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Aerobic development in team sports

Aerobic development in team sports


Improving cardiovascular capacity in team sports (field hockey, soccer, basketball, etc.) is crucial to being able to repeat fast, explosive actions (sprints) without losing power throughout a game. In fact, this is the main reason why cardiovascular capacity should be trained in this category of sports. So the question arises: how should aerobic training be developed to have a real impact on performance? In trained, physically mature athletes, continuous jogging may prove insufficient, and other methods, such as interval training, should be made available. Before discussing these, let’s start by defining a few important terms.

Maximum aerobic speed (MAS), often equated with cardiovascular capacity, is the speed at which we can run at our VO2max. This is a measure of oxygen transport and utilization efficiency. This is the maximum amount of oxygen our body can consume per unit of time. Oxygen transport by the lungs, heart and bloodstream refers to the central component. On the other hand, the ability of muscles to use and extract oxygen is the peripheral component. The latter is of major importance in the ability to repeat sprints (CRS), and therefore in team sports performance. Indeed, according to Bishop (1) and Bucheit (2), the central component is less important in CRS than the peripheral component. Among other things, cardiac output is weakly correlated with the maintenance of power during intermittent sprint exercise (7). On the other hand, the peripheral component is correlated (7). Another factor influencing MVA is energy cost. For example, two athletes may have the same VO2max, but one of them has a better running technique, so uses less energy to run at the same speed.

In order to adequately stimulate the peripheral component, it would seem that intensity is a determining factor. By way of illustration, mitochondrial adaptations, which are in a sense the sites where energy is produced using oxygen, are present mainly at high intensities. For example, high-intensity interval training induces beneficial changes in mitochondria (5, 6), in contrast to continuous training at moderate intensity (4, 5). Even intermittent sprint sessions, which are not a priori cardiovascular training, have a positive impact on the latter (3).

An exception: the injured athlete
After stopping training, the peripheral component is maintained for a relatively long time. In contrast, adaptations to the core component are rapidly lost (see graph below). For these reasons, continuous or medium-to-long interval training can be highly beneficial for those undergoing reathletization. For example, running in a pool for an athlete with a sprained ankle could be an alternative.

In conclusion, training at a high intensity is a key element in the design of cardiovascular workouts with an impact on performance in team sports of an intermittent nature. However, this notion is far from sufficient. In fact, many other factors such as the duration and intensity of the rest period, the type of exercise, changes in direction and the nature of the sport need to be taken into account when designing sessions. For these reasons, consult a kinesiologist or accredited fitness trainer to program the development of cardiovascular qualities.

Written by Mathieu Lanoue, Kinesiologist.

1. Bishop, D. J., & Girard, O. (2013). Determinants of team-sport performance: implications for altitude training by team-sport athletes. British journal of sports medicine. 47: i17-i21.
2. Bucheit M, (2005, August). The 30-15 intermittent fitness test: an illustration of maximum aerobic power programming based on an appropriate field test. Approaches to handball. 88: 37-46.
3. Burgomaster, K. A. et al. (2005). Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of applied physiology. 98(6): 1985-1990.
4. Cochran, A. J. et al. (2014). Intermittent and continuous high-intensity exercise training induce similar acute but different chronic muscle adaptations. Experimental physiology. 99(5): 782-791.
5. Daussin, F. N. et al. (2008). Effect of interval versus continuous training on cardiorespiratory and mitochondrial functions: relationship to aerobic performance improvements in sedentary subjects. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 295(1): 264-272.
6. Jacobs, R. A. et al. (2013). Improvements in exercise performance with high-intensity interval training coincide with an increase in skeletal muscle mitochondrial content and function. Journal of Applied Physiology. 115(6): 785-793.
7. McMahon, S., Wenger, H. A. (1998). The relationship between aerobic fitness and both power output and subsequent recovery during maximal intermittent exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 1(4): 219-227.

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