By Nico de Villiers
Posted: Updated:

In a previous article (How to use Maximal Aerobic Speed for Rugby Players) I discussed the basics of maximal aerobic speed and how to calculate it and what it is used for. In this article I will have a look at some protocols I have used over the year and which ones, I like and why.

Jones Protocol:

This approach I first saw from Ashley Jones who sculpted the Crusaders for several years:

He used a 2.4km TT and determined MAS scores from that. The program was as follow:

Week 1: 40Sec run: 20sec rest @ 110% MAS x 15

Week 2: 30sec run: 30sec rest @ 125% MAS x 20

Week 3: 20sec run: 40sec rest @ 140% MAS x 25

Week 4:

  • Set 1 = 40:20 @ 110% MAS x 10
  • Set 2= 30:30 @ 125% MAS x 10
  • Set 3 = 20:40 @ 140% MAS x 10


What I liked:

  • Logical progression in intensity and volume
  • Covers various speeds and distanced in a 4-week block
  • Can repeat the block after 4 weeks and used the first week as a de-load week
  • Simple to understand and to apply to a big group of players while still keeping it individualised.
  • Can used it in conjunction with other condition sessions
  • Last 30-35min


What I don’t like

  • 4km might be a bit long for a MAS test, might rather use a 1.6km
  • Very difficult to find enough space to run for 40sec at 110% MAS (160m-200m). Would need to bring a turn into the run and makes it less anaerobic.


There really is not much not to like since the program can be very flexible and adapted according to the level of athlete you are working with or time of the season you are in. Intensity’s, running time, rest period and reps can all be altered and customised to your team and player’s needs.

Then second protocol I have used is a modified version of a 6-week running program for soccer players created by Mladen Jovanovic. The program was originally written for additional running work or the get players back on the pitch after an injury. I liked the fact that the program progressively addresses various running intensities and since it’s based on MAS it can easily be individualised for each player even if you work with a big group. The first step is to determine a players MAS and you can read how in my previous article on MAS.

Jovanovic’s protocol (modified):

The program is based on three blocks, each consisting of 2 weeks

Block 1: Running fast & slow

Block 2: Running hard

Block 3: Running intimately with a change of direction.

The first block

The block will like this:

Week 1-2

  • Session 1 (extensive): 8 x 3min @ 90% MAS with 2min rest between sets
  • Session 2 (intensive): 8 x 20sec @ 130% MAS with 40sec rest between reps, complete 3 sets (3 x 8 x 20sec) with 2min rest between sets
  • Session 3 (extensive): 10 x 3min @ 100% MAS with 2min rest between sets
  • Session 4 (intensive): 8 x 20sec @ 140% with 40sec rest between reps, complete 4 sets ( 4 x 8 x 20sec) with 2min rest between sets
  • All rest between sets are active a low intensity skill can be performed during this time.

Session 1 & 3 would look like this:

  • 5min warm up
  • 3min continues run @ 90-100% MAS (about 6-8 field lengths)
  • 2min active rest (Skills)
  • Repeat 8-10 times

Session 2 & 4 would look like this:

  • 5min warm up
  • 20sec run at 130- 140% MAS: 40sec rest x 8
  • 2min active rest (Skills)
  • Repeat 3-4 times

This example is for 2 sessions a week, but the session can be increased to 3 or 4 by just repeating one of the previous sessions.

Block 2 (Week 3-4, hard running)

During this block, we will hit the “sweet spot” of MAS work. Running speed will be at 120% MAS and will vary in time and rest intervals. You can continue with extensive runs during this block just to keep developing capacity.

  • Session 1 (sweet spot): 15 sec run @ 120% MAS with 15 rest- repeat 8 times, then active rest for 2 min
  • Session 2 (extensive): 3min run @ 100% MAS with 90sec rest- repeat 4 times.
  • Session 3 (sweet spot): 20 sec run @ 120% MAS with 20 rest- repeat 10 times, then active rest for 2 min
  • Session 4 (extensive): 4min run @ 100% MAS with 90sec rest- repeat 4 times.
  • During the active rest, one can start doing a bit more high-intensity drills like units for the forwards or 2 v1 & 3 v 2’s for the backs

Block 3 (Week 5-6, intermitted runs with COD)

During this block, I like to challenge high-intensity work of players and progressively stretch the time. We start off quite short but then build over the 2 weeks. The turn and run and acceleration/deceleration during the games place a very high metabolic demand on the players and should not be done more than twice a week.


