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Applying the Critical Speed Concept to Racing Strategy and Interval Training Prescription

Robert W. Pettitt

The use of personal records (PRs) for running different distances may be used to derive critical speed (CS) and the finite capacity for running speeds exceeding CS (D′). Using CS and D′, individualized speed-time and distance-time relationships can be modeled (ie, time limits associated with running at a given speed or a given distance can be derived via linear regression with a high degree of accuracy). The running 3-min all-out exercise test (3 MT) has emerged as a method for estimating CS and D′ on a large group of athletes in a single visit. Such a procedure is useful when PRs are not readily available (eg, team-sport athletes). This article reviews how to administer and interpret the running 3 MT, how CS and D′ can inform racing strategy, and how CS and D′ can be used to prescribe and evaluate high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Directions for deriving HIIT bouts using either fixed distances or fixed speeds are provided along with CS dose-responses to short-term HIIT programs.

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Critical Speed as a Measure of Aerobic Fitness for Male Rugby Union Players

Mark Kramer, Mark Watson, Rosa Du Randt, and Robert W. Pettitt

Purpose: To compare critical speed (CS) derived from all-out testing (AOT) for linear and shuttle running with metrics from a graded exercise test, the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test  Level 1 (YYIR1), and estimation of an 800-m-shuttle time trial. Methods: Twelve male rugby players completed a graded exercise test, the YYIR1, a linear AOT, shuttle AOTs of 25 and 50 m, and an 800-m-shuttle time trial consisting of 32 × 25-m shuttles. Results: Strong linear correlations were observed between maximum oxygen uptake ( V ˙ O 2 max ) and CS (m·s−1) derived from the linear AOT (3.68 [0.62], r = .90, P < .01) and 50-m-shuttle AOT (3.19 [0.26], r = .83, P < .01). Conversely, V ˙ O 2 max showed lower correlations with speeds evoking CS from 25-m AOT (2.86 [0.18], r = .42, P = .18) and YYIR1 (4.36 [0.11], r = .55, P = .07). The 800-m time trial (213.58 [15.84] s) was best predicted using parameters from the 25-m AOT (r = .93, SEE = 6.60 s, P < .001). Conclusions: The AOT is a valuable method of assessing performance-specific fitness, with CS from linear and 50-m-shuttle AOTs being strong predictors of V ˙ O 2 max , rivaling metrics from the graded exercise test. The YYIR1 offered limited utility compared with the AOT method.

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Load Determination for the 3-Minute All-Out Exercise Test for Cycle Ergometry

Nathan D. Dicks, Nicholas A. Jamnick, Steven R. Murray, and Robert W. Pettitt


To investigate a new power-to-body-mass (BM) ratio 3-min all-out cycling test (3MT%BM) for determining critical power (CP) and finite work capacity above CP (W ′).


The gas-exchange threshold (GET), maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), and power output evoking VO2max (W peak) and GET (W GET) for cycle ergometry were determined in 12 participants. CP and W′ were determined using the original “linear factor” 3MT (3MTrpm^2) and compared with CP and W′ derived from a procedure, the 3MT%BM, using the subject’s body mass and self-reported physical activity rating (PA-R), with values derived from linear regression of the work–time model and power–inverse-time model (1/time) data from 3 separate exhaustive squarewave bouts.


The VO2max, VO2GET, W peak, and W GET values estimated from PA-R and a non-exercise-regression equation did not differ (P > .05) from actual measurements. Estimates of CP derived from the 3MT%BM (235 ± 56 W), 3MTrpm^2 (234 ± 62 W), work–time (231 ± 57 W), and 1/time models (230 ± 57 W) did not differ (F = 0.46, P = .72). Similarly, estimates of W′ between all methods did not differ (F = 3.58, P = .07). There were strong comparisons of the 3MT%BM to 1/time and work–time models with the average correlation, standard error of the measurement, and CV% for critical power being .96, 8.74 W, and 4.64%, respectively.


The 3MT%BM is a valid, single-visit protocol for determining CP and W′.