Time and intensity
Interval training in preparation for a sport is mainly used to train the energy transfer system specific to your sport.That is, the system your body uses to transfer the energy needed for the movements involved.
A point in tennis, for instance, will typically consist of 2-4 times 1-5 seconds of high intensity (the time you run to the ball, hit it, and run back to prepare for the next ball). To train the energy system used for this (mainly alactic) you should do high intensity intervals in the range between 5-20 seconds. In a tennis match the action-rest ratio is typically around 1:3.
A very general rule of thumb for knowing how to train a specific energy system is to use:
- Action-rest ratio 1: (3 or higher) for
immediate energy system (Alactic)
- Action-rest ratio 1:2 for the intermediate
energy system (Glycolysis)
- Action-rest ratio 1:1 or 1:1½ for the long term
energy system (aerobic)
To increase total volume sustainable you can divide your repetitions into sets and have a longer period of rest between the sets. You
can then finetune your training by playing with the duration of the
recovery intervals. If a tennis player, for example, is on the slow side when going for the ball, the main purpose of the training
might be to get faster. Then the player needs longer recovery intervals (12-20 times the length of the high intensity interval time). This is to secure that she is able to work at her highest speed in each interval. If, on the other hand, she is fast but tends to lose it at the end of the game, she will want to work more speed-endurance or tolerance training. To do this she has to shorten the duration of the recovery intervals down to 3 times the high intensity interval.
For more specific information about speed and interval training go here.
Drills and movements
The more you assimilate the movements of your sport, the more relevant your interval training gets. However, you may also use interval training to get some variety into your training and still keep working the relevant energy system.