Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Conditioning for football (soccer)

I have had a couple of posts recently about fitness for football. Basically the idea is to train functionally - think about the demands of the sport and train for that. You will not be running continuously for 90 minutes....or even for 5 minutes, so why train like that? It makes more sense to build training around sprints, balance work, agility etc rather than long runs.

Anyway, I spotted this article in the Guardian :
Appliance of Science replaces gruelling summer slog - footballers in pre season training are doing interval training instead of long runs - it gets them fitter faster and more effectively.

.......McGregor says that Villa's players can cover up to 14km (8.7 miles) over the course of 90 minutes, although that is often in short, sharp bursts giving little value to the old-fashioned long- distance run. Instead much of the training now is intense and also involves the ball. "What we want to try and do is kid the players," says O'Leary. "We want them to be running but running with the ball so they don't realise they're working so hard."

(I'm an Everton fan by the way, hence the photo...)


Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Chris good to see you following up on the soccer stuff. I agree with the article and there is some research about using the ball but I prefer to keep the interval work without the ball and than cross the group over to a specific ball section e.g. 2 V 2 for a short period than back into some interval work without the ball. Reason - in my experience the intensity is not maintained with the ball but by including the ball in the overall session you will still get players enjoying the session. It must be remebered that a player has the ball for less than 2 minutes a game at their feet.

Chris said...

Craig - don't know if you saw this post a while ago, also about football


Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Chris Had a look at that abstract but really will have to have a look at the ull article. On the basis of the abstract I think the research is not great and Im unsure how they generalise the results across to a game situation. Firstly a n=10 is very low thus I dont think there was enough statistical power and to be honest I just cant see how they come to such a conclusion but I want to reerve too much criticism until I see the article However I think a combination of hih intenity work with a without the bal in the same session is superior to all ball or all without the ball. I thiink if players are performing metabolic agility training without the ball there is definately a psychological component so I dont think this research justifies the use of the ball. everton are having a good season but you are supporting the wrong team from the right area


Chris said...


By the way - right area, wrong team - do you mean Tranmere Rovers? ;-)

Only joking. I no longer live in Merseyside and actually - although it is heresy for a blue - I would rather see Liverpool do well than many other clubs, especially in Europe.

Phillip said...

Is there any benefit to continuous work (running or kettlebell swings, snatches for time)? Intervals have been getting a lot of good press, but is the effectiveness of intervals diminished if there is not a aerobic base already established?

Chris said...


you should maybe refer that question to Dr Duncan who comments above - he is a professional in this area.

In my view there are a couple of issues here. One - you can definitely build an "aerobic base" through intervals. Two - what are you training for? An interval based/intermittent sport or a continuous one? If you want to be able to go continuously - train that way. If you are operating in bursts, train for that. In any case, intervals will increase your endurance (there is study somewhere on that, not at my fingertips right now)

Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Phil and Chris Yes I agree with Chris the aspect of "base" is an interestiing one and often people believe that creating a base can only be achieved through long slow distance running - this may be true for long distance sports such as marathon running etc but for our game interval training is the most effective means to increase the aerobic power of your athlete. The manipulation of work rest ratio's and distances is very important but I believe that you need to analyse the game first and structure your intervals accordingly. I also dont see the need for continuous snatches or swings for the football player. Football can be described as a multi sprint sport and thus we need to train for that. I have reported a 10-15% improvement in VO2 of semi pro players who have only used interval training over a period of 6 weeks

Phillip said...

Thank you Dr. Duncan and Chris. This is a very good blog with cutting edge information.

As a kettlebell lifter, there was a tremendous surge towards GS (long, relaxed work sets of 10 minutes or longer) in early 2007. It was stated that it created tremendous fitness including increases in strength and endurance. Another benefit was that it created mental strength from having to work under a load.

Hardstyle or more sprint style kettlebell lifting received a lot of attention in late 2007 mostly due to Kenneth Jay's Max Vo2 protocol. His protocol seemed to be supported by a number of recent articles and studies showing the tremendous upside of interval training e.g., equal if not superior Max Vo2 levels, great time efficiency, and better sport performance.

I agree that intervals would make more sense for football/soccer. I also agree that training should be sport specific.

I am just wondering if we are missing anything by relying on intervals as the primary aerobic conditioning method as opposed to LSD/continuous work?

Chris said...

It is back to what you want to train for ..... being specific to the event. So, in kettlebell competition (GS) you are there to get as many snatches or jerks as possible in 10 minutes. That is the competition rules. So that is how competitors train - long 10 minute sets.

If you need to be able to operate in 10 minute stretches train that way. If your sport is in shorter bursts, use shorter intervals.

GS is just the latest craze - not good or bad - just different.