  • Session 1: 20 Sec shuttle run (1 turn) @ 140% MAS with 40sec rest (10 push up) for 5min, take a 2min break then play 5min of small sided games. Repeat 3 times.
  • Session 2: 20 Sec shuttle run (1 turn) @ 140% MAS with 40sec rest (10 push up) for 4min, take a 90sec break then play 4min of small sided games. Repeat 4 times.
  • Session 3: 20 Sec shuttle run (1 turn) @ 140% MAS with 40sec rest (10 push up) for 3min, take a 60sec break then play 3min of small sided games. Repeat 5 times.
  • Session 4: 20 Sec shuttle run (1 turn) @ 140% MAS with 40sec rest (10 push up) for 2min, take a 60sec break then play 2min of small sided games. Repeat 8 times.


What I liked:

  • There is a nice flow from volume to intensity. Each block prepared the players for the next block
  • You don’t lose the rugby aspect. There is coaching that can happen in between and progressively becomes more intense. Ideally, you what to build your skills progression in such a way that it can be expressed in the small sided game in block 3.
  • Very easy to organise your session. All you need are some cones and field and ready to go.
  • Players get exposed to various running intensity’s and they work on individually set pace each time.


What I don’t like:

  • Sessions areorganisation and planning. Since all recovery is active, you would need coaches to set up drills.
  • Coaches need complete buy-in and understanding. There is no point coaches what to go too hard at their skill while players are “recovering”. It can mess up the session. It’s vital that the coaches understand their time and intensity constraint during the session and plan accordingly.
  • Players’ fitness level might change after 3-4 weeks. Especially if you have a reasonably unfit group to start off with. You might have to re-teat MAS after halfway through the 6 week period.
  • Time, one does not always have 6 weeks to set aside for conditioning, so the training plan has to be modified according to your time availability.

The 3rd protocol that I have used is based on the methods prescribed by Dr Dan Baker in his article, “Recent trend in high-intensity aerobic training for field sports”.

In this article 3 progressive methods are used to gradually increase running intensity over 8 weeks.

I have used two of the methods namely the “Grids Method” and the “Eurofit Method”. The “Eurofit method” is very similar to what we did in block 2 of the soccer running program and will not be discussed again.

Maximal Aerobic Grid Method:

This method entails running short intervals (15-30sec) at lower intensities (100-110% MAS) with a 15-30sec active recovery of running at 50-70% of MAS. This will continue for 5-10min.

The best way to implement this running program is set out a running rectangle of various dimensions based on the running distance required. The long side of the rectangle will equal the 15sec  100%, while the short side will equal 15sec @ 70% MAS. The fastest group are on the outside grid or running channel, with the slowest group along the inside grid. Below is an illustration of how the grid looks.












From the imaged above it can be seen that group 1 will run 72m in 15s along the long side followed by 50m along the short side of the rectangle. Each group will have its own lane to run in based on the MAS capabilities. It takes 1min to complete the block without rest and can be done continuously for about 5min initially.

The best way to progress this method is to increase the time of each set. One can start with 2-3 sets of 5min with 2min rest between and then increase the length of each set with 1-2 min each week. Continue this until you can do 3 sets of 10min. It’s advised not to increase the running speed or the running time since this will increase the size of the block and you might run out of space. Running intensity can vary based on the fitness level of your group and 90% MAS can be a better way to start the first session of your squad has not been training for a while.

What I Liked:

  • The whole system containing all 3 methods is an excellent tool for progressively increasing running intensities with various resting time and activities during resting time.
  • The “Grid Method” is excellent for larger groups and the whole team can be monitored at one time while completing the grid.
  • Can vary in intensity based on conditioning levels of your group
  • Very simple to understand for players and clear outcome what each player should do during the session.
  • Great for gradually increasing running base and aerobic development.


What I don’t like:

  • I have used this method once and to be honest, the setup is a chore. Packing out the grid can take a while and needs to be measure accurately otherwise you rectangle does not work.
  • Takes up a lot of space. If you have limited space on field this drills is not going to work.


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