Maximal Aerobic Speed training was supposed to be the topic for the research project that I am doing to complete my MSc in Strength & Conditioning. However, I have recently re-directed my focus to concentrate on something rather different. Not one for wasting time, I decided to share the research that I did here on my blog. Below is an essay style background on Maximal Aerobic Speed training, an topic which sparked my interested after attending workshop seminars with Dr Dan Baker in June, 2016:  


Key Words:

Maximal Oxygen Uptake (V02 Max), Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS), Velocity at VO2 Max (vVO2 Max), Interval Training, Aerobic Power, Five-Minute Test, Set Distance, Multi-sport, Rugby, Touch, Basketball, Track and Field, Football.  

Team sports are characterised by intermittent actions of acceleration, deceleration and change of direction (Buchheit, 2008), which can only be performed through the bodies utilisation of the phosphogen, glycolytic and aerobic energy systems (Baker, 2011). Aerobic fitness is of key importance in team sports, as levels of aerobic fitness will determine the athlete’s ability to recover from high intensity and fatiguing actions (Bangsbo, Iaia, & Krustrup, 2008; Castagna, Impellizzeri, Cecchini, Rampinini, & Alvarez, 2009; Gabbett, 2013). Aerobic fitness is also likely to be a key contributing factor to a team’s success, especially in sports where athletes are covering large distances (Tomlin & Wenger, 2001). It is therefore justified and reasonable to suggest that team sport athletes should train the aerobic system to both improve and maintain fitness levels. Such training may lead to a number of advantageous physiological adaptations, including; increased time to exhaustion, increased lactate tolerance and lower blood lactate levels for a given workload, improvements in phosphocreatine resynthesis and improvements in buffering capabilities (Glaister, 2008; Thomas, Dawson, & Goodman, 2006).

Increases in aerobic fitness have also been shown to correlate with the following improvements in performance; increased distance covered, greater number of sprints and high intensity efforts, improved ability to recover quickly, and increased number of tackles or physical contests (Helgerud, Engen, Wisloff, & Hoff, 2001; Krustrup, Mohr, Amstrup, Rysgaard, Johansen, Steensberg et al, 2003).

Research by Haugen, Tønnessen, Hem, Leirstein, and Seiler (2014) suggests that assessment of aerobic fitness can be performed in a time efficient and practical way, and that there are a number of different testing procedures that can lead to a reliable estimation of an individual’s physical fitness. These testing procedures can be used to evaluate one’s training status, as well as provide the coach with useful data from which to prescribe training. The various methods by which aerobic fitness can be tested are shown here:


Data garnered through such testing procedures can be used to give an estimation of current fitness levels, as well as provide the coach with valuable information that can be used to prescribe training. One measure of the aerobic system that can be used to individually program training intensity is maximal aerobic speed (MAS). MAS is the minimal speed at which maximal oxygen consumption occurs (Lacour, Padilla-Magunacelaya, Chatard, Arsac, & Barthelemy, 1991). Use of MAS as a measure of training intensity has risen due to both it’s practicality and time effectiveness. Other measures such as velocity at Vo2 Max (vVo2 Max) can be used, however the nature of such tests are often seen as impractical, as gas analysis and treadmill testing often prove too expensive and time consuming for field sport athletes (Heaney, 2012). A recent review by Baker and Heaney (2015) concluded that there is a clear correlation showing that as performance level rises, so does an athletes MAS. Some normative data across various sports and levels can be seen here with males first and females second. 

