Last Updated on March 18, 2014 by Jimson Lee
This article was written by James Smith of Athlete Consulting LLC. James is also the Senior National Physical Preparation Coach for the Portuguese Rugby Federation.
This is Part 2 of a 2 part article. Click here for Part 1.
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Implications on Enhancing Sport Skill Execution for Non-Track Athletes
Regarding off-season periods, any form of sprint training is open for debate yet must successfully pass cost: benefit/ risk: reward discussions.
Speed in sport, in the truest alactic sense, must be limited to the alactic period which varies according to output ability. By definition, the alactic period ceases to exist when the athlete ceases to accelerate and reaches maximum velocity. Regarding most field sport athletes this will happen between 20-40meters.
In terms of programming the training load, regardless if in the context of programme management or solely off-season physical preparation, a high/low sequence of alternating load intensity is strongly suggested. This is so because the preparations of field/court/ice sport athletes requires the development of multiple training targets and their effective management, in reference to workload versus recovery, is possible through the high/low framework.
In a High/Low system, largely popularized by Charlie Francis, any form of running that may not be recovered from in 24 hours is treated as a high intensity component (regardless of where it falls in the range of 75-100% intensity range).
For coaches with a track background, this includes starts, accelerations, maximum velocity, speed endurance, special endurance I, special endurance II, and intensive tempo. For coaches who do not have a track background, here are the runs and their associated parameters for sprinters (note that the distances associated with the time ranges are based upon the results of higher level sprinters and would thus be adjusted for most field sport athletes who will not cover as much ground in the given time):
- Intensive Tempo: 75-85% intensity over various distances
- Special Endurance II: <45seconds, 300-600 meters
- Special Endurance I: 15-45seconds, 150-300 meters
- Speed Endurance: 8-15seconds, 80-150 meters
- Alactic Speed: <8seconds, <80 meters
In a high/low system one or more combinations of these runs, including starts and short accelerations, may be performed in the same session but not on consecutive days. A minimum of 48 hours would separate training days containing these medium to high intensity activities and be separated by low intensity training days in which any running would be limited to beneath the 75th percentile of intensity. *Take note technical-tactical coaches and consider the nature of consecutive training days and at what intensities you are planning the workloads.
During off-season, or pre-season programme management scenarios, the following load volume parameters for alactic speed work may be considered and were recommended by Charlie Francis:
Whenever speed work is being performed in conjunction with technical-tactical training periods, void of programme management, the conditioning coach(es) must track the approximate volumes of high-max intensity running and then consider subtracting those volumes from the accepted totals . If the average volume of high to max intensity sprints during technical-tactical trainings exceeds the accepted totals than the conditioning coach must exercise extreme caution in planning the volume, if any, of additional speed work to subsequent training days.
In the context of technical-tactical field sport training, and knowing that the vast majority of field/court sports are alactic-aerobic (only differing in proportionality), while most of the faster sprint efforts are restricted to the alactic distance, the practice activities themselves are often not honoring alactic training parameters. Incomplete recoveries and/or extended bouts of higher intensity actions are often instructed not because they are associated with the majority of field sport time:motion competition actions; but because insufficient coaching education renders technical-tactical as well as conditioning coaches under the belief that frequent lactic loading is essential to field/court sport preparation.
Assuming there is no programme management in place, if the conditioning coach swallows the red pill (see The Matrix) before the technical-tactical staff, then the conditioning coach must understand that it is important to perform the alactic sprint loading, in cautious volumes, prior to the lactic loading and on the same day. It is unlikely that a high/low sequence of field loading is being practiced by the technical-tactical staff so care must be taken regarding the conditioning coach’s loading on the adjacent days of training in which it is likely that technical-tactical practices will involve more lactic loading. The reason this scenario can work, regarding the lack of high/low integrity, is because most non-track athletes have adapted to the daily technical-tactical loading of lactic or quasi-lactic efforts and in time this becomes background noise. Consequently, very conservatively dosed efforts that are of higher quality may be safely added to the equation while posing no threat.
