Cardiovascular training in team sports

Cardiovascular training in team sports

How and why do we have to stimulate the cardiovascular system?

Team sports are among the sports that require the greatest amount of different physical qualities. The importance of each of these physical qualities depends on many factors such as the athlete’s position, style of play and level of technical ability. This can even vary from one game to another, which means that the athlete must be prepared for any situation that may arise. Training of the cardiovascular component is often neglected in favour of the muscle power development. However, the effectiveness of the aerobic system is a determining factor in team sport performance.

There is a wide variety of possible activities to stimulate the cardiovascular system. One of the most popular is jogging, a low intensity running activity that mainly develops the cardiorespiratory system. The physiological adaptations related to this type of training are mainly at the heart and lungs (increase in the size of the left ventricle, increase in the volume of systolic ejection, improvement in the efficiency of oxygen absorption by the blood in the lungs). This results, among other things, in an improvement of the VO2max.

However, VO2max is not the cardiovascular quality mainly used in team sports, as the intensity is too high for actions to be based solely on the body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Rather, it is the maximum aerobic power (MAP) that allows athletes to perform (1.2). Indeed, team sports are mainly made up of a series of very high intensity actions rather than a continuous and medium intensity cyclical action. We will therefore seek to improve the ability to repeat sprints or the ability to repeat intense actions.

As a result, it seems that the peripheral component is much more important than the central component in the performance in terms of the ability to repeat sprints. (3,4) The peripheral component represents the muscle’s ability to recover oxygen and use it effectively to transform it into energy. This transformation is mainly done in the mitochondria of the muscle. It has been shown that the peripheral component is more specifically solicited when proposing very high-intensity intermittent activities. (5) Moreover, the incorporation of specific stops, starts and other movements that can be found in the targeted sports contribute to the increased development of the peripheral component.

In conclusion, high intensity intermittent work would be much more conducive to create relevant, effective and permanent adaptations (2) for the improvement of cardiovascular qualities in sports where the ability to repeat sprints is crucial. This type of training can be done in a multitude of forms (accelerations, specific displacements, plyometrics, reduced plays, etc.).

It is important for professionals to master these training methods in order to progress well and to ensure that the intensity of work is well adapted to the level of each individual, even in a group training context.

It is through the training offered with Bia formations that you will be able to maximize your knowledge in relation to cardiovascular training.

3 key points:

1) Cardiovascular demand depends on many factors such as the athlete’s playing style, position in the sport and technical ability level.

2) Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP) is the essential physical quality that allows athletes to perform.

3) Intermittent high intensity work would be much more conducive to creating adaptations relevant to improving cardiovascular qualities in sports.


  1. Burgomaster, K. A. and coll. (2005). Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of applied physiology. 98(6): 1985-1990.
  2. Cochran, A. J. and coll. (2014). Intermittent and continuous high‐intensity exercise training induce similar acute but different chronic muscle adaptations. Experimental physiology. 99(5): 782-791.
  3. Bishop, D. J., & Girard, O. (2013). Determinants of team-sport performance: implications for altitude training by team-sport athletes. British journal of sports medicine. 47: i17-i21.
  4. Bucheit M, (2005, august). Le 30-15 intermittent fitness test: illustration de la programmation de la puissance maximale aérobie à partir d’un test terrain approprié. Approches du handball. 88: 37-46.
  5. Jacobs, R. A. and coll. (2013). Improvements in exercise performance with high-intensity interval training coincide with an increase in skeletal muscle mitochondrial content and function. Journal of Applied Physiology. 115(6): 785-793.

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