Spartan Rotation

NOVPowerlinepic2007.jpgCoaches are always searching for conditioning drills that fit the specific needs of their sport while concurrently adding enough variety to keep things interesting and challenging.

This is especially true when dealing with “anaerobic” or “power” athletes who are engaged in high-intensity, short duration activities with quick turnarounds. For optimal results, the training scripts for these individuals should adhere to the progressive guidelines of interval training.

We’ve put our heads together and constructed a “Spartan Rotation” of conditioning protocols that stress the appropriate energy system(s) for the sports in question.

Note: An overview of these energy systems and how they are manipulated to achieve the desired results was provided in the May/June 06 issue. Check the Energy System Review chart for some rudimentary guidelines.

The S.E.T. Principle

We have established a standard of execution for all of the drills to be discussed. The emphasis of each workout is underpinned with three key components: Speed, effort, and tempo (S.E.T.).

Cutting to the chase, we expect most of these conditioning drills to be executed at full-speed, others at near-maximal speed, and administered in a strict interval format with attention paid to the relief periods between reps and recovery allotment between sets.

In the early phase of the program, the relief and recovery periods are lenient and allow the athletes enough time to regain their bearings and the necessary energy to perform the next rep with some degree of intensity.

As the program advances, the relief and recovery allowances are reduced or “funneled” intermittently to eventually match the tempo required in competition. The end result is energy system specificity, which is crucial to taking the final step into the pre-season and procuring the ultimate goal of getting into “game shape.”

Of course, the only true way to accrue game-type conditioning is by being put through the rigors of sport-specific activities with all of the components – including equipment – firmly in place.

You will notice that the drills provided vary in length and total yardage/distance. The longer runs should be performed early in the program and progressively paired-down to match the distances and intensity of the sport in question.

As a coach, you may feel that certain workouts are more appropriate for your unique situation, and/or you may feel the need to tweak the administration of the drill for a better fit. All of this is fine, as long as the fundamentals remain constant.

Coaching Point: Determinations on the total yardage and length of the workout will depend upon several key considerations, including whether the chosen script is earmarked as the main body of that day’s workout, or is simply an adjunct to other activities. Obviously, more total yardage will be included if the chosen protocol is the main or only event of the day.

Keeping those baseline thoughts in mind and marrying them to the guidelines presented in the chart, allow us to present some of our favorite anaerobic conditioning protocols.

Funneling the Fuel

High-intensity bursts of exercise up to the 30 second mark fall into the ATP-PC energy system category.

Relatively high-effort exercise bouts that exceed 30 seconds and reach into the 90 second range fall into the Lactic Acid (LA) system. Training scripts that are set-up to stress this energy system usually approach and often exceed the 300 yd. mark, and are run at or near top speed.

Here are some examples of how we manipulate and train these all-important anaerobic energy systems:
• 300’s – Once around a football field with the corners rounded-off with cones between the five-yard line and goal line is approximately 300 yards. Of course, they can also be run on a track. We’ve presented the 300’s before as being an excellent way to make ATP-PC/ LA system inroads. When run with the appropriate intensity, this distance is excellent for taxing anaerobic glycolysis. For review purposes, here are some suggestions: Start out with 4-5 of these intervals once or twice per week, and gradually increase the reps (one or two weekly) up to 6-8 intervals. Work times can vary depending upon the age and running skill of the participants, but we normally run three different groups with assigned target times. Our “skill” group (i.e., wide receivers, defensive backs, and running backs) is given a target time of 40-45 seconds, the “big skill” group (i.e., tight ends, linebackers, fullbacks, quarterbacks, specialists) has a window of 50-55 seconds, and the “power” group (i.e., offensive and defensive linemen) is allotted 55-60 seconds. The basic relief interval is approximately double the time it took for the run (2:1 relief: work ratio).The work intervals are all very manageable, and they can become very challenging as the reps are increased and the relief interval is gradually (by a few seconds every couple of weeks) decreased.

Note: Once we get to 8 reps, we take a longer respite after the 4th rep (up to 3 minutes) to ensure the quality of the reps that follow.

• 180’s – These can also be run a football field by running the length on one side, cutting through the end zone, and then up through the 30 yd. line on the opposite side. Again, for a smoother transition into the corners, round them with cones. We do not designate definitive target times on these, but we want them executed in the high 20’s to the mid-30 for all groups. Six to eight reps are sufficient for a productive start, and we usually make an upgrade of two reps with each successive week up to twelve. The relief period between reps is usually kept to around 90 seconds, or what amounts to a 3:1 relief: work ratio.

• 110’s – In our opinion, you will not find a better mid-level interval training protocol than 110 yd. repeats. They fall ideally in the ATP-PC/LA crossover range. These are run from the back of the end zone through the opposite goal line. We normally begin this segment of our training with 10 X 110’s with the following group target times: Power group in 18 seconds or under, big skill group in 16 seconds or under, skill group in 15 seconds or under. Initially, we allot a 55 second relief period between runs, and this is eventually trimmed to 45 seconds as the workouts progress through the designated training period. Run volume is intermittently increased (usually by two intervals per week) up to 16-18 intervals.

