Your ultimate goal when training as an athlete is to get stronger, mainly because this is also how we get faster. The best way to do so is by stressing the nervous system into recruiting the largest motor units possible in order to add strength. This is done most efficiently by lifting HEAVY weights at maximal effort for 3-5 repetitions. Training to maximize athletic performance means heavier weights and lower reps, most of the time. This style of training should be your main focus as an athlete, specifically on the “core” lifts (squats, deadlifts, RDL's, bench press, power clean etc.). When training to maximize strength, we want adequate recovery time between sets in order to perform at the highest level possible for every set. Dead lifting 400lbs for 3 reps with a 3-4 minute rest in between sets so that you can perform that same weight or more for 3 reps again, is better than having to drop weight on the following set to achieve your 3 rep goal because you did not get adequate rest. Do not mistaken fatigue for strength gain because the two are not necessarily correlated. Although the ultra high intensity, wobbly legged and dizzy when finished style of training has been popularized in sports training, it is not the optimal way to go about your goal of becoming a faster, stronger and a more powerful athlete.
With that being said, the above is not a free pass excusing athletes from high intensity training as there are times that we will want to incorporate shorter rest periods and lower weight into the program. We can do this through what we call dynamic effort lifts which are performed with a lighter weight (50% of 1 rep max) while doing the repetitions as fast as possible. Performing dynamic effort lifts is not advised however unless you have good technique on that particular lift. Moving the weight at a high speed with improper form can cause more harm than good and obviously lead to injury. Watch the video below for an example video on dynamic effort training.
Dynamic effort lifts are great for increasing explosiveness, and an ideal program will incorporate both training strategies although with a much higher focus on maximal effort strength training rather than dynamic effort.
It is important that you realize the goal of your training session for that day, whether that be maximal effort strength training or dynamic effort. Just be sure to schedule your weights, sets, reps and rest times accordingly.