of the previous studies, this disassociation between vo two and heart rate, which is not something you normally see. So I’m really fascinated on why that is what is the physiological explanation behind that. I think once they prove that definitively, I think we’re gonna get some interesting insights into how the body works. We had a chance to talk with Dr. Ron Istat. About these three studies. Let’s hear from him about why he chose to do studies on vibration plates. And also his thoughts on why we saw a rise in vo two but didn’t see a rise in heart rate. We talked about two of your recent studies that looked at putting cyclists on vibration plates, which are really interesting. So two quick questions about those studies as one. What motivated you to look into vibration plate effects on on training. And then the thing I found really fascinating was that you saw this rise in vo two without a rise in heart rate. And normally those two are in sync. And so I’ve been really fascinated by what you think the explanation is behind how vo two could rise without a concurrent rise in heart rate.

Bent Ronnestad  34:47

Yeah. Originally I started research on vibration platforms. When I was a student and I was working in a gym and we got we gotta be bracing platform and I was sure this is It’s rubbish. So I just want to do a study to show that it’s not working. So this was like 20 years ago. And I’m still within this, every now and then. So for mounting our bike on a vibration platform, the idea was partly due to we observe that it seems to increase the EMG activity, when we are vibrating, at least we observed it so that maybe we could increase the stimulus to the rider, if there be brightening. And that’s what we did, then we the first approach was performing some five minutes intervals with with maximal effort across all intervals. And then we saw that it was a higher view to mean beauty with Liberation’s compared to without, but the power output was similar. And the heart rate, as you say, was similar. So whether it was increased muscle activation used to be Bration, inducing some increased muscle spinal activation, and thereby increase the excitatory in flow, but you could argue that okay, then the heart rate should kind of follow. Right,

Trevor Connor  36:06

but it didn’t know. Did you have any thoughts on why? Because I’d always been taught that the biggest stimulus when you’re exercising of heart rate is fiber recruitment. So you’re seeing higher EMG activity, you should see a higher rate. Yeah, I agree.

Bent Ronnestad  36:23

But what we have seen in some of these acute studies as well is that it’s not always that you can have a higher time about 90% of you to max, but there is no difference in mean heart rate. But in some cases, we see a higher heart rate, but not in all studies. So the reason to that I’m not quite sure, but it seems like it’s not at least always uncertain relationship between the heart rate and the VO to

Rob Pickels  36:48

the other thing, if we’re sort of hypothesizing here that’s interesting to me is VO two Max is oftentimes thought of as a centrally limited factor, and the definitive studies that suggest that essentially exercise one muscle in isolation, and its ability to uptake oxygen, when it’s the only one meaning the entire Cardiac output is being sent to that one muscle group, that local muscle is able to extract and utilize more oxygen than when the entire body is working. So it’s interesting that we are seeing something that’s happening in the periphery increasing vo two Max because, as far as I know, none of this should be changing any of the cardiac output factors,

Trevor Connor  37:32

we’re gonna get into a little bit of the physiology, but the this is called a nerd lab. So this is where we get our time to talk about this. And we discussed this in the previous episode, there’s two ways to increase vo to max, or basically to increase the volume of oxygen that’s being consumed. One is cardiac output. But it’s hard to change cardiac output, it’s hard to change cardio and this case, you know, over time, the way you improve your cardiac output is stroke volume, but in a particular workout, you’re not going to see a training effect on stroke volume. So the way you increase cardiac output is is heart rate going up and down. And since heart rate didn’t go up and down, we can assume that during these intervals, cardiac output didn’t really change. And so if you’re diffusing more blood to more capillaries, you’d have to see an increase in cardiac output, you’d have to see that increase in heart rate. So this goes back to what we were talking about before. And I’m just thinking out loud here is this increase in vo to I think had to be as you said, at the muscle level, it was taking more oxygen out of the blood is a pass by?

