Game Fitness

The following is an excerpt from our SoccerFIT Summer 2010 Camp eBook… A question always seems to come up when we talk about our philosophy and progressions in regards to soccer fitness. What is the ideal fitness program for young soccer players? First you have to understand that there are generally two lines of thinking when it come to conditioning soccer players… 1) the fitness coaches view of the traditional cardiovascular conditioning, and 2) the tactical skills coaches view of fitness as it relates to the game itself.

First, the traditional progression for fitness is as follows:

1. Aerobic Base (longer runs, improving pace, heart rate and recovery)
2. Aerobic / Anaerobic Transition (transitioning into intermediate length runs of 1-2-3 minutes)
3. Anaerobic / Lactic Transition (focusing on 20-60 second runs with little recovery)
4. Sport Specific Interval Training (mixing in appropriate pace, duration and recovery)
5. Sport Specific Speed and Application (game based fitness, small sided games, etc.)

The great part about traditional fitness training is the control you have as a coach over all the variables. As seen above (in the green graph taken during a Sport Specific Interval Training Phase), you can get nice, clean charts and graphs of pace with specifically timed changes in speed and/or distance. And below in the heart rate graph (taken during a workout from the Anaerobic / Lactic Transition Phase) you can see the nice even curves with consistent recovery and a slow elevation in heart rate as the session built to a peak.

Lately some case studies and team studies have provoked questions as to whether or not this progression is really necessary. Since the game is not played at a consistent pace, with scheduled work / rest intervals, do we need to train in this type of controlled environment? A new model is beginning to emerge that emphasizes the use of acyclic movements (agility, change of pace, change of direction, reaction, and integrated skill in the form of small sided games) instead of the typical cyclic movements that are commonly associated with fitness training (running, cycling, rowing, etc. where the motion is repetitive and cyclic). This new model cuts out several of traditional stages and focuses on just two aspects.

Second, the new model for sport specific fitness:

1. Specific Fitness (sport specific interval mix of appropriate pace, duration and recovery)
2. More Specific Fitness (game based prep with player vs. player situations and reaction)

As you can see in the heart rate graphs below, simulating the game fitness with small sided activities and situational play (top graph) can mimic some of the specific intensities and durations as seen in an actual game (bottom graph). Notice how these types of training sessions don’t have the controlled look that the graphs above will show.

Our model is a hybrid of both of these thought processes, as we believe that a broad foundation of fitness is never a bad idea for young athletes of any sport, but sometimes the aerobic emphasis can be over used and we have seen players develop great aerobic capacity without the use of longer runs (substituting shorter rest periods during interval training instead).

Our model is as follows:

1. High Intensity Aerobic Intervals (2:1 work to rest intervals – 6m on 3m off or 40s on 20s off)
2. Long Sprints/HR Recovery (repeated runs of 10-20s at 65-85% with short, active recovery)
3. Sport Specific Intervals (blending sport specific movement, skill, duration, pace, recovery)
4. Game Specific Fitness (small sided games mixed with speed and agility drills at set intervals)

In our model, we believe that areas 1 & 2 above can be done almost simultaneously progressing week to week done on alternating days. We are trying to broaden the foundation for younger players, exposing them to different types of cardiovascular development. Once a soccer specific base has been built, we start to become more game specific and movement specific with our conditioning drills. You have seen this already as we will incorporate the agility movements into the ball based passing / receiving drills. This keeps the training fun and soccer specific as they develop these key aspects simultaneously as opposed to individually.

To learn learn more about how we develop our players with a blended mix of traditional fitness, specific agility and soccer skill, you can order our SoccerFIT Summer Speed/Agility Manual. This 60 page manual is loaded with programs and drills with video links of each of our progressions for strength, speed, agility, fitness and skill.

What are the Coaches saying about the book?

“As a former MLS professional I became fascinated with the ‘game from a physical enhancement’ point of view and your material is always top notch. I purchased your Summer Soccer PDF and first off, let me say it is very well done, and probably the best eBook on the market at this point.”

– Damion Blackburn,
CUSA Courage Boys Technical Director