Maximal Aerobic Speed


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.


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).

For example;

> 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.


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.
Subscribe below and we’ll send this direct to your inbox!



For players training on their own, we have an ideal solution – our online GAA Performance Plans provide everything required for a successful pre-season of Conditioning, Strength, Power & Speed development. Find out more here!

– For full squad solutions check out our team services page or drop us a line to schedule a call with a member of our team.



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

Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood Flow Restriction Training

Restriction to blood flow first emerged as a form of exercise training with Japanese bodybuilders in 1995, but is now more commonly referred to as Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training.  Over the past 3-4 years, BFR training has exploded in popularity amongst strength coaches and physiotherapists alike. Early research identified the capability of BFR to stimulate hypertrophy and strength gains when combined with low-load resistance training but there was a distinct lack of research on how this was happening.  

read more
Field Sport Conditioning

Field Sport Conditioning

As teams across the country are forced to suspend all collective training, we thought we would help out with a sample session that can be completed individually and modified to suit!
This session includes work in all energy systems to maximise transfer to your sport.
Give it a go and pass it along to your team mates if you think they would benefit. Feel free to get in touch with any questions!

read more
Repetition Tempo

Repetition Tempo

Tempo is a training variable equal in importance to reps and sets. This programming tool allows coaches to target specific adaptations in an athletes programme and is a key component of a training plan. Essentially, in resistance training, tempo refers to the speed that an exercise is performed. The tempo that each rep is performed at will dictate the total time under tension (TUT) for any given set, and this component is one of the major keys to achieving the desired training response.

read more

Movement Skills – Acceleration

There are many elements to enhancing speed, no one training method holds the key. Rather it is a combination of components that result in greatest improvements. For example, developing specific strength qualities, is one of the most effective ways to increase the power necessary for maximal sprinting. However unless an athlete first focuses on movement, and in turn movement skills, they may struggle to maximise the results from their efforts in other areas.

Movement Prep

The purpose of any physical preparation routine should be to optimise performance in the upcoming session or competition, while decreasing the risk of injury.
Traditional warm-ups have typically included light aerobic movement followed by static stretching, and while this approach is successful in raising body temperature, it does not contribute significantly towards reducing injury risk, and certainly not towards optimising performance.

Pre-Season in Gaelic Games

We are at that time of year where a lot of teams are returning to training for the season ahead. Of course, most will have different league and championship calendars and will go about their preparation for each competition in various ways. Some will begin with gym sessions only, some will opt for field sessions only, and some will choose a combination of both. Some may even decide to give their players another few weeks before returning to any form of training.

Fuel Your Performance

At AXSOM, we believe that the process of eating should be viewed simply as fuelling the body. In the same way that a high performance car needs clean fuel to perform to the highest level, the body needs clean fuel to be at its most efficient and effective. We fuel to train, fuel to recover, and fuel to compete. This is applicable in all areas of life, not just with regards to competitive athletes. With nutrition, you are not only fueling the body, but the mind too, as food provides energy for our brain as well as our bodies.

Training Variables – Part 3

As is the case when determining the optimal reps and tempo, the training objective also dictates another important variable – the number of sets.
In general, the higher the number of repetitions, the less sets that are required to achieve the optimal volume. Conversely, the lower the number of repetitions being performed, the more sets that are needed. There are of course exceptions to this, but to illustrate how training objective will most typically influence the number of sets performed we will take two examples for comparison..

Training Variables – Part 2

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the total time under tension, the greater the impact on body composition. This is due to greater metabolic adaptations associated with increased time under tension. In order for an athlete to maintain control over a weight for a prolonged period, he/she must sacrifice on the intensity of the set (weight on the bar). This has a knock on effect of potentially reducing the strength training effect. Heavier weights will be required to optimally develop maximal strength, and particularly so to develop relative strength, therefore lower prescriptions for total time under tension must be applied.