Conditioning for Team Sports: Part 2

Determining your Athlete’s Conditioning Profile

When designing your conditioning programme, it is not only important to understand the energy systems that contribute to the success of the particular sport but also the time of the season as well as the level of conditioning that your athlete/s currently possess. Therefore, it is generally advisable to start with some base-line measurement that allows you to identify what your athlete/s require from the programme that you will be compiling.

Generally, I would advise that 1 anaerobic dominant test and 1 aerobic dominant test be used to determine the conditioning profile of your athletes. For the purpose of this post, I will give you two examples of tests that can be performed.

Maximal Aerobic Speed Test (MAS)

The MAS is a very easy to administer test and can be conducted using a cardio modality of your choice. The MAS can be conducted either by using a predetermined distance (1,2 – 5 km) or duration (e.g 4 – 6 min), making it a very popular means of assessing aerobic capacity in athletes.

Some of the variables that you would need to record are as follows;

  • Total Distance
  • Total Time
  • Heart Rate Max

For simplicity, I will use the 2.4 km time trial run as the test of choice. Athletes would need to perform a 2.4 km run over a predetermined course. The time to completion as well as max heart rate should be recorded at the end of the run. Table 1 below is an example of data captured from a 2.4km based MAS test.



The above data will allow you as an S&C to prescribe your conditioning sessions according to the relative intensity of the individual. This can be done according to distance covered per unit time at a specific percentage of MAS depending on the time of the season and duration of the interval

6 x 30m Repeat Sprint Test

The 6 x 30m repeat sprint test allows you to assess the anaerobic capacity of the athlete. The SUM of the total time to complete all 6 x 30m sprints has been shown to be the most reliable variable, however the % decrement is also a useful variable to use to assess the athletes “drop off”. The table below shows the results of a 6 x 30 test for 5 athletes.


By assessing the athletes aerobic and anaerobic capacity you will be able to identify the current condition of your athlete. For example, if your athlete has a really good anaerobic profile but poor aerobic or endurance profile, it is possible that he or she may “tap” into their anaerobic power reserve quicker than they would like and possibly “hit the wall” earlier than expected. This is because the anaerobic energy system cannot sustain the energy production for a prolonged period of time, and if the aerobic system is not well developed this is likely to occur.

Thus if we look at figure 1 below, we will see three different profiles. Say for example these are 3 rugby players, player “A” would likely be the most powerful athlete, however due to the high anaerobic contribution he / she is likely to display signs of fatigue very quickly. Player “B” would be able to produce a fair amount of repeated high-intensity bouts, but would show signs of fatigue quicker than Player “C”, as player “C” has a higher aerobic contribution which will allow him / her to recover quicker from repeated bouts of high-intensity activities. Therefore, even in sports that are dominated by repeated bouts of high-intensity sprints, the aerobic contribution is pivotal to their ability to maintain their power output for prolonged periods of time. It is, however, important to consider how you go about establishing the aerobic capacity in these athletes. This will be discussed in part 3.


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