Conditioning for Team Sports: Buck the Tradition

The conditioning that I've started relying on focuses on the energy systems that I need my players to be able to work efficiently in. We are constantly pushing the body to recover as quickly and as efficiently as possible. That does not mean stopping and fully resting. It almost never means stopping for me anymore. The game of basketball never really stops, for free throws and foul shots yes, but not for very long. More often than not, they have to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, and then there's a burst. Soccer is very similar to this, that game does not stop, literally it does not stop.

So we have to be training for that, not training for the most extreme ridiculous thing that never happens in the game or the match. This means understanding when you use a five second work period, and when you use a 15 second work period. And when you could use what would be the extremes for these team sports, a 30 to 60 seconds work period. Use those minimally, that's extremely intense when you do those work periods. Even when using those extremely intense methods, the focus is always recovery, because that's what's going to really help you win.If the players can only be super fast once or twice, and then they can't recover, they're no good to you.

To train for this recovery, we have to be working in the correct heart rate zones. In the offseason, I'll run this type of conditioning and we will do very general recovery, generally called active recovery in between work periods. An example of this would be max effort broad jumps to work on explosive power and then to recover, it might be something like jump rope, battle ropes, or weighted carries. The active recovery is more general in nature during this time, but as we get closer to the season and into the season, the active recovery will become more specific. An example of this would be again using a broad jump and then using light layups for example for active recovery. Now, we're working in a place and working in a way where we're minimizing the impact, because we're being very smart about when we actually asked them to run. And we're being really smart about getting creative on things where running isn't required. If they're out there doing their sport, that's probably enough of the high volume running, that’s something we want to minimize as much as possible. I may keep short sprints on a treadmill or something during the season, but all of our active recovery is going to be through different methods. This could be slow step ups, where there isn’t much impact but that's still working the running muscles, right?

What we are really looking for with conditioning is how hard the heart is working, or beats per minute. So you can look strictly at that, but then you also can't forget about what the sport entails, specificity of that movement, and the current workload of the athlete. So if you look at what the athlete’s currently doing, and you think, okay, we're in season they’re getting a lot of sport specific training in, this should change the exercises used during conditioning. For example if they are fully in season let’s take away the joint pounding and do short sprints and a kettlebell carry to recover. This works because at this point we are only really looking at what the heart rate is doing. Now, if we're getting ready for a training camp or preseason time period, a time we're not heavily involved in practices, then we want to get more sports specific movements and sports specific muscle groups involved. So that same all out sprint, might then be paired with, you know, some more jogging, for example, to actually recover.

There's a lot you can do with this. It's just like anything else, get creative. There’s not one correct to do things. BUCK THE TRADITION. Forget all of the suck it up buttercup, if you cant finish it you’re weak and didn’t prepare conditioning sessions. You need to be looking at what the sport requires to be successful in it, and where your athletes actually are, where you actually are and bridge that gap between where they need to be and where they are right now.

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