• Half-gassers – These are run the width of the field with a foot touch on the far sideline and then back. A football field is 53 1/3 yds. wide, so this amounts to a run of 106 2/3 yds. The run protocol (frequency, intensity, and volume) and target times are very similar to the 110’s. Even though the half-gassers are a few yards shy of the 110’s, the change in direction must be taken into account, in that the athlete must accelerate off of the cut on the sideline. Half-gassers are also a great conditioner during the in-season, with a couple of seconds added to each run group’s target time when used at the end of a practice. It then becomes more of a “fast stride” than a sprint, which is often sufficient as a post-practice conditioner. Four to six repeats are normally performed when they are used in this context.

• Ladders – Our good friend, Dan Riley, S&C coach of the Houston Texans, gave us this one when he was with the Washington Redskins. It consists of ten total runs – or “ladders” — using the length of a football field, with each ladder starting and ending at one of the goal lines. The first ladder is a 100 yd. run with a foot touch on the opposite goal line, and a return trip to the starting goal line for a 200 yd. interval. The next run is to the far 10 yd. line (90 yds.) and back. Each consecutive ladder is ten yds. shorter than the one preceding it, and this decremented format is continued down to the final run, which is 10 yds. and back. We tell our players to stride the first leg of every run, and to sprint back through the goal line on the return leg. Rather than designate specific target times on this protocol, we prefer to use our judgment on the effort being put forth in both directions. Obviously, the longer runs fall under the ATP-PC/LA umbrella, while the shorter ones are ATP-PC in nature. As conditioning levels increase, an additional set – or a partial set – can be performed.

• Stadium Steps and Ramps (uphill runs) – Spartan Stadium provides us with several 30-40 yd. uphill ramps and, of course, more than enough steps, with aisles that are up to and exceed 50-60 yds. high. We use both in an alternating fashion, whereas one group will run the steps while the other is in on the ramps for approximately 20 minutes, then we will switch. The goal is to gradually increase the tempo of the runs so that we are inserting more runs over time into each 20 minute segment. Whether it is steps or ramps, we want a full-speed effort on the ascent, and a slower, deliberate walk on the descent. The walk down usually takes about four times the amount of time it took to run the drill, so we are basically working with a 4:1 relief: work ratio. The long-term goal with these activities is to gradually reduce the respite to 3:1.

Final Rep

As with any type of progressive training program, it is vital that frequency, duration, intensity, volume, and relief intervals are carefully monitored and tracked in order to be assured of gradual, consistent overload. Additionally, you will avoid overtraining issues when these variables are carefully manipulated and increments are introduced judiciously.

Give these interval protocols a try, and S.E.T. – up your athletes for success!


Avoiding food borne illnesses associated with vegetables – We hear a lot about the possibility of food borne illnesses from contaminated meat, poultry, and eggs, but vegetables also pose a concern.

Here are some suggestions for steering clear of tainted produce from the John Hopkins Health Alert:

• Do not buy vegetables that are bruised or damaged. If blemishes or soft spots develop after purchase, remove them before eating.

• Avoid pre-cut vegetables or packaged salads that are not refrigerated.

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh vegetables.

• Clean all surfaces and utensils (including cutting boards, countertops, peelers, and knives) with hot water and soap before and after using them to prepare vegetables.

• Rinse all vegetables under cold running water for two minutes. This includes vegetables that have skins you don’t plan to eat (e.g., cucumbers), since bacteria can travel from the vegetable’s skin to the flesh during cutting. Detergent and bleach are not necessary and could be harmful to your health if ingested.

• Root vegetables (i.e., potatoes, carrots, etc.) should be scrubbed with a clean brush under cold running water.

• Keep raw foods (e.g., meat, poultry, and seafood) separate from fresh vegetables – in both your grocery cart and in preparation. Also, use separate knives and cutting boards for vegetables and raw foods to prevent cross-contamination.

• Refrigerate all cut, peeled, and cooked vegetables within 2 hours. Vegetables left at room temperature for longer than two hours should be thrown out.


Here’s a quick rewind on the body’s energy systems to help you determine the why’s and how’s of setting-up your conditioning scripts.

Keep in mind that the primary emphasis of any running program depends upon the specific sport in question and its coupling with the appropriate conditioning protocol.

The bioenergetics of the anaerobic (i.e, “without” oxygen) energy system ultimately revolve around adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC), which are both stored in the muscles as primary fuels.

Unfortunately, our muscles are limited in the amount of these energy-rich compounds that can be furnished at any given time. Their ready availability, however, makes them the hub of immediate energy and power output.

Lactic acid (LA) is the by-product of partially broken down carbohydrate, and while it is true that the accumulation of this metabolic waste can ultimately force cessation of exercise, LA has a vital upside in the partial resynthesizing of ATP for energy.

The following is a simplified, yet paramount representation of the energy system continuum for training purposes:

• ATP-PC System – provides energy for approximately 20-30 seconds of intense work (e.g., sprints up to around 200 meters).

• ATP-PC/LA System – provides energy for approximately 30 seconds up to about 90 seconds (e.g., sprints up to about 400 meters).

• LA/O2 (aerobic) System – provides energy for approximately 90 seconds up to about 3 minutes (e.g., runs in the 800 meter range).

• O2 System – provides energy for activities exceeding 3 minutes.

– Ken Mannie
[email protected]


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