Energy system development
in team sports: Part 2

Following on from part one, where we looked at some of the basic concepts of energy system physiology, in part two we divert a little and dive into the practical application of ESD in teams sport environments.

When designing a conditioning program, it is not only important to understand the energy systems that contribute to the success of a particular sport. But also the time of the season as well as the athlete’s current fitness level. This is more commonly known as benchmarking or athlete profiling. It allows you as the coach to adapt the training according to each individual’s relative intensity. Benchmarking or profiling is an important step in the process as it allows you to identify clearly what the key physical characteristics are that may provide on-pitch performance benefits. It is important that the test chosen for this process is valid and reflective of the physical attributes required in your particular sport.

It is always a good option to use one anaerobic dominant test and aerobic dominant test to determine the conditioning profile of your athletes. Due to the myriad of possible tests that can be used for either anaerobic or aerobic performance tests, it’s beyond the scope of this post to discuss all of them. Thus our focus will be on how to make the most out of your data. From this, you will be able to individualize the relative intensity for individuals in your team to ensure the appropriate physiological strain is induced.

1. Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS)

MAS is a useful metric that can be extrapolated from various aerobic-based tests using any cardiovascular modality of your choice. Tests commonly used in team sports such as the YoYo or 30-15, to name a few, are easy, yet highly relevant options to use. The vV02max of these tests would be the velocity of the final shuttle an athlete completes.  However, for these tests, the below corrective equation is required to more accurately calculate MAS.

MAS (Shuttle Run) = Final stage speed (km/hr * 1.34) – 2.86 

Other methods of obtaining a MAS score is by conducting either a time trial over a predetermined distance (e.g.1,2 – 5 km) or all-out effort over a predetermined duration (e.g 4 – 6 min). The simplicity of these tests makes it a very popular means of assessing aerobic capacity in athletes.

MAS (m/sec) = Distance (m) / Time (sec) 

Some of the variables that you would need to record during these tests are as follows;

  1. Total Distance
  2. Total Time
  3. Heart Rate Max
  4. Average PPO
  5. Peak PPO
  6. Vmax

For simplicity, we will use the 2.4 km time trial run as the test of choice. Athletes would need to perform a 2.4 km run over a predetermined course. The time to completion as well as max heart rate should be recorded at the end of the run. Table 1 below is an example of data captured from a 2.4km based MAS test.

Figure One: Data captured for a 2.4km TT session with MAS expressed into relative zones. 

The above data will allow you as an S&C to prescribe your conditioning sessions according to the relative intensity of the individual. This can be done according to distance covered per unit time at a specific percentage of MAS depending on the time of the season and duration of the interval or energy system targeted.

2. Anaerobic Speed Reserve (ASR)

The ASR in runners is defined as the difference between an athletes maximal sprint speed and their speed at V02 max. For example, in field hockey, its common practice to test sprint times over 20,30 and 40 meters. This would be a players maximal anaerobic speed (Vmax). Also, aerobic fitness is assessed using tests like YoYo or 30-15, from where we can get their velocity at predicted V02 max  (vV02 max), as explained above. The importance of ASR is in that generally top end velocities have shown to precede faster submaximal aerobic velocities. Hence the ASR training model predicts that if we are able to increase the maximum velocity, we are likely to see the same percentage change for submaximal aerobic speeds. Thus, training prescription variations of specific alactic and speed endurance work performed at near maximal velocities will ensure changes in both Vmax and vV02max.

ASR (m.sec) = Maximal Sprint Speed (Vmax) – Velocity at V02max (vV02 max)
Figure Two:Theoretical illustrtion of the individual variation in ASR for three different athletes. Percentage of ASR depecited as a percentge according to the same relative intensity.

By assessing the athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity you will be able to identify the current fitness level of your athlete. For example, if your athlete has a really good anaerobic profile but poor aerobic or endurance profile, it is possible that he or she may “tap” into their anaerobic power reserve quicker than they would like and possibly “hit the wall” earlier than expected. This is because the anaerobic energy system cannot sustain energy production for a prolonged period of time. Furthermore, if the aerobic system is not well developed the player is unable to recover fast enough from the high energy bursts, thus the onset of fatigue is quicker.

Thus, if we look at figure 3 below, we will see the three corresponding profiles of the athletes shown in figure 2 above. Although there are only slight variances in the overall profiles, the 6m.sec training intensity that is prescribed across all three, produces a very different physiological stress on each. Thus, if we look at the possible effects of this generic prescription and what we expect to see, we will start to understand the importance of individualized training prescriptions.

Practical implications of generalised training intensities:
If we look at what we expect to occur, the rugby player has the greatest anaerobic contribution at the same absolute intensity. Thus, although he will have the greatest velocity, we would expect him to “gas out” or fatigue the fastest out of the three players.  But the soccer player with a slightly higher vV02 max, will not display high maximum velocities, but as he has a better aerobic base, he will sustain the effort for slightly longer than the rugby player. Then finally, the hockey player with the best vV02 max but slightly lower Vmax, compared to the rugby player, would still be able to express good maximal velocities as well as repeated high intesnity efforts as he has a greater aerobic contribution to the same absolute intensity. Thus will be able sustain the effort at the prescribed intensity for a longer period of time. 
Figure 3: Theoretical energy system contribution for the same three athletes at the same absolute intensity, illustrating the individual velocity vs fatigue onset with increase in activity duration. 

Take away thoughts:

  1. Creating an athlete profile or benchmarking performances will help determine what each player requires to increase their on-field performance.
  2. Blanket absolute training intensities produce different physiological stress on each individual.
  3. Using either or both MAS and ASR will help individualize training intensities for any cohort of athletes you work with.
  4. Training at higher velocities with specific energy system contributions will increase Vmax and subsequently increase submaximal aerobic velocities.



2020-09-08T15:19:51+00:00July 11th, 2019|Conditioning, Top 3 Posts|0 Comments

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