Alternatively, during off-seasons, in which the conditioning coach is in primary control, or regarding programme management scenarios in which the programme manager is in control of the physical stress incurred by the athletes, a proportionality scheme must be put in place in reference to the dominant training modality at any given time.
If speed is determined to be of importance then speed work assumes the dominant modality role and all other training load elements must be carefully arranged around it. In this way, the high/low scheme proves highly economical as it allows for the continued performance/practice of many other load elements albeit at lessened volumes.
During competition calendars, while it may seem counterintuitive, at first, for technical-tactical loading to take a back seat to speed work, one must take a closer look at the actual proportionality, as well as contribution, scheme that shapes the biodynamic/bioenergetic structure of the sport/discipline itself. After having done so, many field sport coaches will soon realize that acceleration development and technical-tactical loading are effectively mutually dependent:
- speed of acceleration is one of the primary commonalities shared between all sports played on a field, court, or ice
- speed development necessitates mechanical optimization and intensities must not exceed mechanical correctness
- once mechanics are in place the efforts must works towards maximal intensities separated by full recoveries
- locomotive speed is often inseparable from the execution of technical-tactical maneuvers.
- Acceleration speed will not be advanced to its potential in the presence of performing technical-tactical maneuvers.
- Technical-tactical maneuvers will not be enhanced in their efficiency if athletes are required to intensify the efforts prior to securing movement skill.
Speed training must then be separated from technical-tactical loading and technical-tactical loading must not be intensified (speed, force, etcetera…) prior to the development of movement efficiency.
Only when the two are sufficiently advanced in their own realms may they be effectively unified (ergo technical-tactical scrimmaging, small sided games, and so on). Technical-tactical loading, no different than speed work, must not be intensified prior to the development of mechanical efficiency.
Training parameters associated with sprint speed development cover intensity, volume, and frequency. They have been established over time and in relation to the training of world class athletes. In order to develop world class speed every sprinter must work to maximize their movement efficiency which then reduces mechanical stress to the body while enhancing power outputs. Through intelligently structured and individualized training schedules sprinters are able to develop these qualities while minimizing injuries.
Sprinting is a skill and at the neuromuscular level it involves some of the most highly synchronized and dynamic forms of muscle activity found in sport. The successful development of world class sprint speed involves the ability to taper and peak for competitions and, ultimately, to exhibit the highest results at the biggest competitions. The margins for error in sprinting are some of the smallest in all of sport. Reaction times, mechanics, smoothness of transitioning through race phases, and relaxation are some of the factors that, if negatively affected by the slightest decrement, can result in dramatic differences in race outcomes. This means executing the height of one’s current potential at every competition and then developing this ability and executing the new found levels at the larger events- all desirably qualities for non-track athletes.
Alternatively, many team sports, due to the team dynamic and technical-tactical factors, are built upon the possibility that a player can, for example, have the game of their life in the face of injury to a non-essential limb or body segment. Not the case for the sprinter.
Technical-tactical maneuvers are movements, simple to complex, based upon decision. Neurophysiology dictates each athlete’s speed of processing information (sensory input) and physiological and motor qualities dictate what that athlete can do once the decision has been made.
If a coach accepts that the consistent and heightened sport skill (technical-tactical) execution is the apex of competition expectations than he/she must also accept that there is a logical sequence of events that leads toward an athlete or team’s ability to demonstrate continued and reliable results. This is so because the physical aspect of executing competition maneuvers are movements built upon trainable and quantifiable motor qualities (reactive/elastic ability, agility, speed, power, strength, stamina …)
Sprint speed development involves the knowledge of how to develop multiple qualities for a singular purpose and competitions provide nearly no room for error.
In team sports- execution beats scheme, execution is based upon the training of measurable qualities, and the continued advancement and peaking of non-track athlete sport skill execution will be enhanced through the coaching staff’s understanding of applied sprint training.