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Speed Report: Combining In-Season Conditioning with In-Season Speed Training

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Combining the two – in-season conditioning and speed training – is a subject that often comes up for discussion when I’m doing clinics and workshops across the country at various high schools and colleges. We always discuss the physiological energy mechanisms and how they function when we train. The same question seems to arise each time: What’s the best way to condition during the season?

The answer is usually not well-received. My reply is that we need to understand how the game is played physiologically. If you run athletes hard and often with short recovery time between efforts, your athletes are being exposed to overtraining. Consequently, you’re training the wrong metabolic system and will not be tapping the proper system that is required. Limited recovery with constant brutal sprinting is going to keep the heart rate at maximum levels. The heart rate should have a chance to recover to learn how to drop sufficiently on any given break. Volume and low recovery constitutes quantity, not quality. 

Let’s break it down and learn to apply useful energy placed specifically to maximize the energy system used when playing the game. We are too fixed on what can easily become hand-me-down information from your old coach you played for or the last staff you were on. Then you became a head coach. It’s important to explore and learn what present-day research tells us about conditioning. There are different types utilized, which means you might have to change your thinking. 

Change can be beneficial, which can advance your training methods for better physical performance. The typical thought process is to run kids with a good deal of volume, keep them tired and continue to expend effort. This is not specific to what takes place in a game. Your thought is to make them tough by beating them, which is time wasted. Legendary coach Bear Bryant learned later in life that killing athletes was truly killing athletes. You need them to play at a high efficiency level for a 48 to 60-minute game. Actually, the real facts are that in a 48-minute game your athletes are full out only five minutes and 35 seconds. They are not running hard or they are resting for the other 42 minutes. 

Conquering the Dilemma of Contraction Dissipation 

As we train, we must always strive to design speed work that keeps contraction rate at a high frequency level. The same is true for conditioning. Conditioning needs to be anaerobic for a couple of reasons. One, the game is an anaerobic sport. Two, the design for attainment must parallel the specific physical demands necessary. In simple terms, the system records what it receives and becomes tuned to that level of performance. In the case of contraction intensity without rest recovery, the system is being slammed into an aerobic state of function because of glycogen depletion and high heart rate while continuously forcing movement. The training presented must match what’s required. Football is high-intensity for a specific number of seconds but then the intensity shuts down. If you’re not aware of this, then you’re equipping your players to perform in a non-specific training mode. 

The way we do this correctly is to rest after the high-intensity sprint and the high-intensity conditioning rep. Now, we are working the anaerobic system function at high levels of efficiency over and over and over for four quarters. The same is true with short speed with high intensity. Never put your athletes in a state of exhaustion and keep them there. Remember, football is five minutes and 35 seconds of full playing activity at 100 % intensity while the remaining time is walking or slow jogging. Aerobic conditioning degrades speed physiologically. You become slower by the week if you continue that approach. The nervous system must always be addressed. It’s key to speed and conditioning. 

Be Specific with Specific Training - Gain the Edge

Most football programs are not getting near the mileage out of their speed and conditioning as is possible. Football programs can squeeze the grape if they learn and focus on the potential dividends available. I have teams that actually get faster during the season. That’s hard to believe because football is brutal and rugged and doesn’t lend itself to feeling fresh every day. However, there are things that can be done and should be done if you are truly concerned about being the best with what you’re given.

The following are ideas that work and are not experimental: 

•  Training for speed should always be short and electric during the season.

•  High recovery with lower reps should be a priority.

•  Be consistent with your training and it will work for you over time. 

•  Any physical training takes four-six weeks to be effective.

•  Less is more and more is less.

•  You can’t work hard everyday and not address anaerobic concerns.

•  Always do your speed work and conditioning at the beginning of practice, not the end. You want fresh, fast and 100% intensity with both, which is the way the game is played.

•  Specificity of training is your edge over others.

•  Keep in mind that every practice is also conditioning. Each day adds a little more to the goal.
•  Games are the ultimate conditioner, where adrenaline and 100% intensity can’t be matched in practice. Don’t discount the real weekly conditioner that is perfectly specific – game day.   

•  You should train a maximum of two days a week for conditioning in-season, if you even condition at all. I have some clients who never condition during the season. They are always fresher in the fourth quarter than everyone else. 

•  Conditioning doesn’t have to be long periods of time.

•  Think outside the box and mix speed and movement similar to the game for unique gains in conditioning. Keep the action at eight-ten seconds some days and 10 to 16 others.  

•  Add change-of-pace sprint activities to your conditioning. Remember, the game is not all at one speed or one direction. Be creative and think of ways to parallel what is done on game-day. 

Train smarter, and don’t be afraid of changes that can make a difference.

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 34 years he’s consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at and 858-568-3751.


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