In all seriousness, the least really should be done in order to get the desired the effect because everything you do comes at a cost. Knowing how much should be done is the difficult part in order to get the desired effect for each of the various training modalities. The thought of doing less is not commonly preached or idolized in sports but it should be of priority when looking at designing a comprehensive training program. Remember that at the end of the day the different training components being worked on need to be geared towards making that athlete better at their given sport and allow them to develop their specific sport skills. It doesn’t take any skill or any real knowledge to make a hard workout. Do any compound movement for 30 reps at 55% 1RM and it will be extremely hard. Go run thirty 40’s with 10 seconds rest between each rep. Try and do as many burpees in 7 minutes. Swim 5 laps without stopping (for you non-swimmers). These workouts will be extremely hard but they take no thought or aim at developing an ATHLETE.
A hard workout does not automatically equate a good workout. Unfortunately most coaches and athletes have no clue at going about creating a program where doing less will equate to more and athletes end up spinning their wheels doing a program that is high in exercise selection, high volume and high intensity and has improper energy system demands. Coaches will typically choose running that is high intensity and low rest periods. While this does create a hard workout and in a short amount of time, it is also fueled by the glycolitic system ( aka the lactate system),which is rarely used in most team sports. Coaches and athletes are attempting to train for speed and conditioning at the same time and end up getting neither by training in a pool of lactic acid. Charlie Francis says that you cannot build speed unless you are running at least 90% of your top speed. So if a 4.5 forty guy is running a 6 second 40 for 20 reps he is doing nothing to increase his speed.
Training in the lactate system works against the idea of increasing speed because it has been seen to reduce an athlete’s power (inverse relationship between lactate threshold and power potential). The fact that you need to run faster to actually run faster doesn’t help the cause very much when you only get 10-20 seconds rest between sprints in a typical “speed” program. Training in the lactate system also increases the time to recover from a workout and reduces quality of work. Not many athletes have the ability to get any quality skill work after doing intervals and prowler pushes for over an hour.
Most team sports rely heavily on immediate energy stores supplied by the Phosphocreatine system but most coaches don’t train this system optimally. Coaches seems to overlook proper speed training because it doesn’t look hard on paper and takes time, due to the rest intervals needed to properly train the system in the realm of alactic power (alactic-not relying on the lactic system). 3-5 minutes should be prescribed for rest periods between sprints for an athlete. When looking at typical training athletes might get 5-10 minutes of rest for an entire workout. It should be noted that most athletes are out of shape between sport seasons and when they do lactic training they see immediate results but that conditioning won’t translate once the season starts. I hear football athletes say this all the time “No matter what you do in the off-season you will never be ready for that first week of football.” The reason why they think that is because they trained the wrong energy system. You wouldn’t expect your 40 time to go down by running 800’s every day, would you? That is exactly what athletes are doing with lactic training. Doing a shuttle lasting 20 seconds isn’t exactly going to translate to the energy demands of football, which is to be able to perform an all-out effort for 4-6 seconds followed by a 20-30 second rest. The ability to repeatedly perform an all out effort for 6 seconds or less without full recovery is termed alactic capacity. This is what coaches truly want from their athletes. They want their athletes to have a large capacity to be very fast and powerful play after play after play. Not just run one 4.5 forty one play and then run a 6 second forty the next play. Now this doesn’t mean you need to condition for alactic capcity year round.
After general conditioning has been established (depends on the athlete but ~6-16 weeks) in the beginning of the off-season then an alactic power block for 3 weeks and an alactic capacity for 3 weeks can be rotated with the final block being alactic capacity before the football season starts. Aerobic conditioning, the only other energy system not discussed (Phosphocreatine (PCr), lactate and aerobic being the three), plays a large role in team sports and must be developed along the way. The aerobic system helps largely refill depleted PCr during intense all out bursts of effort. The aerobic system needs to be managed properly as not to interfere with the development of the athlete’s power or speed. You don’t see too many distance runners with a 40” vertical or a 4.3 forty. The aerobic system should be developed in the most economical way possible which is definitely not jogging. If you got nothing else from reading this article, this could help the most. Just stop mindlessly jogging. STOP! Especially if you are a larger athlete. It is mindless running that comes at a high cost to larger athletes. Development of the aerobic system is better managed by utilizing tempo runs. A tempo run involves running at ~60-75% speed for a set distance (60-200 yards depending on sport) followed by calisthenics and an active rest period. You could also perform bike, pool or sled tempos.