As we are continuously in search of a way to assess game based soccer fitness in a training environment, we have played around with many different styles of conditioning drills. In the past we have created activities such as our repeated sprint interval, our Soccer FITness Interval, 90-second interval and now the 4-mile interval is the next in a long line of great soccer specific workouts that provide both a tremendous training effect as well as a great way to assess game based fitness.
The 4 Mile Interval or 2, 4, 6, 8 workout as some have called it, came to us as we were looking at total distance covered in a soccer match. In elite professional players the distance is right around 6 miles (10 km). For our younger players (high school age) we assume that due to the speed of play, stoppage time and shortened game length, the distance is more accurately around 4 miles (6.5 km).
We also know that about 2/3 of the game is spent at a walking or jogging intensity, and the remaining 1/3 of the game is a mix of running, sprinting and change of direction. To keep things simple we came up with a simple assessment of 20-second walk, 20-second jog and 20-second run intervals for a period of 4 miles (we have about a dozen variations of this walk-jog-run interval). The goal of this particular version was to finish the test in as short a time as possible. This proved to be a very good base assessment with our more advanced players completing the 4 miles in roughly 35 to 40 minutes, with 1/3 coming from running and 2/3 coming from walking or jogging.
When we brought this test/training workout to some of the teams we consult with, the question they asked was, “Why do you try to do it as quickly as possible? Why not just have them stay at a particular pace for the full 45 minutes?”
Our response was that players that are able to make the biggest impact in the game tend to cover more distance, more sprints or have a faster pace throughout the game than players who have a lesser impact in the game. In other words we wanted to push the pace and intensity over a longer period of time.
This workout worked very well for us for quite awhile, until we started to question the lack of high intensity runs. We then decided to take this 4-mile format and build in phases of longer jogs or runs and more max effort sprint phases. To keep it simple we broke it down into 4 phases, or distances, that the players would cover.
4 Mile – 2, 4, 6, 8 Interval
- 800 yd runs x 2 100 yd walk in between
- 400 yd runs x 4 100 yd walk in between
- 200 yd runs x 6 50 yd walk in between
- 100 yd runs x 8 50 yd walk in between
*100 yd runs have to hit at least 90% of max speed
This workout proved to be much more realistic as the players had to work much harder towards the end of the workout. The two half miles in the beginning of the workout proved to be the toughest portion to “grind” through for our players, and then in a semi fatigued state the players had to crank up the intensity as the workout progressed.
By setting a distance to cover instead of a set time to perform a specific task (walk, jog or run for 20 seconds), we allow for some freedom to control pace and intensity (just like a game), making for a very challenging workout (mentally and physically).
In our estimation, most of the 800’s started out as runs and then faded into a jogging zone and the 100’s started out as sprints and then after 10 seconds or so would fade into strong runs and eventually down to runs or jogs as they hit their distances. The pie graph above shows a representation of what this program looks like. The graph below shows an actual players pace through the workout as run on the Woodway Curve Treadmill (non motorized treadmill with a curved deck).
Heart rate graphs during this session show recovery between intervals but a very high heart rate during the entire workout.
When compared to the first half of an actual game, heart rates don’t see quite the same fluctuations in recovery, but overall it was very similar in terms of peaks and level of recovery over the same time period.
This program is very quickly becoming a favorite amongst players and coaches alike. We have had players during the off-season and pre-season come in several times a week to attempt to better their score. And coaches will also run the program, as it is a great way to simulate competitive situations (competing with themselves and their players) in a fantastic workout.
Running the program on the Woodway Curve treadmill will follow the format shown here. The 200yd distance is set at .17 miles and the 100yd distance is set at .07 miles, while the 50 yd distance is set at .03 miles. This keeps the format easy to follow.