Field Hockey is a sport characterised by repeated high intensity actions and high running demands.
In order to prepare adequately for this, interval training is a useful and popular method for increasing aerobic fitness and the ability to recover between high intensity bouts of work.
Modern scientific approaches to this training modality would suggest that interval training should be prescribed based on assessment, and individualised to maximise adaptation and fitness. In doing so, we increase the precision of our training, and ensure that what we are doing is appropriate for our current capabilities.
“The greater our capabilities, the lower the relative demands of the game become, and the less fatiguing high intensity actions will be.”
One of the cornerstones of effective strength and conditioning programmes is the use of assessment, which allows for the safe prescription of training. This then enables athletes to bridge the gap between their current physical capabilities and the demands of the sport they play. With regards to Field Hockey, this means increasing physical outputs in relation to the running demands of the game.
The greater our capabilities, the lower the relative demands of the game become, and the less fatiguing high intensity actions will be. This means that we can repeat these actions (sprinting, shooting and changing direction) more frequently, which increases the chance of success.
How can I assess my current physical capabilities?
An effective physical assessment ticks a few boxes:
It is a valid and reliable assessment of the thing we are intending to measure
It is specific to the demands of the game
Can be used to prescribe and monitor training on an individual level
With that in mind, the 30-15 intermittent fitness test is a great measure of our aerobic and anaerobic fitness. This is a shuttle based interval running test, which involves running for 30 seconds at 8kph, before resting for 15 seconds. The running speed then increases by 0.5kph every 45 seconds, and your score is the last completed level that you were able to achieve (for example, 19kph). This score, known as our vIFT, can then be used to prescribe individual running distances or times for interval training sessions.
An alternative to this is a simple time trial, for example a 1500m run completed as fast as possible. Evidence would suggest that any time trial needs to be around 4-5 minutes to gain an accurate measure of our aerobic fitness. The time we achieve can then calculate our Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS), which is a predictor of performance.
For example, if we ran 1500m in 5 minutes and 30 seconds (330 seconds):
1500/330 = 4.55m/s
Then if we wanted to complete an interval training session of 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off, we could complete this at a higher speed than our MAS score (most likely 110-115% of this score).
MAS score x MAS % x interval duration = target distance
4.55 x 1.1 x 15 = 75 metres
In this instance, we would aim to complete 75 metres within the 15 second interval period for each consecutive repetition.
Other interval conditioning sessions which you might like to try include:
10 seconds on, 10 seconds off @120% MAS
30 seconds on, 30 seconds off @ 105% MAS
2 minutes on, 2 minutes off @ 95% MAS
3 minutes on, 3 minutes off @ 90% MAS
For reference, a rule of thumb can be used when comparing your 30-15 vIFT score with your MAS score. Typically, your MAS score will be around 85% of your 30-15 vIFT score. For example, if your MAS score in a 1500m time trial was 4.55m/s, your vIFT score would be around 5.46m/s (19.5kph would likely be your last completed level in the 30-15 test).
Either test can be used, however the 30-15 IFT is the gold standard for assessing aerobic fitness in intermittent team sports. A time trial on the other hand is strongly correlated so can provide similar (but not the same) information, requires no equipment and can be completed regularly with minimal impacts on training.
Putting it all together
Now that you have the tools to assess your own fitness and prescribe your own training, use the following guidelines when approaching interval training for Field Hockey:
2 sessions per week
20-40 minutes per session
One long interval session (>1 min per rep) and one short interval session (<1min per rep) per week
Aim to gradually increase the volume (amount) of training that you do each week
Change the sessions you complete each week to avoid monotony
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Bishop et al. (2015) A needs analysis and testing battery for field hockey. Professional strength and Conditioning. 36. 15–16.
Buchheit, M. (2008) The 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test: Accuracy for Individualizing Interval Training of Young Intermittent Sport Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 365-374.
Buchheit, M. (2010) The 30–15 intermittent fitness test: 10 year review. Myorobie J 1.9 278.
Spencer et al. (2004) Time-motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. Journal of sports sciences. 22. 843–50.