A number of studies have now shown that small sided games are an effective form of aerobic training in soccer opposed to the traditional generic (running) training techniques. Also objective measures and match analysis also showed an increase in match related activities.
In a study by (Impellizzeri et al) one group performed running interval training sessions (each consisting of 4 x 4 min at 90-95% HRmax with 3 min of rest) twice a week for 12 weeks. The second group performed the same amount (duration) of training using soccer specific drills and games.
Each group was tested using a soccer specific endurance test (Ekblom’s Circuit Test) along with match analysis.
A second study showed that the intensities exhibited in small sided games (3-a-side) on 32x20m field were superior to those experienced during a competitive match. Also noted during this study was that the addition of goal keepers reduced the intensity of the games. Concluding that small sided games can replicate (and even surpass) the demands of real match scenarios.
Recommendations and Conclusions
Modern fitness training and in particular aerobic fitness development (paramount to soccer performance) can be improved using soccer specific training activities (i.e. small sided games and ball related exercises). In order to develop efficient and effective practices it seems logical that overall performance benefits would be greater using small sided games/drills where technique and tactical understanding can also be developed in concurrently with fitness. This can be an advantage especially for young soccer players, as the improvement of sport specific motor skills is related to the frequency of practice sessions.
Soccer specific activities also promote the use of specific muscles used in real match scenarios. Psychologically, players also have higher levels of motivation when involved in game related activities in comparison to generic running exercises. It should be noted that the dimensions and durations of active play and rest impact the energy systems being trained in players.
Effects of repeated sprint and speed-endurance training on physiological adaptation and performance in football players
F. Marcello Iaia et al,International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2009, 4, 291-306, 2009 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Other Examples of Training:
Hoff and Helgerud (2001) achieved success with a specifically designed interval training programme of 4x4 mins at 90-95% HRmax with 3 min jog between. Players performed twice a week for 8 weeks with significant improvements in match distance covered, number of sprints and number of contacts with the ball.
Hoff et al (2002) also developed a specific dribbling track for fitness development (shown below).
Impellizzeri FM, Marcora SM, Castagna C, Reilly T, Sassi A, Iaia FM, Rampinini E.
Mallo J, Navarro E.