Why is Maximal Aerobic Speed useful for sports?
As many field sports are very aerobic in nature and require the athletes to perform at high intensities throughout the duration of the game, it would appear almost obvious that a high aerobic power are important aspects of their performance. A recent review has shown that higher-level endurance athletes possess a larger aerobic power than lower-level athletes, but it is important to understand that this did not necessarily mean they were able to perform better (6). To add to this, it appears that the greater the running demands of the sport, the greater the MAS required for athletes in that sport to compete, especially at the highest level (7).
For example, female soccer players have been shown to maintain an average heart rate of 84-86% of their maximum, and travel 9.1-11.9 km during a 90-minute match (8). These athletes have demonstrated a good level of aerobic power (V02 max: 46–57.6 mL·kg–1·min–1) (9, 10, 11), and those with a larger aerobic power have also been shown to perform better during a game (9, 10, 12).
Something to consider, however, is these “improved” performances were measured by increased distance covered, enhanced work intensity, and a higher the number of sprints and involvements with the ball during a match (9) – but do all of these actually mean a better performance? Nevertheless, these are all important qualities and the strength and conditioning coach/sports scientist must decide for themselves whether it is worthwhile improving their athlete’s aerobic ability better than it currently is. Therefore, they need to decide whether improving it will give them the “edge” they need to perform better, or not.
How to test Maximal Aerobic Speed
Whilst many different tests have been used to measure an athlete’s MAS, it is important to understand that not all tests will produce the same result; meaning accurately measuring MAS can be difficult. Recall the definition of MAS: it is the lowest speed at which V02 max occurs. As some athletes can continue to run, and even run faster, despite already achieving their V02 max, many tests may cloud the athlete’s true MAS. As a result, we will help to provide a degree of clarity to this issue by discussion some of the common problems.
First and foremost, for running-based field sport athletes, it is highly-recommended that MAS is assessed during running-based tests. Over the years many running-based MAS tests have been developed, so picking the right one can be a difficult decision when the practitioner is uninformed of the strengths and weaknesses of each test. Table 1 provides a breakdown of some of the common tests and their structure.