115 THE CONCONI PRINCIPLE

HISTORY 1980 – 1990

THE WORLD HOUR RECORD ON TRACK

Professor Francesco Conconi, from Italy, became world famous with his new training principles.  He prepared Francesco Moser, on the track in Mexico City at an altitude of 2240 meters, for his attack on the world record of Eddy Merckx. Merckx rode 49.431 meters in 1972 , Moser broke the record in 1984, twice within a few days. The first time he broke the 50 km barrier with 50 808 meters, two days later he came to 51 151 meters. This record was completely dominated by the revolutionary new training doctrine of  Conconi  and the success of Moser caused  that the new training doctrine became very famous and popular in a short time .

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Francesco Moser 51.151 m                  Professor Francesco Conconi                 Eddy Merckx Merckx 49.431 m

Conconi made use of the relation that exists between the intensity of physical exertion and the heart rate. He noted that during intensive exercise the relationship between heart rate and sport intensity is no longer linear. The initially straight line shows a deflection in case of intensive physical exertion. In other words, the sport intensity may still rise, but the heart rate increase stagnates at a particular point. This kink has since been called the heart rate deflection point.

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The work intensity which corresponds to this heart rate deflection point,  is the maximum work intensity that is still completely energized aerobically. The kink in the curve indicates at what heart rate or at what intensity of work, for example the speed of walking or cycling, is switched from aerobic to mainly anaerobic energy supply. Using this method Conconi could indicate precisely how fast Moser had to cycle during his record attempt without getting prematurely exhausted.

The kink shows the relationship between the HR deflection point and the running or cycling speed.  According to Conconi,  that speed corresponds to  the work intensity   that can be sustained over a long period of time. It is the highest speed or HR which is fully supplied with aerobic energy*. If the speed is increased beyond the deflection point, accumulation of lactic acid occurs. That is a clear signal that the aerobic energy supplying system fails and the anaerobic system has started to work, resulting in a build-up of lactic acid.  Based on this principle Conconi developed a test, without taking blood samples, in which the deflection point could be determined.

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The red dots are the measuring points of the Conconi test. Where the linear relation is lost we will find the deflection point (DP). In this graph the DP corresponds with a HR of HF 188 and a running speed of 14.2 km/hour

The theoretical story of Conconi seemed promising and the successful improvement of the world record by Moser generated a lot of attention in the world of sport.  But in practice, the test proved difficult to do, many athletes showed no deflection point, and it was often not possible, with the test data obtained, to come to a good training advice. There was an increasing amount of criticism of scientific sports medical authorities from all over the world on this method.  The Conconi test is no longer used.  On the Web the protocol of the test of Conconi may still be found.

 * In fact, this view of Conconi is incorrect and is oversimplified. The energy supply is not completely aerobic at the level of the deflection point. The deflection point, or anaerobic threshold, is the upper limit of the aerobic / anaerobic transition area. So there is aerobic and anaerobic energy supply with partial lactate formation, but the body is still able to maintain a lactate steady state. That means the formation and breakdown of lactate is in balance. When the intensity of the effort increases the breakdown of lactate is inadequate and high to very high lactate values will occur.