Use sprint and agility training to improve conditioning for sports and build the most muscle. Research shows that you have to program rest intervals, reps, and intensity correctly in order to train the anaerobic system for optimal conditioning. This tip will tell you how to work hard, but smart.
A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when conditioning for power sports like soccer, rugby, and basketball, a generic interval training program won’t work. Researchers tested the fatigue produced from three protocols: a 30-meter sprint protocol, a 30-meter change of direction protocol, and a 15 X 15-meter change of direction protocol. Seven reps of each protocol was performed with a 1 to 5 work to rest ratio.
Results showed that the 30-meter sprint protocol induced a significant level of fatigue as measured by a 9 percent increase in 30-meter sprint time (a slower sprint) by the end of the workout. This was considered sufficient to stress the anaerobic energy system and result in lactic acid buildup.
Typically, a 7 to 10 percent drop-off in performance by the last rep of an interval program is considered effective for training for power sports that require sprinting. The other two sprint protocols didn’t produce this drop-off—the 15 X 15-meter protocol experienced a 6 percent increase and the 30-meter change of direction protocol only a 4 percent increase in sprint time by the end of the workouts.
This indicates that only the conventional 30-meter sprint program was hard enough to effectively induce overload for adaptation. Through various calculations, researchers determined that to make the other two programs effective, rest intervals would need to be shortened or more reps would need to be performed. The 15 X 15-meter program requires a 1 to 3 work to rest ratio, or an increase to 9 or 10 reps using the original 1 to 5 work to rest ratio. The 30-meter change of direction program requires a 1 to 2 work to rest ratio, or an increase to 10 to 12 reps with the original ratio.
Take away that you can’t randomly apply a work to rest ratio to every interval workout. The goal is to achieve the 7 to 10 percent drop-off and produce lactic acid buildup. If you increase the intensity and shorten the rest intervals, you can do fewer reps, but if the rest intervals are longer or intensity is lower, more reps are necessary. Sprint training is similar to programming tempo for strength training—using a varied tempo will produce the best results.
Ruscello, B., Tozzo, N., et al. Influence of the Number of Trials and the Exercise to Rest Ratio in Repeated Sprint ability with Changes of Direction and Orientation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.