Preprint / Version 3

Should I rest or should I go now? A comparison between fixed and self-selected rest durations in high-intensity interval training cycling sessions


  • Eyal Colorni Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Evyatar Ohayon Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Julie N Côté McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Uri Obolski Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Israel Halperin Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel



self selected rest, HIIT, sEMG, cyclists, RPE


Background: In high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the rest durations between intervals are commonly prescribed using a fixed approach (e.g., 30 seconds between intervals). An alternative is the self-selected (SS) approach, in which trainees select their resting durations. Studies comparing the two approaches report mixed results. However, in these studies, trainees in the SS condition rested for as little or as long as they wished, leading to dissimilar total rest durations between conditions. Here, for the first time, we compare the two approaches while controlling for total rest duration.

Methods: Twenty-four amateur adult male cyclists completed a familiarization session, followed by two counterbalanced cycling HIIT sessions. Each session was composed of nine, 30-second intervals, in which the goal was to accumulate as many watts as possible on an SRM ergometer. In the fixed condition, cyclists rested for 90 seconds between intervals. In the SS condition, cyclists had 720 seconds (i.e., 8x90 seconds) of rest to allocate in any way they wished. We measured and compared watts, heart rate, electromyography of the knee flexors and extensors, rating of perceived effort and fatigue, perception of autonomy and enjoyment. Additionally, a subsample of ten cyclists completed a retest of the SS condition.

Results: With the exception of perception of autonomy, which was higher in the SS condition, both aggregated and across-interval outcomes were highly similar in both conditions. For example, the average aggregated differences were: 0.57 (95% CI -8.94, 10.09) for watts; -0.85 (95% CI -2.89, 1.18) for heart rate; and 0.01 (95% CI -0.29, 0.30) for rating of perceived effort (on a 0-10 scale). Additionally, the retest of the SS condition resulted in a similar rest allocation pattern across the intervals and in similar outcomes.

Conclusion: Given the similarities between the fixed and SS conditions, both can be equally utilized based on coaches’ and cyclists’ preferences and training goals.


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Author Biographies

Eyal Colorni, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Department of Health Promotion, school of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Sylvan Adams Sports Institute, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Evyatar Ohayon, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Sylvan Adams Sports Institute, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Julie N Côté, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Laboratory, Michael Feil and Ted Oberfeld/CRIR Research Centre, Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital, Laval, Quebec, Canada.

Uri Obolski, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Department of Environmental Studies, Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Israel Halperin, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Department of Health Promotion, school of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
2Sylvan Adams Sports Institute, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel


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2023-01-25 — Updated on 2023-01-30