Sports research has provided us with much helpful information regarding the high-level soccer player. When compared with other athletes in terms of fitness, we know that the world class soccer player is:
- Extremely agile
- Fast in short sprints
- Average endurance, but able to recover quickly form high intensity runs
- Good high power output
- Average body fat levels
- Some problems with flexibility in the legs
- Excellent local muscle endurance in the shoulders and abdomen
- Average to good relative leg strength
Assuming you possess a reasonable level of general endurance (aerobic conditioning), the type of fitness work you should concentrate on is speed endurance and speed training.
This is anaerobic training which emphasizes high intensity work for 30-90 seconds followed by a measured recovery = Interval training. Generally a 1:3 work/rest ratio is recommended. If you possess good anaerobic conditioning, work at a 1:2 work/rest ratio. Some examples of this type of training are:
220 yard runs
Using a running track or measuring out a 220 yard horseshoe on a soccer field. Target time is 35 sec. for each run allowing for 60-90 sec. of recovery before the next repetition. 5 reps (5 x 220) = 1 set. (5 min. rest between sets.) Try to complete 2 sets for one complete fitness session
4020 shuttle runs
- Measure out a 40-yard distance. Run from the starting line up to the 40 yard marker, return to the start and then finish at the 40 yard marker (3 x 40=120 yards). Target time for the shuttle is 20 seconds allowing for 40-60 sec. of recovery time before the next rep. 5 reps (5 x 120 yards) = 1 set. (3 min rest between sets) Complete 2 sets for the 1st of the fitness session.
- Measure out a 20-yard distance. Run from the starting line up to the 20 yard marker, return to the start and then finish at the 20 yard marker (3 x 20=60 yards). Target time for the shuttle is 10 sec. allowing for 20-30 sec. of recovery time before the next rep. 5 reps (5 x 60 yards) = 1 set. (3 min rest between sets). Complete 2 sets for the 2nd of the fitness session
This is also anaerobic training which emphasizes maximum intensity work for 10-15 seconds followed by a near complete recovery period. Generally a 1:6 work/rest ratio is recommended. A through and complete warm-up (including some build-up sprints + static stretching) must precede any speed training work. Some examples of this type of this type training are:
30-yard build-up sprints:
Measure out a 60-yard distance. Mark out a 15yard build-up and slow down zone at each end of the 30 yard sprint zone. From the starting line gradually build up your running speed in the first 15-yard zone; sprint near maximum through the 30yard zone and gradually slow down to walking speed in the final 15-yard zone. Walk back to the start allowing for near complete recovery (1 min). 5 reps = 1 set. Complete two sets
- Race a partner through the sprint zone
- Backpedal through the build up zone then turn and sprint through the speed zone.
- Normal running through the build and sprint zone then backpedal after finishing the sprint through slow down zone
Slalom speed run:
From a starting line measure out five yards and set out a line of six corner flags or tall cones 10 feet (3.3 yards) apart. Place a ball 10 yards from the last flag/cone. From the starting line weave through the flags/cones at speed and finish with a straight-line sprint to the ball and control it. As you improve decrease the distance between the flags/cones while increasing the speed of the run until they are less than three feet (one yard) apart.
Speed and perception with a ball:Individually (One player with a ball)
- Stand: throw the ball overhead. Listen for the bounce: at impact, turn and collect the ball at speed
- Back-heel the ball, turn and collect at speed.
- Sit: kick the ball overhead. Rise, turn and collect at speed.
In pairs (ball between two)
- Two players standing five yards apart are inter-passing. When one leaves the ball, the other sprints to retrieve.
- One player faces passer. Ball is played straight to receiver who jumps over it, turns and chases.
- Feeder serves underhand to partner. Receiver plays ball over his own head, turns and collects at speed.
- Dribble relay: One player dribble at speed to a marker 20 yards away and leaves the ball to sprint back to start to tag his partner who sprints out to the ball and dribbles it back to the starting line.
For more soccer and conditioning tips check out the Washington Soccer School Web site.