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Speed vs Conditioning – Quality vs Quantity


Parents and athletes often ask, what is the difference between training for speed/power vs conditioning/fitness work? These are two very different training methods that have very different goals and elicit very different results, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about this.

Think of it as QUALITY vs. QUANTITY.

I often hear parents & coaches wanting athletes to be constantly

moving (QUANTITY) and feeling extremely tired from a workout. Athletes who are used to practicing like this often feel like the quality of a training session is based on their level of exhaustion.

While I am certainly never opposed to high-intensity training and conditioning, this is VERY different than speed/power/technique training (QUALITY), so you first need to understand the goal, then match the training to get the effect you’re looking for.

To begin, we need to understand the role fatigue plays in a training session, and we need to understand that training the nervous system and the cardiovascular system are very different.

Whenever an athlete is learning a new skill, practicing technique on a skill or displaying maximum speed or power, they are predominantly using their nervous system and that training must be done when an athlete is fresh. Maximum power output or speed can only be displayed briefly, and fatigue impacts these qualities quickly.

For example, an athlete can jump as high as possible 4-6 times

before their jump height starts to drop. After that, the nervous system can’t maintain that level of intensity, and performance drops off dramatically. If you rest for a minute or two, you can recover and perform another 4-6 maximal jumps again. But, if you only rest 15-20 seconds, you won’t be able to fully recover and you won’t jump nearly as high. In other words, you won’t be able to maintain QUALITY because of fatigue.

The same goes for maximal sprinting speed. Let’s say you’re working to improve your ability to accelerate (which is all about training the nervous system). You’ll need to perform short sprints with long rest periods so you can give 100% on each rep.

This is focusing on the QUALITY of work.

Unfortunately, if you do your conditioning work BEFORE your