There are numerous fitness factors that are important in soccer. I have already described how much a player runs in soccer and in another article, I talked about how training can be manipulated to improve endurance.
Why the focus on endurance, when probably the biggest change in the game is the speed at which the game is played? Competitive male players cover about two-thirds of the game (females about three-fourths) at a walk or a jog. The better the endurance, the faster pace one can cover this large part of the game meaning the faster you get from one place on the field to another.
Also, the better the endurance, the faster one recovers from each hard run.
But how much endurance is enough? Obviously, the soccer player doesn't need the endurance of a marathoner, and along the spectrum of athletes, the endurance of the soccer player is really pretty average. But as team sports go, their endurance is among the best because the game demands decent endurance to be successful.
But again, how much is enough? How can a coach confirm that their team's endurance is improving or that their endurance is sufficient for play? The best way to tell if a player has good endurance is to test their endurance. That's pretty obvious, but how?
There are many tests of endurance. Here is a brief list of test methods:
An athlete works progressively harder on a treadmill or cycle until they are unable to continue. Expired air is analyzed during the test and a statement of aerobic capacity is calculated as oxygen consumption in ml O2 / kg / min. Advantages: the gold standard for endurance testing. Disadvantages: expensive; requires a lab and skilled personnel to administer and interpret; only test one at a time; not soccer-specific running.
A team runs around a track as far as they can in 12 minutes. The results correlate to VO2 max. The score is how far the player ran in 12 minutes. Advantages: easy; only need a stopwatch and people to count laps. Disadvantages: pure endurance running, not soccer-specific running.
These are 20-meter shuttle tests paced by an audiotape. There is a beep to start running, a beep when to arrive and turn at the 20-meter point, then a beep for when you are be back at the start line. The beeps continue until the athlete fails to keep the pace set by the audiotape. The score is the total distance covered (number of runs x 40 meters). Advantages: easy to do; you can test many players at once; just need the tape and a "boom box." Disadvantage: tears the field up (at the turn-around point).
There are many types of beep tests (also called Yo-Yo tests), but they all fall into one of two categories:
- Continuous beep tests: In this method, the athlete runs continuously as there is no break. The pace gradually increases.
- Intermittent beep tests: The pace gradually increases, but in this method, after each run, there is a brief (usually 10 seconds) recovery period.