Monday, 26 November 2012

Applications of High Intensity Soccer Training

Aerobic high-intensity training has typically focused on enhancing VO2max, utilizing training protocols that elicit high percentages of VO2max that are sustainable for an extended period of time. However, the importance of VO2max in football has been questioned. Indeed, in a number of studies dealing with already trained individuals, improvements in specific performance tests were not associated with significant changes in VO2max. Nevertheless, even though useful in endurance events (eg, running, cycling), the limitations of performing continuous aerobic high-intensity training for football should be considered. Match analysis systems show that, during a game, players perform ~250 brief intense runs as well as many other demanding activities, including turning, tackling, jumping, kicking, and breaking. Thus, both the characteristics and the intermittent nature of the game should be taken into account when designing training programs for football. As a consequence, we suggest that aerobic and speed-endurance training should be football related and preferably performed with the ball. There are several advantages associated with carrying out soccer-specific training compared with generic training activities. For example, the ability to change direction at high running speed is specifically related to the type of training performed. Therefore, it is important that the training activities resemble those experienced during the game so that the groups of muscles engaged in football are trained, and the specific coordination abilities developed. This outcome can be achieved through small-sided games or football-related drills consisting of repeated exercise bouts involving changes of speed, direction, and specific movement patterns typical of those performed during match play.

English: Ryan Valentine scores the goal that k...

   The study by Ferrari Bravo showed that a training protocol employing 4 x 4-min continuous running at 90% to 95% HRmax improved VO2max but was less effective in enhancing football-specific performance (YYIR test) compared with repeated-sprint training. On the contrary, repeated sprint5 and small-sided game training were both very effective in improving YYIR performance. The physiological responses to continuous exercise are different from those to intermittent exercise, with the latter allowing higher prolonged metabolic stress with less marked fatigue. For example, the rise of the O2 uptake is faster, the total utilization of O2 bound to myoglobin is greater, and the fluctuations of muscle ATP and creatine phosphate are more pronounced when intense exercise is repeated. In addition, substrate utilization and fiber type recruitment are different, with intermittent exercise activating both slow and fast twitch fibers, which would have been recruited only after prolonged sub maximal continuous exercise. These aspects are particularly relevant for team sports in which the ability to perform high-intensity intermittent exercise is essential.

   Another advantage of performing specific high-intensity training in football is that the coordination, technical, and tactical skills are trained under fatiguing conditions closer to match play. For example, a study from the Italian Serie A league reported that players of the most successful teams cover a greater total distance (18%), including a higher proportion of high-intensity (16%) running in possession of the ball compared with players of less successful teams. Thus, the players’ ability to exercise at high-intensity when interacting with the ball may be an important determinant for success. In addition, studies have shown that forwards often receive the ball while sprinting or turning and cover ~64% of their high-intensity running distance with ball possession. Furthermore, the players’ involvement with the ball, short passes, and successful short passes decrease between the first and the second half as well as after periods of very high-intensity exercise during matches. These findings highlight the importance of increasing the players’ contact with the ball during high-intensity training sessions. Technical and tactical training should be performed under conditions that replicate the physical demands of a competitive game.

   When carrying out fitness training with the ball, it is fundamental to make sure that players are exercising at the desired intensity. Exercise intensity can be manipulated during small-sided games via modification of variables such as field dimension, number of players, the coach’s verbal encouragement, and specific rules. Studies have shown that different combinations of these factors may lead to a variety of intensities resulting in ranges from ~84% of maximal heart rate (blood lactate concentration of ~3.4 mmol/L) during a six-a-side game on small pitch without coach encouragement, to ~91% of maximal heart rate (blood lactate concentration of ~6.5 mmol/L) during a three-a-side game on a larger pitch with coach encouragement. All this information suggests that small sided games represent a valid aerobic training stimulus.

   In modern football, players may be required to play up to ~50 games over a season, and it is important to maximize the limited time available for training. Under these circumstances, the match analysis data could be useful for examining the physical demands of match play and then designing specific game-related training drills based on the players’ needs (ie, technical, tactical and physical). For example, central defenders cover less total distance and perform less high intensity running than players in other positions. In contrast, the decline in high-intensity running with ball possession is greater for attackers and external midfielders, most likely as a result of their increased high-intensity exercise and shorter recovery periods between intense bouts. Furthermore, central midfielders complete a higher percentage of explosive sprints whereas attackers and fullbacks perform more leading sprints. Finally, although each tactical role is characterized by a typical activity profile, large individual variations in work profile are evident within the same playing position. Thus, it is important that the type and the amount of high-intensity football training are specific to the competitive demands of match play.

Referenced By:
F. Marcello Iaia, Ermanno Rampinini, and Jens Bangsbo

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