Repeated sprint ability (RSA) is one important component of competitive play in most field and court-based sports e.g. basketball, tennis, soccer. The obvious thing that an athlete needs to do to develop RSA is include repeated sprints in their training programme. The volume and duration of these sprints vary according to the entry level of the athlete, age and training experience. But we will discuss programming for RSA in a future post coming soon.
First of all, what is RSA? Well, repeated sprint ability is the ability to maintain velocity & acceleration over repeated sprints of <10s, with a 1:5 work:recovery ratio. Testing for RSA can be performed with the 35m RAST Test, where average acceleration and a fatigue index (Watts/s) are developed. This data provides a very useful look at of how power decreases during successive sprints. When plotted, the slope of the line will tell you how well your athletes can maintain their power.
Bishop et al. (2011) have conducted an extensive literature review of RSA and highlight two factors as being key contributors to RSA: metabolic factors including PCr replacement, H+ buffering and neuromuscular factors including activation and recruitment. The good news is that the recommendations for successful RSA are twofold: 1) strength-power and sprint training AND 2) aerobic power training at 90% VO2MAX. We have written a number of posts on the importance of aerobic power training even for sports where RSA is a component, one of which you can find here. This latest review of best practice for RSA underlines the importance of both aerobic and anaerobic components.