One thing coaches who are interested in speed seem to be continually confused about is the value of tempo training. Whether it be with sprinters, or with team sport athletes — it seems like running at slower than 70% of maximum sprint speed creates controversy, and brings about a high number of people at both extremes of the continuum of its requirement.
Here is our one-sentence take: a certain amount of general capacity is required to maximize an athlete’s potential in almost all sporting activities — including the sprint events of track & field, and all of the popular team sports.
Tempo training is one method that has been used to improve an athlete’s capacity to do work, with justifications from coaches usually along the lines of: “a greater general capacity will allow an athlete to recover faster between intense bouts of exercise, and potentially do more.”
We tend to agree with this statement.
The real question isn’t whether tempo training is valuable — it’s “how much is necessary”, and “are there alternatives”?
The answers to these two questions are obviously contextual – they will depend upon the athlete and sport you work with – but know this: ignore general work at your peril. If you feel that specific (and-or intense) work is enough, you are limiting the development of your athletes and teams.