Interestingly, in addition to the above data, the researchers also discovered interesting correlations amongst junior athletes. Baker and Heaney (2015) claim that Brazilian youth players aged under 16/14/12 tested with average MAS scores of 4.55, 4.11 and 3.86 respectively. Conversely, a study by González-Badillo, Pareja-Blanco, Rodríguez-Rosell, Abad-Herencia, and del Ojo-López et al (2015) studied velocity based interval training with youth athletes and discovered that under-16 players were the most aerobically fit, followed by the under-18 teams and then the under-21 team with MAS scores of 4.5, 4.44 and 4.41 respectively. The researchers concluded that the anomaly the fact that the under-16 and 18 teams were also supplemented with a strengthening programme, whereas the under-21 team was not, thus affecting their results. With female junior athletes specifically, there seems to be a lack of research, with only one study by Haugen, Tønnessen, Hem, Leirstein, & Seiler (2014) researching girls at the high school age, despite this; it would seem that an MAS of 3.67 would fit in with the uniform manor of decreased MAS scores with performance across nearly all levels of performance.

Other studies have sought to find out what effects various aerobic training interventions have on pre and post pubertal children. Baquet, Van Praagh, & Berthoin, (2003) studied the effects of both continuous and interval training programmes on pre-pubertal children and found that even though both groups showed significant increases in peak oxygen uptake (+10.6 and +11.8 respectively), an intermittent style of training is more appropriate as the athletes body will be more dependant on qualities such as anaerobic capacity and ability to recover. Further to this point, Baquet, Stratton, Van Praagh, & Berthoin (2007) explain that a child’s habitual physical activity is highly intermittent in nature, with periods of rest followed by bouts of vigorous intensity. They concluded that intermittent training programmes are more appropriate as children are better suited to the training style, as well as there being an anaerobic training component in conjunction a training effect which may aid recovery from intense bouts of short duration exercise.

The use of MAS as a training intensity measure has often been used with middle distance runners, team sports have traditionally utilized aerobic training practices from steady state sports such as rowing, cycling and swimming instead (Baquet, Gamelin, Mucci, Thévenet, Van Praagh et al, 2010). Despite this, there is an emerging body of evidence which advocates the use of interval based training methods using maximal aerobic speed as the training measure for team sport athletes (Haugen, Tønnessen, Hem, Leirstein, & Seiler, 2014). With regard to youth athletes specifically; Berthoin, S., Manteca, F., Gerbeaux, M., & Lensel-Corbeil, G. (1995) studied the effect of a 12-week training programme on students 14-17 years using MAS to set the training intensity and concluded that one high-intensity session (90-120% MAS) per week was sufficient to induce significant improvements (5.7% - p<0.001) in the maximal aerobic speed of students. The same researchers also concluded that using MAS to set the intensity of training programmes is easily measurable and an appropriate method to use with high-school aged students.  

As seen above, various studies have presented methods which can be used to determine MAS in athletes. One such test is the 20-meter shuttle beep test, however, due to continuous accelerations, decelerations and 180• turns, the test is mostly done at a speed which is far too slow to accurately estimate MAS. More encouraging results have been recorded using the YOYO intermittent recovery stage 1 test as the speed, distance and time for active recovery are more closely related to team field sports (Bangsbo, Iaia, & Krustrup, 2008). Berthon, Fellmann, Bedu, Beaune, Dabonneville et al (1997) found that the five-minute test correlated highly with other tests that are used to determine MAS (r = 0.94), and concluded that this test is most beneficial in athletes who are not training at an elite level of aerobic fitness. In addition, Chamoux, Berthon and Laubignat (1996) state that the intersection of anaerobic and aerobic systems has been found to occur at an optimal time of 4.95 minutes. They concluded that the five-minute test can be immediately introduced within all disciplines as it is easy to set up, simple to repeat and inexpensive to perform. More recently, a review by Baker and Heaney (2015) noted that an equally efficient method of assessing MAS would be to have athletes run a distance which will take between 5 and 7 minutes to complete. They also recognised that there is a substantial body of literature which indicate correlations between various tests and that data collected in these tests is interchangeable and can be used to aid training prescriptions.  

