We’ve discussed interval training previously (here, here, here and here). So it is established that intervals help one lose weight, increase mitochondrial density, lactic capacity and other factors. As a coach, you need to ask yourself- can my athletes integrate intervals without a) taking away from their skill work and b) burning them out so much they lose in the weight room or other forms of conditioning.
Let’s not kid ourselves, sprinting requires tons of energy. It is hard on the nervous systems, on the muscles and joints and taxes the cardiovascular system. The goal of sprinting (if you are not a sprinter) is not to sprint but to improve your ability to play your sport. If it leaves you so fatigued you are unable to do other forms of training- what’s the point?
Farzad, et al; 2011 cut a wrestling team in half. 7 wrestlers performed the normal 3 practices a week, 2 weight training sessions and 1 plyometric session. 8 wrestlers from the same team performed all this and 2 sprint sessions per week.
The sessions were warm-up, then 6x35m with 10 second break. Not a very long workout but very intense.
The wrestlers who had added sprinting demonstrated a decrease in cortisol by 13% and an increase in total testosterone by 19%! Clearly, changes were occurring. Maximal oxygen uptake also increased by 5%, peak oxygen by pulse by 8% and time to exhaustion by 32%! Their Wingate test peak and mean power outputs increased by over 8%.
A properly managed sports program can include interval training and will benefit most athletes. No detrimental effects should occur if an athlete knows how to sprint and takes the time to eat and sleep properly following the workout (which they should be doing anyway).