Conference Publication Details
Mandatory Fields
Frank Nugent, Tom Comyns, Emma Burrows, Giles Warrington
All Ireland Postgraduate Conference in Sport Sciences, Physical Activity and Physical Education
Effect of low volume, high-intensity training on performance in competitive swimmers: a systematic review
Optional Fields

Effects of low volume, high intensity training on performance in competitive swimmers: a systematic review


Nugent, F1., Comyns, T1., Burrows, E2. & Warrignton, G1.

Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences, University of Limerick1

School of Human Health and Performance, Dublin City University2



Swimming coaches are widely acknowledged to place a strong emphasis on developing a swimmer’s aerobic capacity through the use of low intensity, high volume training (HVT). The relevance of HVT to the physiological requirements of many swimming events has been questioned (Aspenes and Karlson, 2012) as 81% of Olympic level events are less than 140 seconds in duration. HVT has been linked to increased risk of shoulder injury (Sein et al., 2010), overtraining syndrome (Raglin et al., 2000) and early specialisation (Myer et al., 2015) in competitive swimmers. Low volume, high-intensity training (HIT) might allow for a reduction in HVT. The purpose of this systematic review was to determine the effects of HIT on physiological performance and swimming performance in competitive swimmers.



The methodology followed the PRISMA-P protocol (Shamseer et al., 2015). A search of relevant databases and conference proceedings was performed. Studies were eligible if they met the inclusion criteria outlined in Table 1. Quality assessment of the eligible studies was performed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database Scale (PEDro) (Maher et al., 2003).

Table 1. Inclusion criteria

·         Competitive swimmers (≥ 10 years old, ≥ 3 years of training, competing at a minimum of regional level).

·         Intervention consisted of HIT for ≥4 weeks.

·         Comparison groups training program had to involve a higher training distance/duration per session.

·         Outcome measures of physiological performance (Lacsubmax, Lacmax, VO2peak) and swimming performance.

·         All experimental study designs



Results indicate that of the 538 studies retrieved, 7 studies met the inclusion criteria. The 7 studies received a PEDro score ranging from 2 to 6 out of 10 points. Six out of the 7 studies found that HIT resulted in significant improvements in physiological performance; 4 found that HIT resulted in significant improvements in swimming performance, whilst none of the 7 studies resulted in a reduction in performance.


Only 3 out of 7 studies were randomised controlled trails thus reducing the quality of evidence available. However, 2 studies were longitudinal interventions of 1 year and 4 years duration.



Current evidence suggests that HIT interventions can improve performance in competitive swimmers in events from 50 to 2000m. However due to the low number of studies that were eligible for review, further research is required.



Aspenes, S and Karlsen, T. (2012). Sports Med 42: 527-543.

Sein, M.L., Walton, J., Linklater, J., Appleyard, R., Kirkbride, B., Kuah, D., and Murrell, G.A. (2010). Br J Sports Med, 44, 105-113.

Raglin, J., Sawamura, S., Alexiou, S., Hassmen, P. and Kentta, G. (2000). Pediatr Exerc Sci, 12, 61-70

Myer, G.D., Jayanthi, N., Difiori, J.P., Faigenbaum, A.D., Kiefer, A.W., Logerstedt, D. and Micheli, L.J. (2015).

Sports Health, 7, 437-442.

Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., Shekelle, P. and Stewart, L.A. (2015). BMJ, 349.

Maher, C.G., Sherrington, C., Herbert, R.D., Moseley, A.M. and Elkins, M. (2003). Phys Ther, 83, 713-721.



This research is part-funded by the National Aquatic Centre Swimming Club

Grant Details