For information regarding training prescription, I'd like to direct you to the work of Dr Dan Baker (references below). MAS training should be progressed over time, ranging from continuous running to high intensity intervals and tabata sets. The continuous aerobic running method is based upon research by Billat, Slawinski, Bocquet, Demarle, Lafitte, Chassaing, & Koralsztein, (2000) who proposed an effective protocol whereby participants would train 30 seconds at vVO2 max in conjunction with 30 seconds recovery at 50% vVO2 max. Bilat et al (2000) concluded that participants are able to work at levels of vVO2 max for longer periods if they are interspersed with periods of recovery at half the intensity. Heaney (2012) built upon this method by altering the intensity of training to start at 90% work: 60% active recovery in week one and building to 120% work: 70% active recovery in week four. 

A progression to continuous running is 'supra-maximal Eurofit training', which is a programming method designed by French Researchers (Adam, C., Klissouras, V., Ravassolo, M., Renson, R., Tuxworth et, al, 1988) who created the European physical fitness test protocol ‘EUROFIT’. In addition to being used successfully with high school students (Baquet, Berthoin, Gerbeaux, & Van Praagh, 2001; Berthoin, Manteca, Gerbeaux, & Lensel-Corbeil, 1995). This method has been used with elite football players who have reported great increases in MAS during both pre-season and mid-season training (Wong, Chaouachi, Chamari, Dellal, & Wisloff, 2010; Dupont, Akakpo, & Berthoin, 2004). Based on research by Baker (2011) sessions will consist 15 second running intervals at 120% MAS with an immediate rest period of 15 seconds, making the work-rest ratio of 1:1. Week one will consist of two sets of five minutes and will build up to two sets of eight minutes by week four.

I have been using these methods with our varsity and junior varsity athletes with tremendous success. The ability to quickly test up to 50 students and set up individualised training groups in minimal time is an extremely useful and effective training method to adopt, with enough research to safely rationalise it's use. I coming posts I will go into further detail on how these sessions can be programmed and set up. 


References / Further Reading:


Adam, C., Klissouras, V., Ravassolo, M., Renson, R., Tuxworth, W., Kemper, H., & Van Lierde, A. E. (1988). Handbook for the EUROFIT test of Physical Fitness. Rome: Edigraf Editoriale Gráfica.

Baker, D. (2011). Recent trends in high-intensity aerobic training for field sports. Professional Strength & Conditioning22, 3-8.

Baquet, G., Gamelin, F. X., Mucci, P., Thévenet, D., Van Praagh, E., & Berthoin, S. (2010). Continuous vs. interval aerobic training in 8-to 11-year-old children. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(5), 1381-1388.

Bangsbo, J., Iaia, F. M., & Krustrup, P. (2008). The Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test. Sports medicine,38(1), 37-51.

Baquet, G., Berthoin, S., Gerbeaux, M., & Van Praagh, E. (2001). High-intensity aerobic training during a 10 week one-hour physical education cycle: effects on physical fitness of adolescents aged 11 to 16. International journal of sports medicine22(04), 295-300.

Baquet, G., Van Praagh, E., & Berthoin, S. (2003). Endurance training and aerobic fitness in young people. Sports Medicine33(15), 1127-1143.

Baquet, G., Stratton, G., Van Praagh, E., & Berthoin, S. (2007). Improving physical activity assessment in prepubertal children with high-frequency accelerometry monitoring: a methodological issue. Preventive medicine44(2), 143-147.

Berthon, P., Fellmann, N., Bedu, M., Beaune, B., Dabonneville, M., Coudert, J., & Chamoux, A. (1997). A 5-min running field test as a measurement of maximal aerobic velocity.European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology75(3), 233-238.

Berthoin S, Gerbeaux, M, Geurruin F, Lensel-Corbeil G and Vandendorpe F, (1992). Estimation of maximal aerobic speed. Science & Sport 7(2), 85-91.

Berthoin, S., Manteca, F., Gerbeaux, M., & Lensel-Corbeil, G. (1995). Effect of a 12-week training programme on Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) and running time of exhaustion at 100% of MAS for students aged 14 to 17 years. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness35(4), 251-256.

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