Energy System Development – Complex and Simple


I didn’t get to make it to the Central Virginia seminar but much of the speaker notes are available online right not so people can see what might be at BSMPG this May and what may be talked about next year. With all of the player tracking nonsense I see on twitter, it’s important to create a foundation of what is real and what is coach candy, cool stuff that has very little impact in the game. Player load is frankly a myth, but it’s getting better and closer to what we need. The real issue with player load is it allows a nice distraction of the fundamentals not being done with teams, like players skipping workouts or people coming in tired. Track and Field should be a starting place to may team coaches because it allows less complex models to be developed for more chaotic challenges later. A lot can be learned from track and field, especially program design.

One issue with energy systems is that eventually the variables of density, volume, intensity,distance, and time are the end variables when one is making workouts. I love the talk about substrate, parasympathetic reactivation, alactic debates, power- capacity spectrum models on blogs, the the reality is the bobsled combine with conditioning tests is the end game for reality. How fast are you in short sprints. How agile are you in agility tests. How explosive are you in jump tests. How tough and fit are you in conditioning tests? Here are the basics and some thoughts on how the season responds.

Intensity- This is not easy to define, but output is a percentage of all out effort and a combination of how much one can produce. Someone running their hardest but they are slow is much different than someone going smooth and cruising at 75% and breaking people down. Effort and distribution or pacing is important, as true maximal output needs to be measured or one is just living in a vacuum. A good article on this is here, as how one is the validity of measurements of player tracking. For example if one athlete has a speed and power reserve that is high, they can use their speed more during a game and let the opposing teams wear themselves down keeping up. Repeat sprint ability is about how fast and how many, but raising everything becomes competing after 40-50 sprints. Running economy is about being fast while sipping gas like the new jets, not about putting a spoiler on a honda civic and adding a ninja racing decal with activation exercises.

Volume- How much do you do? How much of all of the different locomotion and work done? Output becomes harder when one is doing circuits and non running activities but hidden volumes can create problems such as poor sleep or readiness. Volumes are about not what the athlete can do, but how much the athlete needs to improve via taper at the end of the year. Volume is necessary but people are afraid to get tired and sometimes adaptation needs to drill deep. GPP and SPP are areas that drive volume, but a base without height is just junk reps. I witnessed two program in college and post college do more volume than I was use to and I have to be less conservative and more objective. How did I decide to do X amount of meters?

Density- Lack of rest creates fatigue from accumulation, be in neural or chemical. Rest periods or training cycles must show effects on speed and conditioning later, not just an increase of lactate on the meter. This is the most difficult to do, as most sequences seem to be very linear or designed in ways that are unique to the program versus universal. For example Gabe Sanders uses a version of bleed runs with 3 minutes instead of 90 seconds. What was interesting is his times showed an output of nearly 85% but 400m pacing is the monkey wrench. When I was in Orlando I saw a 300m sprint on a specific intensity with a pair of 100m athletes. Their times and percentages were very precise and it takes years to see what options may work and what options are happenstance. When I test 300m sprints, I only do this twice a year. One in the end of the fall GPP and one at the end of the Spring SPP. Time trials done honestly also share the difference between practice times and meet performances. When the time trials are done with over distance (150) or 300m runs for pure sprinters, one can create unique workouts that tax the body in a way to create adaptations without absolute work. Absolute work is very taxing to the body, both neurally and structurally, so density work starting from 3 minutes to 1.5 minutes with various distances and intensities with reps of 60-250 meters.

Time- Speed can be measured by reducing time or increasing velocity. Simple. Measure a distance. Time it. Yet if the speed and distance is too fast people are afraid to get hurt. What happens? In games people create output so far higher than practice they get hurt because the body is not prepared for it. Track and field we don’t hit top speeds in the short sprints that we do on our own in meets so we have a similar problem, but at least we are closer to the edge. In team sports the gap is huge. Speed Reserve is real, as the marathon guys are still fast sprinters. Many can run 11 second 100m times. Getting faster at any distance is a percentage of maximal speed. The fastest guy wins.

Distance- Distances of 15 to 800 meters have different structural and mechanical changes to the body. For example much of the Jamaican work is at thresholds that don’t tighten up the athlete that much. Maximum relaxation speeds may be different for each athlete. Heavy acceleration is very quad dominant and top end speed mechanically is very hamstring and glute dominant. Energy systems are very joint and muscle specific, not just to the CNS. Several TMG studies are being done on different player positions in soccer and different events in sprinting.

A lot of context must be put into the energy system workouts. For example a offensive lineman and a DB for football is going to have some different reasons why they are scoring well or poorly on a 12 minute cooper test. An offensive lineman that is lean and strong may have a 34 inch vert while a player with the same weight may be 27 inches and a bit sloppy and tired because he rushed to get back into shape. What about a 80% DB that dies at the end? What about the freaky hockey player with a huge aerobic engine but has skilled and strong (from squatting) that runs funny? I have seen players get better in the tests from running better but not score better on the ice. Very difficult in sport, but we are getting more answers.

Note: If you are a few years away from buying GPS systems for your teams save your money. I just witnessed a 3-D printer make an enclosure for an open source option. It’s about a year away or so for hitting the goal price of under 200 dollars per unit, but the key is the firmware and home brew app development for teams. Similar to the direction, I think we will see price points drop on player tracking devices to the sub 100 dollars by 2016. Catapult, GPSport, VX Sport, and StatSports will be disrupted.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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