In recent years Maximal Aerobic Speed has become popular among team sports in particular as it presents a simple and effective method of testing aerobic power. The data from testing can be used directly in the prescription of intensity and volume for conditioning within a session.
This article aims to provide detailed instructions on how to effectively administer a Maximal Aerobic Speed test, in a team setting, and examples of how to then use this test data to plan out conditioning loads across a season.
Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) refers to the maximal speed at which maximal oxygen uptake occurs (VO2 max). While there are many established methods to determine or estimate MAS, one of the most practical protocols when testing for field sports is detailed below.
While other methods of on-field MAS testing may utilise GPS units (e.g. maximum distance in set time), mobile Apps, or numbered bibs (tagging), the method outlined in this article requires only minimal equipment:
– A measuring wheel, training cones, a stopwatch/timer, clipboard & pen and a testing sheet for data recording.
In this method the coach measures out a distance 100meters long on a training field, using a measuring wheel, and marks a line on both ends with training cones. Ideally (for prescription purposes) the test would take place on a similar surface to that on which training will take place over the subsequent weeks.
The distance used for this test can vary depending on age, gender, fitness levels and the quality of the surface. From experience we would recommend the following distances as a guide when testing on a grass pitch surface.
Senior Men – 1300-1500m
Minor Men – 1200-1300m
Senior Ladies – 1000-1200m
Minor Ladies – 800-1000m
Following completion of a comprehensive movement prep and an appropriate warm-up, players are requested to take position at the start line and given instructions of how to best complete the test. We recommend players be advised to pace themselves from the start of the test, and are made to understand that the objective is to cover the set distance (e.g. 1200m), in as little time as possible. This will mean that energy will need to be managed throughout the duration of the test to maximise the result. A speed that is too high initially will lead to excessive fatigue early in the test. The players total time will likely be reduced as a result. Finally, all participants should be instructed to listen for their completion time as they finish the test, and to ensure that this time has been recorded correctly before becoming distracted by anything else.
When players are prepared and in a set position at the start line, the coach starts the timer and gives a signal for the test to begin. Using the example of a 1200m test, the participants will complete a total of 6 shuttles of 100 meters, touching the marked line each time with their foot as they turn, and running continuously until the total distance has been covered. The coach may provide frequent updates on the distance completed and remaining, constantly reminding players to pace themselves initially, and to push themselves as the test progresses.
As players cross the finish line after the final 100 meter length, the coach or assistant will read out the completion time from the stopwatch aloud so that all can hear it clearly. Immediately their time is recorded on the testing sheet, ideally by an assistant, allowing the coach to continue to provide updates, encouragement, and finish times to other players.
ANALYSING THE RESULTS
With the test completion times recorded, it’s possible to estimate MAS using a simple formula;
Distance (meters) ÷ Time (seconds) = Maximal Aerobic Speed (meters/second).
> 1200 meter run. Completed in 4 minutes, 30 seconds (270 total seconds)
> 1200 / 270 = 4.44
> Maximal Aerobic Speed = 4.4 meters/second
For coaches, we’ve created a free spreadsheet fully prepared for you to populate! Simply add names and times, and set the distance used for your test. The Maximal Aerobic Speed will be automatically calculated for each player.
For individuals, feel free to use our simple assessment form to establish your own MAS from the same test, or even from a test performed on a bike, rowing machine or any other cardiovascular training machine.
USING THE DATA
The real value of Maximal Aerobic Speed is gained from its use in the prescription of conditioning.
Target distances for the following set for example, can be easily determined by using an athletes MAS;
“Short intervals, Passive Recovery – 15 seconds @115% MAS, 15 seconds rest, x8 repetitions.”
Using 4.4 meter/second as the Maximal Aerobic Speed, this would be calculated as follows;
( 4.4 [m/s] x 15 [seconds] ) x 1.15 = 76 meters
From the above example, over a 15 second run at MaxImal Aerobic Speed (4.4m/s) this player would travel approximately 66 meters. However, since the prescribed set was to be performed at an intensity of 115% MAS, the actual distance for each repetition is calculated to just under 76 meters (66 x 1.15).
This simple formula can be used across intensities to provide calculated target distances for all types of conditioning. In a team setting, typically players will be split into 3-4 groups of similar fitness. This makes it simple for coaches to set up conditioning work in a way that ensures all players are working at the same intensity relative to their Maximum Aerobic Speed. As part of a well structured training plan, MAS provides an easy method to plan and deliver a progressive overload in conditioning work and specific intensities and volumes of running appropriate to the stage of the season.
In the next post in this series we’ll provide a sample conditioning progression that can be used as part of your pre-season training plan.
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STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
Conor Finn is the Managing Director and Lead Performance Specialist at AXSOM Sports. Currently the Head of Strength & Conditioning for the Mayo Senior Football team, he has worked with numerous high performing teams and athletes over the past 10 years