Shifting Paradigms: Practice and Specificity of Conditioning

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Continuing the topic of Shifting Paradigms, and returning to my pet subject, Practice, I recently read a blog post (and the linked article) about an college American football team touching on how they practice.  This is a general topic that I’ve heard of often before, that the best conditioning is to practice at a faster pace than you would play.  As a sport, volleyball was a pioneer of this principle.  What is a wash drill if not volleyball specific interval training?  But still I have questions about what I ‘do’ for the ‘aerobic base’.  Oddly the answer ‘there is no aerobic base, only volleyball conditioning’ gets very quizzical looks.  I once put heart rate monitors on players playing 1 v 1 and discovered that a five minute game produced heart rates of 170+ BPM.  That seems like a pretty good training level, although even with this ‘proof” that coach still did sprint interval training as conditioning but I digress…  I’ve also done some basic studies on a simple 1+1 wash drill that showed roughly the same number of jumps (a pretty good guide to intensity) in one hour of training as in a two hour, five set match.

Train faster.  Scientific theory will eventually catch up.


  1. I agree. And I am using these principles for some months now. It works. The players do not only advance by becoming better athletes but it also helps developing a better ball control and more successful reactions in pressure situations. Austria’s mens head coach Micha Warm told me when asked how a non-pro team could practice any athleticism: The best athletic training is using the ball. Ask of them as much as possible at practice and support as best as you can at games.


  2. It constantly baffles me that the idea that practice itself can contain the conditioning required to compete is still considered a novelty. Just constructing technical/skill drills based on normal game-flow is considered ‘innovative’. Not only is it common sense, but gold medal winning coaches have been doing it for 30 years to my personal knowledge (therefore I’m assuming for much longer in reality).

    The issue is that doing things in other ways has been successful too.

    The more I think about it the more one of a coach’s key skills must be time-management. Not just related to admin tasks/etc, but also related to time-efficiency of skill/physical development. If you can develop physically, deliberately, during technical training, it is just common sense to do this.


    1. There’s a great passage in a Mournho where he meets the club president (of his first club) who proudly shows him the training grounds surrounded by a forest where ‘the players can run’. The president was miffed when Mourinho explained the players wouldn’t run, that they would condition using small games. When the president left, the assistant turned to Mourinho and said ‘You realise that the first time we lose twice in a row it will be because we aren’t fit enough”.
      I know of one professional volleyball team that prepared for this season by doing hours of timed long distance running.
      Common sense is innovative, and will probably always be.


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