What Type of Conditioning do Athletes Need?

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Conditioning is a tough topic for most athletes because it is not understood well.

For a lot of athletes, conditioning has become a punishment for poor practice or games.

I remember vividly a certain hockey game in high school where our coach told us not expect to see a puck during the next practice. Like most empty threats, we figured there would be some skating and eventually we would get to practice.


We got to the rink and waited for the Zamboni to hit the ice after the previous practice. It never did. No nets, the ice wasn’t cleaned, and definitely no pucks. We literally did not stop skating the whole practice.

I used to think that this was conditioning. It is not. Some might think it is discipline but it is really just stupidity. But sport coaches will always have this mentality.

team condo

When trying to figure out what type of conditioning your kid needs we need to look at the 3 types and how they affect athletes.

ATP system- This is an athletes ability to produce force for a short period of time, once. Athletes that are really strong, fast, or powerful probably have got this system under control.

Glycolytic system- The glycolytic system is where most sports are played. This is 30-90 seconds of work at a more moderate intensity.

Aerobic- This is the ability to work for a longer duration. The rest is short and intensity is low.

Chances are that all athletes are exposed to each of these types of training. The easy answer to figuring out what type of training you need is whichever one you need the most and/or train the least.

Here are some examples of different types of athletes.

1. Athlete 1 does not really show a lot of explosion, speed, or quickness but is not completely gassed at the end of the game. It seems as though they are steady from beginning to end.

This athlete has a highly developed aerboic system but lacks in the ATP system

2. Athlete 2 does not really do much. They play one sport with poor attendance. Some would just consider this kid out of shape.

This athlete needs everything. Shotgun approach fits here.

3. Athlete 3 has got wheels. They fly down the field every so often. They really cannot repeat those efforts though. This athlete is dominant in the ATP system and lacks in the other 2.

4. Athlete 4 does not seem to be overly explosive but is responsible for killing penalties and playing the power play in hockey. This athlete needs to have a good glycolytic system since they can be on the ice for almost 2 minutes at a time in some scenarios.

To determine what kind of conditioning we need to give a certain athlete, honest information is the best start. When we get those details it becomes easy to set the plan.

Athletes that lack in the ATP system should be encouraged to perform short sprints, at full speed, and given a lot of time to recover from the effort.

Athletes that lack in the glycolytic system can work on a little bit longer duration activities and repeating them.

Athletes that need aerobic work need to move for a long time. This can be through a lot of different means but the idea is to get a long duration in. I prefer that athletes accomplish this through a lot of repeated intervals combining to last a while.