Metabolic Conditioning for Team Sport (Part Three)

III. Anaerobic Speed Reserve

Maximal aerobic speed (MAS) or the velocity associated with V̇O2max (vV̇O2max) can be defined as the lowest velocity that elicits maximal oxygen uptake and has been used ubiquitously to individualise high-intensity interval training (HIT) prescription (1). This can be conceptualised as the maximum sustainable intensity, in contrast to maximal sprinting speed (MSS), that is, maximal attainable intensity. Moreover, the former can be thought of as sustainable force application and the latter as non-sustainable force application. Thus, MAS is directly representative of the athlete’s locomotor abilities, taking into account both V̇O2max and the energetic cost of running.

The anaerobic speed reserve (ASR) can be quantified as the difference between MSS and MAS, thus being underpinned by both metabolic power and musculoskeletal function (2). The ASR has been shown to overcome interindividual variations in supramaximal running performance in athletes of the same MAS. This is due to the fact that the same absolute running intensities (% MAS) may involve a different proportion of one’s ASR, resulting in differing physiological demands and energy system contributions. Recommendations have proposed a two-pronged approach whereby training is targeted towards improving maximal sprint speed alongside the inclusion of HIT to improve the ability to recover between bouts (3). In support of this, both maximal sprint speed and maximal aerobic speed (ASR) were significant predictors of repeat sprint ability (RSA) in a cohort of 61 team sport players (4).

Thus, an understanding of both metabolic and biomechanical specificity is required if repeated supramaximal running ability is to be enhanced. It is therefore imperative for the prescription of running-based conditioning to include a velocity that comprises dual sensitivity to both the aerobic and anaerobic capacities of the athlete.


(1) Billlat, V. L., Slawinski, J., Bocquet, V., Demarle, A., Lafitte, L., Chassaing, P., & Koralsztein, J. P. (2000). Intermittent runs at the velocity associated with maximal oxygen uptake enables subjects to remain at maximal oxygen uptake for a longer time than intense but submaximal runs. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 81, 188-196.

(2) Blondel, N., Berthoin, S., Billat, V., & Lensel, G. (2001). Relationship between run time to exhaustion at 90, 100, 120, and 140% of vVO2max and velocity expressed relatively to critical velocity and maximal velocity. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 22, 27-33.

(3) Bishop, D., Girard, O., & Mendez-Villanueva, A. (2011). Repeated-sprint ability – Part II: Recommendations for training. Sports Medicine, 41, 741-756.

(4) Buchheit, M. (2012). Repeated-sprint performance in team sport players: Associations with measures of aerobic fitness, metabolic control and locomotor function. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 33, 230-239.


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