Some Thoughts on Energy System Development for Team Sports
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Some Thoughts on Energy System Development for Team Sports

After reading the Methods of Endurance Training series, which are BTW excellent read, I would love to post my current opinion regarding usage of the same for the team sport athletes.

Why would team sport athletes need aerobic development – VO2max in the first place? Because, having OPTIMALLY (please note the word optimally) developed aerobic power will help them in numerous ways:

1. Improve their in-game recovery between short bursts of high intensity activity (RSA – Repeat Sprint Ability, although there is certainly a platoue effect in this transfer VO2max –> RSA ability). Afte a sprint or high intensity technique, ATP/CP system is stressed and aerobic system is used to replenish CP stores. The better the aerobic system, the faster the replenishment and thus recovery, in theory at least. Studies (please don’t make me find them ) showed that in groups of athletes with similar high VO2max or other index of aerobic development, there were very different speeds of RSA recovery, showing that there is certainly a platoue effect that above certain threshold, further VO2max development yields less and less transfer to RSA, and posibly negative transfer to speed and power (and this is why I picked up the word OPTIMALLY developed)

2. To improve distance covered in the game, especially distance covered at higher-intensity and medium-intensity velocity/activity. The pro-interval only guys, forget that team sport is not only RSA type of shit. No, you don’t just sprint for 2 secs and then recover for 10-20sec. You do have medium intensity activity, usually off-the ball movement, tactical movement (covering, filling space, marking, demarking, etc, etc) that allows you better situation/position to react from. It is showed that athletes with higher yo-yo performance cover greater distance and especially greater distance at higher velocities. Although yo-yo performance is both dependent on aerobic parameters and anaerobic parameters, it have strong correlation to VO2max (r = 0,8 if I remember correctly). Supose you have player who do recovery faster in RSA type of thing, but you have a guy who can reposition himself all the fucking time on the field at middle velocities (around 14-18km/h even more). Suppose the first need to mark the second. Even if first athletes RSA ability is excellent, if his aerobic development is not up to par with the second guy, cruising at 14-18km/h will cause too much glycolitic energy system need (if his vLT and vVO2max are less than 14 or 18 kmh-1) and too much fatigue. Both RSA and aerobic power/capacity are different factors affecting game performance. There is certain transfer between them depending on their respectible levels.

3. Improve their work-capacity or ability to recover from session to session, thus making them more able to do the skill practice more often. I don’t have scientific proof of this, but my logic goes along these lines: First off, a guy who goes to practice and gets ‘lactic’ (8-12mmol/l and above) all the time, will need more time to recover. A guy who can’t fullifl tasks aerobically will use glycolitic system in more degree, and the effects of glycolitic system will yield differnt type of fatigue – H+ will decrease peripheral nerve transfer, Ca++ uptake, etc, etc, which can yield greater strain on peripheral neural system and that can cause greater strain on CNS (you need to push more). Scientific or not, that’s my logic here. Suppose the guy who do a lot of his work under aerobic system – less strain and pain, faster recovery, thus, can come to team practice more offten and more fresher. Also, having well developed capilar density may yield better flushing effect in active recovery sessions.

I get a lot of question regarding whether to train on LSD or only intervals/extensive tempo all the time. Like Lyle, my philosophical idol besides RAW, used to say: avoid either/or thinking. The truth is complementary, fuzzy and context dependent. Here is an answer to one similar question I received in PM on one forum.

Quote:

By no means I am nor pro nor against extensive tempo nor LISS. They are both tools in your toolbox and I can chose them to solve a certain ‘problem’ with certain athlete(s) under certain conditions/context.Glad you liked the manual. I wanted to change couple of ‘errors’ in it, but currently I have no time now.
I try to answer your questions:

Q: „Would you still recommend extensive tempo over LISS for team sport athletes? It sounds like more fun than 30-45 minutes of jogging.“

A: Since the technical training in most team sports is of recommended ‘cardiac output’ method intensity (60-90min @ 120-150bpm HR), I guess there is no need for repeating this in conditioning session, so, yes there is no need to do 30-40min runs at this intensity. During the ‘aerobic’ block, I would suggest doing 20-30min run at ‘sweet spot’ 2x/week (150-165bpm HR) and 2x extensive tempo. Later, you can kick out ‘sweet spot’ and do aerobic intervals (4x4min w/3min rest) 2x week, with tempo. You can do this with running, or by doing small sided games that allow continuous action and maintain HR at 95-100% HRmax. In another blocks of different emphasis, you can keep doing extensive tempo only, 1 normal session, and 1 session with reduced volume for active recovery.

