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Aerobic Training for Soccer

by Taylor Tollison

When planning an effective training program for soccer it is important to consider: aerobic fitness level, repeat sprint ability or RSA, speed, strength, power, agility and playing ability, etc. In this article I will only focus on the aerobic aspect of soccer. Trainers and coaches from all over world seem to have varying opinions on the topic of conditioning for soccer. Many believe that continuous running is the death to the speed of a soccer athlete. Others believe that it is best to do continuous running for soccer. While many others might think it appropriate to do shuttle running only.  Whatever the philosophy, the key component to making your conditioning program effective is specificity.

Soccer is an intermittent sport consisting of sprints followed by periods of walking or jogging. Does specificity of training apply only to movement or also to the energy systems that contributes to the movement? The answer is that it applies to movement, muscles and energy systems. This means that if we do 3 mile continuous runs, which focus on the aerobic part of the equation, we are missing a couple key components, movement and muscles specific to soccer.

As mentioned previously trainers might spend day after day having their athletes do countless number of sprints to condition their athletes. Although there is a place and time for doing anaerobic work, we can’t ignore the aerobic system in training.

 Victory may actually depend on your aerobic fitness levels. Jan Hoff and Jan Helgerud (3) have demonstrated through research that an improvement of 5-6 ml/kg/min in VO2max is followed by: 1) 1500-2000 meters more covered in a game 2) doubled number of sprints 3) 30% more involvements with the ball Plan you aerobic training regimen so that you improve your aerobic fitness while maintaining or improving your speed.

Doing countless number of hours a week running mile after mile will affect negatively your athlete’s speed. Let me repeat that because it is one of the most important things to understand with training fitness in soccer. Continuous running for soccer could be the kiss of death to that athlete’s speed. Remember, the body adapts to the stimulus put on it. So if you do long slow running your players muscles will adapt to long slow running. And your athlete’s might be more susceptible to overuse injuries. An effective way to build aerobic fitness levels, in a soccer specific way, is to do Tempo runs.

I will address specific methods, sets and reps for an overall fitness program in the future on the website. As you put together your fitness program for your soccer athletes remember the goal is not aerobic power or increased Vo2max. The goal is to improve performance on the field. Performance on the field can be equated to your athlete’s ability to be at the right place at the right time. Aerobic fitness levels could be the difference between winning and losing if trained right. Never let conditioning be the reason you loose a game. Sometimes conditioning can actually be an extra tool to give you that extra point needed to win the championship.

 (3) Hoff, J and Helgerud, J., Hoff-Helgerud Football endurance test