Rob Pickels  38:42

Yeah, this last run stats study, and I don’t think it was mentioned in any of the other ones did question whether there was a redistribution of the cardiac output, right, because even though our quads and our calves and our glutes are working really hard when we’re cycling, we still are pumping blood to our brain to the rest of our body to our arms to our back muscles, was the body able to redistribute that away from some of the non working muscles to the working leg muscles. It’d be interesting if vibration was able to do that to show a localized area needs more blood flow than it otherwise would have gotten. Because you’re working in an otherwise maximal sense. You should be supplying those muscles with all the blood they’re able to get. To me

Trevor Connor  39:26

this is really fascinating, because I’m actually going on a quick tangent here. I was listening to a online conference that Dr. Seiler was part of a few weeks ago and what I loved is at the end of the conference, and you know, this was all big names. So I think there were there were five guests there and you’ve heard of every single one of them. And the host at the very end asked a physiology question that hasn’t been answered yet. Because he you know, and that was why he was asking it. He wanted to see what these top experts thought about this and you kind of see them scratching their head and kind Feeling the waters and saying well, maybe this maybe that, and actually really appreciate it Dr. Sailors response, he started by saying, you know, we have to be a little bit humble here. And remember, there’s probably more that we don’t know about human physiology than we do know. And he said, I think this is one of those in I’m shortening what he said. But he basically I think this is one of those cases where we don’t have that knowledge yet. And when I was reading these and seeing that, again that that disassociation, and how are we increasing vo two without increasing cardiac output unnecessarily. There’s something going on physiologically that this might start telling us things about the body that we didn’t know yet. That to me is really exciting. And I think this is how we’re going to finish out the episode is the practical side, most people aren’t going to be able to start doing their intervals on a vibration plate, nor would I recommend people invest the money for that.

Rob Pickels  40:53

Well, yeah, that is one thing I do know, because I looked it up immediately after. And commercial grade vibration plates, like are used in this study are 1000s upon 1000s of dollars. So I think we’re going to expense one of those. Don’t worry about it, Trevor, it’ll be it’ll be useful, I promise. There are definitely $100 vibration plates on Amazon. I don’t know if you’re gonna get the same effect, though or not. The experimenter in me really wants to buy one and try it out. Tell you the truth. We have the Parvo metabolic cart in the room next door. Maybe we can do a little fast talk labs, bro science here, if you want.

Trevor Connor  41:27

Oh, if I see our metabolic cart on a vibration plate? No, the heart doesn’t go

Rob Pickels  41:31

on the plate. I go on the plate.

Trevor Connor  41:33

Yes, I get that.

Rob Pickels  41:36

Yeah, I do think the practical side of this is important, right? The variable intensity intervals. That’s something that we can do practically anyone today can go out and update their workout to include variable vo to max level intervals.

Trevor Connor  41:52

Yeah, no, I agree with that. And that’s kind of my recommendation. But I’m going to repeat what I said before. I don’t think this is an all the time thing. Getting those fast twitch to a fibers to work aerobically. Yeah, and I don’t have enough evidence enough research behind this to say this definitively. So this is as much just my my belief as absolutely backed by science. But I don’t think the to a fibers like to work aerobic ly nonstop, you do see over time conversion of fast twitch to actual slow twitch muscle fibers that becomes permanent. And that was debated for a long time. But that was eventually resolved in the show. Yeah, you can see that long term conversion. So this is the short term, hey, we’re doing a ton of aerobic work. So let’s get these fast twitch muscle fibers to act like slow twitch muscle fibers. But I don’t think they really like doing that for too long. And so it’s always been my belief as a coach that once you start getting them to work aerobic ly, or to act really oxidatively they’re on a time limit. And that’s that point where you get to in the season where you start saying I started. I’m feeling stale. I’m starting to feel a little overreached. And you just kind of have to say I have to take a really long break or the season’s over. Because you have those adaptations like that, that are really good for eight weeks, 12 weeks, whatever it is, but just not something you can maintain indefinitely. So for me, I wouldn’t want to do this in January or December, way before the season for the athlete and get them to really start working those getting those two a fibers to work aerobic ly that early on. This is something that I would introduce closer to the season.

Rob Pickels  43:34

Is that your recommendation, Trevor, for any workout that targets view to max level intensities, like a like a five by five maximal? Would you be doing those with your athletes really early in the season