Q: „How much of a compromise is it in your opinion to row instead of run? I don’t have easy access to a track or nice grass and running on cement sucks.“

A:. You can combine the methods: Row 5min, stair climber 5mins, tredmil 5mins, etc, etc. You can also do MB/DB/BB/Plate circuits done for higher reps. Just keep the HR in predetermined zone. During the season, it can be actually wise thing to do, to switch from running toward another non-impact ‘cardio’ to maintain aerobic power/capacity, when you have enough joint pounding from team sessions and games.

Q: „I get the feeling from what you and others have written, especially Joel, that what I’m describing as intra-point fatigue has to do with a kind of endurance that isn’t really necessary in football/soccer. That is, when playing a long point (especially on defense), you’ve got to be running as fast as possible pretty much the whole time. Not sure how much you know about ultimate frisbee (my guess is not much), but given what I’ve just said, do you think it would be necessary to do some work in the dreaded middle ground between low- and high-intensity?“

A: Of course you can do glycolitic conditioning via repeated sprints, intensive tempo, glycolitic power/capacity intervals (running, or by playing small sided games, like 2v2 w/Frisbee), just not all the freakin time everybody is doing. Depending on the time you have for preparation, you can take one short block with the aim at improving this capacity, but before you do it , try doing VO2max interval (4x4min). This is pretty though thing to do. Regarding this ‘intrapoint’ endurance, the simmilar situation happens in soccer – RSA. There is also one articles regarding pacing strategies in team sports.

Andrew M. Edwards and Timothy D. Noakes
Dehydration. Cause of Fatigue or Sign of Pacing in Elite Soccer?
Sports Med 2009; 39 (1): 1-13

You can do whatever makes you prepared for the match, but you need to plan it carefully. Don’t be to selective… pick your tool for the job

My point here is that you need to consider few things
1. How much time you have to get them ready
2. How much sessions you have in the week
3. What other stuff are they doing
4. What are they doing in their practices in terms of technical/tactical work, because too much of a good thing is usually a bad thing

This basically puts them in “time crunched” category of athletes. Recently, out of topic or not, I was thinking about training during the competition period in team sports. Contemporary training theory suggests that you ‘maintain’ and peak during the competition period, but how if you prep period lasts 2-3 months (if you are happy), and competition period lasts 6 or more with a match every 3.5-7 days on average? My current opinion on this, is that the real competition period in team sports is Play-off and other championships where you can use contemporary wisdom/theory . League competition demand little decrease weekly load, but you must continue to develop physical abilities further (but with less emphasis). In other words, maintenance sucks, approach league competition with lowered load but continue to “pound them”. Add one or two more easy days and that’s it.

In one soccer club I worked we did only extensive tempo ala Charlie Francis, but with more volume, we played 4v4 for 2-4mins to get them prepared. And it worked. Some of the guys (MF) have run 3,000m in the YOYO-IRL1 which is great result. If I remember correctly avegare result was 2,500m including GKs.
I have changed my opinion since that time a little.

Here is how would I approach development of aerobic power with team sports.
If you have short time to prepare, around 1 month, then complex/parallel method is a must, and more intensive aerobic methods are a must too. This includes VO2max interval (4x4min w/3min rest, or 3x3min w/3min rest done at vVO2max, or around 95% HRmax) and repetitions (extensive tempo work, maybe even intensive work). You can do 1x of each (intervals, repetitions) per week (2x aerobic training sessions), along with some speed work (1x per week) and two strength/power sessions. This is a crash solution to the problem.

Preparatory period
If you have more time, you can utilize block approach, or emphasis approach, where you can develop aerobic block and utilize it first in succession with other blocks (strength, power/speed block, glycolitic block, etc). Since the technical work is usually emphasized in the aerobic block, it is usually of low intensity, longer duration which fits nicely with cardiac output method (120-150HR, for 60-90mins) or extensive endurance work defined by Lyle. In soccer this may be work in pair, triangles, squares, etc. If you have this situation, I guess you can pick up more intense methods for conditioning, like sweet spot, and repetitions (extensive tempo). For a 2-3 weeks you can use intervals.

If you have situation where technical training is more intense, you can ease back a little and use more extensive work. For example, if there is too much small sided games in the team practices, like 4v4, 3v3, up to 6v6, you can use intensive endurance and sweet spot training, with occasional extensive tempo. If there is too much joint pounding, using non-impact solution can be a wise choice (especially in-season, and I will get back to this), like water skipping, bike, rowing, versa climber, etc, done in continuous format or in form of intervals (1min easy, 1 min harder but still continuous, and in intensive/sweet spot HR ranges).

So in aerobic block you can use:
1. Technical work of longer duration (120-150 HR for 1h-2h)
2. Technical/tactical work in interval fashion, aka small sided games or skill based conditioning. You can utilize this method for VO2max, threshold even sweet spot
3. Sweet spot training, utilizing running, or some other non-impact activity if needed
4. Extensive tempo, which is great idea since this don’t fuck up you speed, don’t faituge you much, but manages to improve you running technique, efficeincy and improve VO2max if done properly. Excellent if you are time crunched.

As for Threshold training, I guess it creates too much strain/fatigue, and should be done in very small amount with team sports. Doing 6v6 for 20mins is around Threshold training, even a normal soccer match falls within this category I guess. I am open up for a discussion
In other blocks of different emphasis, you can keep doing only extensive tempo, or sweet spot or whatever makes you keep your aerobic power, while not making you fatigued for other training, that is emphasized.

In-season / competition period
I don’t know how can you maintain everything during the season, and why the heck you cannot utilize block approach in in-season too. Just keep in mind that real peak is done for the play-offs, and you need to be as fresh as posible for the league games. This means you can keep doing block approach, just you utilize smaller load during the week, and utlize some recovery procedures before/after matches. Some non-impact solutions can be utilized here for conditioning, since too much games, practices can work wonders for your joint problems . So, to avoid too much pounding, but to keep developing aerobic power, in the aerobic block (even within the season) you can utilize intervals on the bike or whatever.
Please note that I wore this quickly so there may be more explanation from my part. Please be free to ask questions and make your own decision. I am all open for a good discussion on this, since there is very small amount of info regarding team sports and its problems.

Taking into account training zones/methods mentioned by Lyle in the Methods of Endurance Training which one of them will have greatest negative transfer (context defined: if done in excess with intermediate/advanced athletes) toward speed, power and strength (in team sports and MMA)?

My tips would be that –
* Threshold Training [1-3X10-20 minutes/5-10? rest, 170-180 bpm]

* Anaerobic Power/Capacity [8-12X30-45 seconds/3-5? rest, 8-12X60-90 seconds/60-90 rest]

– would have greatest negative transfer on speed/power/strength. Threshold training would induce too much volume of recruitment of FT fibers and their transfer toward more ST (proof?) and too much overall energy expenditure (digging into between workout recovery), while anaerobic power/capacity training will fuck up you aerobic power/capacity if done in excess, create too much fatigue/drain and make you FT fibers more glygolitic instead of ATP/CP monsters. Ofcourse, this refers to either/or training solution, but with more complementary approach where you do some speed/power/strength work in endurance block you may negate or at least negate this negative transfer/effects.

So, IMHO, the gross volume of endurance training in team sports should be distribute toward:

1. Sweet Spot and Intensive endurance
This is not necessary steady state work, but can be also done in variable formats utilizing different types of exercises and intensity periods, but done in continuous format or something along these lines – 3x20min w/3min rest etc, etc. Some technical work and small sided games can fall in this category, and for MMA this can be done by doing long intervals at different equipment (5min pummel, 5min jump rope, 5min row, 5min bike X 3, or something like that)

2. Aerobic Power (VO2max intervals)
They can be also done as running solely or by implementing some technique work or small sided games (3v3 or 4v4 in soccer). Utilzing non-impact solutions can be interesting at certain times

3. Repetitions/Strides – Extensive tempo
Extensive tempo ala Charlie Francis but for greater volume (depending on the sport) is excellent method for improving aerobic power, improving running technique/efficiency (better transfer and similar pattern toward race pace or game speed), maintaining speed, capilarization of FT fiber without negative effects (compared to threshold training). Some running coaches recommend doing strides before LSD runs (extensive-intensive endurance runs) to improve technique, prevent negative effect on speed. Please note that this method can be done in MMA too – look at Joel’s Explosive Repeat and Aerobic Plyometric methods under Aerobic system methods.

I guess that the distribution of the volume should be polarized (a new word I learned from Seiler and Tonnessen article) toward sweet spot and extensive tempo, but this depends on the period.
For example, endurance block in team sport can be designed in two parts (but I think there is hardly time for this, but for the sake of discussion…)

Period A
* Sweet Spot 60%
* Extensive Tempo 40%

Period B
* Aerobic Power 40%
* Sweet Spot 30%
* Extensive Tempo 30%
or something like that. If you want to implement endurance training into another blocks, I would suggest that they follow this solution

Accumulation block
* Strength work (higher reps)
* Sweet Spot
* Extensive Tempo

MxS and EXP block (yup, I know that they should be separate in team sport’s preparatory period there is not so much time available)
* Max strength
* Power/Speed
* Extensive Tempo

Specific endurance block
* Aerobic Power
* Glycolitic Power/Capacity (very low volume)
* MxS, Power and Speed maintenance
* Extensive tempo and/or non-impact sweet spot as recovery sessions (lower volume compared to first block)

 

I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grow up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »
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