Conditioning for Team Sports: Conditioning & Energy Systems

The next thing is we need to discuss with conditioning is making it specific to the energy systems used during the athlete’s sport.  The energy systems that our body is using while we're sitting down and watching TV are very different than the energy system that it's using when we go for a light 30 minute jog, which are different than the energy system that we use when we are sprinting, which are different from what’s happening on the court during a game.

Basketball athletes typically push hard for 15, maybe even 30 seconds at a time. Then they get rest periods where they are still moving (often quickly) but NOT at max speed.This is similar to soccer, where you sprint for short bursts of five seconds, and then half the field jogs and walks. While the fast action goes on elsewhere on the field. And then they sprint again. And then they get a nice recovery period where they’re jogging or walking. Lacrosse is in that same boat, all of these sports use very similar energy systems.

Using giant traffic cones adds to the drama of any drill.

Using giant traffic cones adds to the drama of any drill.

Now, one of the things that you can talk about is the energy system requirements of different positions in soccer in particular, where there are differences that should be accounted for. But let's just talk more generally right now. And say, if we can look at real heart rate data, or even just get a stopwatch out and time these sprint versus walking periods. I have never seen soccer players max effort sprint and change direction for 60 seconds over and over and over again. Nothing resembling the 300m shuttle test for example happens during these sports. It just doesn't happen. For more information on this idea please see our previous blog post on misconception about conditioning.

The closer test would be the one where you sprint then full field, jog to recover, and then do it again. That's a good midfielders test. We have to understand that, to be the best that we can be at the sport, we can't be going way outside the realm of what the sport actually requires. Now there is a cross training period that we can do in the offseason. But even then, you're not going to be going to these extremes and just asking the body to do these ridiculous things.

We have to look at what's happening in the game, which are these small bursts of dynamic movements. The athletes are all over the place, they're in different planes of motion, they're not running straight forward the entire time, they're changing direction like crazy.  We have to look at the work time period for these small bursts of dynamic movements and the active rest between them.

This is where the concept of active recovery comes into play. The next article in this series explain how this type of conditioning can be accomplished but for now, try to make the conditioning match up with what the sports asks of the athletes.

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