Much of the banter and discussion regarding sports
performance on the internet, conferences etc seem to focus on speed, power, and
strength. These topics are obviously
very critical in the development of high performance athletes. The one area that I always dedicate much thought
and program development to is cardiovascular conditioning. Like the afore- mentioned physical qualities,
this is one that also creates much controversy and debate. The following are my opinions on the topic
based on 30 plus years in the field, and the literature that has been
published, we do use this at www.accottawa.com . Although I am going to
reference the sport of hockey often, the concepts can be applied to many
Ice hockey is typically defined as an anaerobic sport. Here are the facts as we know it:
is 60 minutes in length
are made up of 30-60 second intense efforts
play/player - 20 minutes or less
system usage - all
limiting factor in 5-10 second bursts
acid - 9-11 mmol/l observed during games
- the higher the players vo2 max, the higher the aerobic contribution and the
lower the anaerobic one.
When devising a plan
to enhance the cardiovascular component of hockey, I believe it’s important to
look at the energy systems that support each other (ATP-PC Lactic Acid
anaerobic & aerobic), and by enhancing this with a specific focus, I can
thereby enhance the whole system.
The particular issue
that I see as a common problem in the training field is that many take the
concept of sport specificity too far.
For example, since shifts are generally made up of 30-60 seconds of 5-10
second repeated bursts, training should be entirely focused on intervals in
this range, and more specificity can be achieved by manipulating the rest
periods to achieve the energy system goal.
I.e.. 10 sec max effort with 50 second rest could be defined as a focus
on the ATP-PC system, while 10 sec hard effort with 10 seconds recovery
repeated 20 times would be aerobic. Same
interval different focus.
The above example
could be considered very sport specific to hockey as it matches up the short
bursts we typically see on the ice. I am
not convinced, being so sport specific in this particular instance is the
optimal method to train. Here are my reasons why:
The game itself is as
stated earlier anaerobic in nature. So
if we take an NHL pro for example, his season would begin in September with
training camp, and could last until mid June if he reaches the Stanley Cup
final. This would be almost 10 months of
anaerobic focused work. This can be
extremely fatiguing in addition to the stress of performing at such a high
level. If you add to this volume of
yearly work (yes playing and practicing is work & volume to the body) high
intensity sprint interval training, then you are asking your body to adapt to
anaerobic work year round. There is a
potential negative cost to the body with this kind of continual stress placed
on it. Ie. Overtraining, injury etc.
If you take into
account that all of the strength and plyometric training that a hockey player
will endure, this adds to the volume of total yearly anaerobic work. In a study by, Parra et al. he showed
that only 2 weeks of daily sprint interval training increased citrate synthase
maximal activity but did not change “anaerobic” work capacity, possibly because
of chronic fatigue induced by daily training (Acta Physiol.
Scand 169: 157–165, 2000).
There is a possibility of this kind of chronic fatigue setting in for a
hockey player also. Realizing that the
study was only 2 weeks long and work was every day, I am extrapolating what
might happen with a hockey player’s volume of work.
other fact from a reference point of view that I would like to make has to do
with the concept of training impacting either a peripheral or central
adaptation. In a great review article by
Proposed Model for Examining the Interference Phenomenon between Concurrent
Aerobic and Strength Training (Sports Medicine 2000 Dec 30 (6) he discusses whether exercise stimulus can
affect the body peripherally or via a central adaptation. It has been proposed that peripheral adaptations are stimulated
through the state of hypoxia experienced by the muscle during high intensity,
aerobic interval training or high intensity strength training with reps at 10
rm’s or over. Other adaptations include
increases in muscle capillarisation, mitochondrial enzyme activity and
myoglobin content. Central adaptation
are those associated with lower intensity training that is associated with
changes in the cardiopulmonary mechanisms.
As training intensity increases the location of adaptation appears to
shift to the peripheral components with changes in muscle capillarisation,
oxidative enzyme activity, mitochondrial volume and density, and myoglobin.
The illustration below details this process.
While this article looked at the interference models for
concurrent strength and aerobic work, it certainly alludes to this zone of
interference that I believe can cause problems for hockey players and other
athletes who focus too much high intensity interval training year round. There is clearly, important adaptations that appear
to occur with low-intensity continuous training that are not observed with
mixed or high-intensity training. In his review Docherty states “While the
immediate effect of low-intensity high- volume training on intense exercise
performance can be difficult to assess, it would appear that the insertion of
these low-intensity training sessions has a positive impact on performance,
despite being performed at an intensity that is markedly less than that which
is specifically performed at during intense exercise competition. It is often
purported that these periods of relatively low-intensity, high training volumes
may provide the aerobic platform needed to facilitate the specific adaptations
that occur in response to the high-intensity or specific workouts.”
In another good review by Olivier Girard
titled Repeat Spring Ability (RSA) Factors Contributing to Fatigue Part
1 & 2, he states that research has shown that subjects with a greater VO2
max have a superior ability to resist fatigue during RSA (not unlike hockey),
especially during the latter stages of a repeated-sprint test when subjects may
reach their max VO2. This suggests that
improving VO2 may allow for a greater aerobic contribution to repeated sprints,
potentially improving RSA.
With all of this information I want to be clear that I am
not advocating that you train hockey players like marathoners or a Tour De
France cyclist. They do not need to be
running or cycling for 2-3 hours at a time, this would be not advantageous for
strength and power development. But I
believe there is enough evidence to advocate the use of aerobic training in a
range of 30-45 minutes, working at heart rate intensity of 75-85% for a period
of time before the more specific energy system work is to be done.
Typically I like to use aerobic work very early in the
off-season training cycle twice per week.
In addition to the reasons I have stated above, I believe that this
fundamental fitness characteristic provides safe base level training,
especially for young athletes, in addition to re-introducing cardiovascular
training to the more experienced player after time off from the competitive
season. I believe that 3-4 weeks of this
kind of cardiovascular conditioning, placed on the appropriate days 2-3 times
per week and depending on the athlete will only enhance his base fitness
levels. This in the end will provide a
better foundation for the intense work and recover that is necessary for high
The following is an example of general guidelines I use for
planning the conditioning element of our off ice training program. More specific changes to this will be done
based on the individual athlete.
I hope you found this article interesting and thought
provoking. It may not be the perfect
model, but it is a concept that I have used for many years with relative
success. The world of sports performance
research is evolving constantly, with that I have not doubt, I could re-write
this article based on the exclusive use of high intensity intervals. The papers are there to support both
views. As a coach you have to make a
choice as to what might bring about results in an efficient and safe
method. This is what has worked for
me. Feel free to debate this or ask
questions on twitter @lornegoldenberg look forward to comments and questions.