Trevor Connor  43:47

zone then this gets into coaching style. And I’ve been coming a little more on board with that, of doing a little bit of the high intensity in December, January, I used to be pretty religious about this. No, myself and my athletes, we didn’t do anything above threshold until we are getting closer to the season. So that’s something that we would introduce in February. I’m coming a little more on board of there are benefits to this and one of the biggest benefits and this comes out of an in a great interview that we did with Dean Gould edge of doing that little bit of intensity, also get some of the painkillers flown. Yep, gets some of the neuromuscular side working. And what you can see then is then when you do your threshold work, which is what I love to do on the bass season, you can actually do that harder. And I actually tried this this year with myself and one of my athletes, and we saw that the power that both of us were putting out in our thresholds when we started them in December, after doing a few weeks of not a really hard workout. I just hadn’t do one set of 3030s so six, six minutes of 30 seconds on 30 seconds off, and also a couple of short 10. Second Sprint’s so we did that for a couple of weeks and then we went Back to the traditional five by five thresholds. And I remember him going, Oh my God, I’ve never put out this sort of power in December. But I don’t want to do so much high intensity that you start getting that conversion, you start seeing the what I would call race format adaptations, which again, I think are on a timer.

Rob Pickels  45:18

Yeah, I think I agree with you in if I was adding intervals, in beginning of the year, my max aerobic power capacities were a little bit lower, I’m really still trying to build that early fitness, I don’t know that I would go to these variable intensity intervals, straight out the gate to tell you the truth. Definitely something to always keep the body guessing, you know, changing things up a little bit prevented from getting stale, working them in a little bit later, once you’re at that point where you’re physically able to handle this really difficult work. And in the few times I have experimented with them. I know in the studies, it said that rating of perceived exertion was very similar between the two. But we do have to remember, we’re talking highly trained individuals doing this. And what I found is when my fitness wasn’t good enough, the over the surges made it really hard to then back off and still maintain a workload that otherwise kept my vo to and my workload elevated enough to tell you the truth. And so even though in these studies, the workload was the same between the two, it almost felt like because of the surges, my average workload in the Surgey workout was lower than it would have been had I gone constant, because I just physically wasn’t able to do it at that point. Right.

Trevor Connor  46:35

But that I mean, I think that’s as much mental as anything else. Sure. You get used to something. And so it’s the comparison. Yeah, like, for example, last night, I did a set of my cadence pyramids, where you do a minute at 100 RPM than a minute 110. You go all the way up to 130. And you come back down. And last night, my legs are just feeling like lead bricks. So when I hit that one minute of 100 RPM, I could barely do it. Like, oh, my God, this is hard. Yeah. But I’m just like, No, I’m getting through this case. And Pierre Ben forced myself through the 130 was miserable. Yep. But by the time I came back down to the 100, I’m like, This is so slow. Yeah.

Rob Pickels  47:11

Yeah. And that’s the principle, the latest workout of the week, I think that I publish was over unders. And I sort of referenced that in if you just want to do 90 to 95% of threshold, it feels kind of hard now. But if you do a surge over a threshold and settle back in at 90 to 95, suddenly, it begins to feel like recovery. And you associate a pretty hard workload with something that ought to feel easy. And I think performance wise, mentally, that makes a big difference for me that I feel a lot more comfortable sitting in at that workload.

Trevor Connor  47:41

And that actually gets to another thing that I’ve switched. They always say that it people kind of mellow out as they get older. I used to be so religious about all these things. And I’m kind of mellowing out on some of these things now. But another thing I used to be religious about was not doing efforts as a warm up to intervals. My argument was, why are you doing intervals to get ready for intervals, just do the intervals, warm up for a race because you got to perform in the race. So I would do time before intervals, I would do some cadence works before intervals, but I wouldn’t put in a lot of efforts. But I have noticed same sort of thing. Let’s say I’m doing five by five minute thresholds. I’ve always actually found that the first one is the hardest, because it’s gotta gotta get the legs moving. Yep. And so I have more and more brought in just a couple. It’s not done yet. Just a couple sprint efforts. And he said, it’s just that contrast that wakes your legs up you go, Hey, that was really hard, by contrast, is just as hard.

Rob Pickels  48:39

Well, hey, it’s like everybody dips their toe in the pool before they jump in, but for all intents purposes, you might as well just do with the cannon ball. Good coach, wrap it up with?

Trevor Connor  48:51

I think we ended there.

Rob Pickels  48:52

Perfect. Thanks, Trevor. Great conversation today.

Trevor Connor  48:55

I enjoyed that. Thank you.

Rob Pickels  48:56

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at or tweet at us at at fast talk labs. Head to fast to get access to our endurance sports knowledge base coach continuing education, as well as our in person and remote athletes services. For Trevor Connor and our quasi guest today Dr. Bent Ronnestadt. I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening.