Calvin Worthen, B.Kin.
Long gone are the days when athletes of all sports condition using long, steady state (continuous pace), low intensity runs or jogs to increase their “cardio”. It is now widely accepted that using interval training of various sorts can give better results in less time, with less impact on the body.
Each team and individual sport has different metabolic demands on athletes bodies. It is therefore important to prepare the athlete for the demands of their sport of choice. In order to understand the demands of a specific sport, it is important to have a basic understanding of the physiology behind the energy systems we use to move.
We have 3 energy systems to convert the food we eat into energy – that our muscles can use for movement. All three energy systems are always running at any given time but depending on the intensity of exercise some systems will provide more energy than others. Let’s outline the three systems and what they do.
The Aerobic system creates energy for low intensity exercise. The rate of energy production is low, but efficiency is high. When using predominantly Aerobic means of developing energy, the lungs, heart, and circulatory system can keep up with the demands of oxygen. The aerobic system is also used to recover after more strenuous bursts of intensity. Typically aerobic work are bouts lasting longer than 2 to 3 minutes in duration. So for example an outdoor soccer player will have a higher demand for aerobic capacity than will a hockey player who typically won’t see a shift last longer than 45-50 seconds.
The Anaerobic system will begin to supply more energy as soon as exercise intensity is high enough that the muscles require more oxygen than what lungs, heart, and circulation can supply. The anaerobic system will synthesize energy without the presence of oxygen. Anaerobic exercise is defined as bouts lasting between 30 seconds to 2 minutes of intense effort. Hockey is a perfect example of pure anaerobic exercise as shifts last between 30 seconds to 1 minute of all out intensity. All other team and individual sports also heavily use the Anaerobic system as intensity will regularly exceed the rate of energy development the aerobic system can provide.
The Phosphagen system provides the highest rate of energy production, it is used primarily in all out intensity exercise lasting between 1 to 10 seconds. It does however, fatigue very quickly and is used for short powerful bursts. Examples of activities using this system would be weightlifting, sprinting, jumping, throwing etc. All team sports require the ability to jump, sprint, throw, hit, etc. so all sports must develop this system. Sports like football and sprinting will use this system most frequently due to most plays lasting 1-10sec after the snap.
Now that we know what each system does and how long the work intervals should be to train those systems – it is important to know each sports demands on the 3 energy systems. Below is a table taken from the referenced textbook showing the demands of each sport.
Training should prepare the athlete for the intensities their sport demands. So take for example an outdoor soccer player, based on the chart above you can see there is a high demand for the Phosphagen System and moderate demand on the Anaerobic and Aerobic systems. This means the athlete would have to condition all 3 systems with an emphasis on Phosphagen (10sec drills). We encourage you to look at your conditioning regime with a critical eye. Teams and athletes that train with us will automatically have this determined for them by our professional coaches. If an athlete of any sport is interested in having a personal conditioning program designed please contact us, we would be glad to give suggestions or make a program from scratch. Remember that training intelligently can yield a better result in a shorter time, so train smart!
Baechle, T. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.