Monday, September 25, 2023
Mitochondrial Health

#61 – Volume versus intensity with Dr David Bishop

Dr Glenn McConell chats with Professor David Bishop from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. He has a broad background in exercise physiology research and has focused for many years on exercise and muscle mitochondria. He finds that low volume, prolonged exercise tends to increase mitochondrial volume more than mitochondrial function while sprint exercise training does the opposite, increasing mitochondrial function more than mitochondrial volume. He hypothesizes that polarized type training may be best to get increases in both mitochondrial function and mitochondrial volume. A very interesting chat. David’s Twitter: @BlueSpotScience

0:00. Introduction
2:45. Defining the different training zones
4:30. More to being an endurance athlete than the mitochondria
6:15. Intensity vs volume for mitochondrial responses
8:30. Dissociations between mito function and mito volume
10:35. Mechanisms involved?
Takeaway messages
12:05. Issues with normalizing mitochondrial findings?
15:20. Applying results at rest, in recovery to during exercise
18:00. Isolated mito results correlate with NMR?
18:50. Polarized training best to get both mito function and volume?
23:30. Can’t assume signaling etc changes affect performance
27:35. Determinants of exercise performance
28:50. Lactate threshold and mitochondrial function
32:15. Training volume most important for mito content
33:20. Overtraining vs energy deficit
36:05. Should tailor training based on VO2 max?
38:35. VO2 max vs lactate threshold
40:00. VO2 max and running economy not linked?
44:20. Resting vs maximum heart rate
45:45. Sodium bicarbonate, lactate, training and mitochondria
49:46. Is training specificity overrated?
55:15. Interval training work: rest ratios
58:20. High intensity interval training and mito damage
1:01:30. Need lab testing?
1:05:10. Important to be concerned about training zones?
1:07:55. Tends to be in polarized training camp
1:11:55. Considering the needs/physiology of the event/sport
1:15:30. Takeaway messages
Outro (9 seconds)
1:17:10. Issues re mito function per mg of muscle
1:21:15. Outro (9 seconds)

Inside Exercise brings to you the who’s who of research in exercise metabolism, exercise physiology and exercise’s effects on health. With scientific rigor, these researchers discuss popular exercise topics while providing practical strategies for all.

The interviewer, Emeritus Professor Glenn McConell, has an international research profile following 30 years of Exercise Metabolism research experience while at The University of Melbourne, Ball State University, Monash University, the University of Copenhagen and Victoria University.

He has published over 120 peer reviewed journal articles and recently edited an Exercise Metabolism eBook written by world experts on 17 different topics (

Connect with Inside Exercise and Glenn McConell at:
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ResearchGate: Glenn McConell
Email: [email protected]

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9 thoughts on “#61 – Volume versus intensity with Dr David Bishop
  1. Thank you for these podcasts. They are informative and helpful. I am a rower and coach, so I listen as a practitioner. I have listened to and read research from Dr Bishop and others, e.g. Inigo San-Millan, Stephen Seiler, Peter Attia, and many others. Their work seems to generally come to the same endurance sport training recommendation…. 1. Do a lot of ‘lower intensity’ (approximately LT1, <=2 mmol La ) to build the fat oxidizing mitochondria capacity and also develop the capillary and heart capacity. 2. Augment that with higher intensity HIIT and Sprint training. 3. Include strength training. The training mix will vary by sport, seasonal periodization, etc., but the ‘80/20’ conceptual strategy seems to have consensus. Did I get it right? Based on my own experience over decades, this is the best general approach.

  2. is it a myth that 'lactic tolerance' sessions (not a technically accurate term but it conveys the meaning) i.e. 400m sprint training for tolerating the burn (hydrogen ions) harms mitochondria?

  3. Great interview and discussion, thanks. I’d be interested in your view on whether HR based Vo2 max estimates (eg like Garmin’s using a heart rate strap and doing exercises over 70% max HR) are really estimates of Vo2 max or are also capturing other things such as mitochondrial function? I can’t help think its doing both, but then Garmin says their measure is highly correlated with directly measured VO2 max.

  4. Just listened to David’s suggestion at the end to train volume just above the first threshold. That’s what I have been doing for the past year (2-2.5 hours 3 times a week) and getting great results. My estimated FTP up to around 370W from around 345W. I do one high intensity session per week (usually a classic VO2 max) and one long ride (4-6 hours) at much lower than first threshold. I suspect most cyclists aren’t getting the improvements they could get by riding too low intensity for 1-2 hours trying to do Z2 on the Coggen scale. If they ride 4-6 hours then that intensity is probably right, but its likely too low for 1-2 hours at a time in my view.

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