Strength coaches tend to spend the vast majority of their time in the weight room. This greatly limits their repertoire for conditioning work. Often times coaches will prescribe barbell complexes, plates pushes, battling ropes, etc., in effort to provide a conditioning stimulus. Though these methods can be effective to a point, failing to do field based conditioning can be problematic for sports that require a significant level of fitness such as soccer, rugby, basketball, etc. These sports certainly have a high anaerobic component to them, but the aerobic component is equally as important. Neglecting this may lead to suboptimal performance and even increase the potential for injury.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Piggott et al. (2015), aerobic capacity was tested as a predictor of game performance in high level Australian Rules footballers. Thirty-six male athletes completed a standard 3 km time trial following pre-season training. The 3 km test is a traditional fitness test used for this sport and is assessed in professional Australian Rules football combines. Throughout the competitive season, game performance was assessed via direct game involvement’s which included number of kicks, handballs, marks and tackles made. In addition, coaches rated player performances based on a 10 point scale. Relationships were then made between the predictor variable (3 km run time) and the outcome variables (match performance and coaches rating).
The results showed that 3 km time trials were a significant predictor of direct game involvements (p = <0.05). Senior games played were also a strong predictor of direct game involvements on a per minute basis. These results highlight the importance of the most basic physical capacity that often gets overlooked and underdeveloped in many team sports.
Adaptations that take place in response to aerobic training are critical for facilitating recovery between intermittent sprints. Increases in mitochondrial and capillary density enable greater oxygen uptake at the muscles to support ATP production and removal of metabolic by-products. Higher aerobic capacity can also increase one’s threshold for lactate accumulation in addition to being more efficient at lactate clearance and utilization. In sports where extensive running is a main component, athletes should be trained to run extensively. Appropriate programming and nutritional strategies can assist in mitigating interference effects and still allow strength and power improvements concurrently with aerobic work. Strength and power become less important if the athlete is too fatigued to express these qualities.
Piggott, BG., et al. (2015) Relationship between physical capacity and match performance in semiprofessional Australian rules football. J Str Cond Res, 29(2): 478-482.