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Soccer Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic fitness is an important physical variable to consider in top-level soccer since elite players cover 10-12 km during a competitive match at an average intensity of ~70% of their maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) (Bangsbo et al., 2006; Stolen et al., 2005). Soccer fitness drills and activities related to developing aerobic fitness in soccer.


Aerobic SSG's

Aerobic soccer fitness determines the level at which you can take in and use oxygen to perform an activity. An activity like walking doesn't put much stress on your body and most people can cope with this aerobic activity. Aerobic activities are activities like jogging, where you can continue without getting too tired. You work at a rate which means you don't get completely fatigued or out of breath. Aerobic training will decrease the level at which this fatigue takes place, and will make your heart and lungs more efficient for exercise.

Aerobic Fitness Drills

Aerobic Fitness soccer drills and conditioning programs and exercises for soccer. These soccer fitness drills and practices aim at specifically training the aerobic energy systems and increasing the aerobic exercise capacity of football players.

Aerobic Fitness Science

Articles related to soccer fitness.  Including soccer fitness theory, soccer fitness testing and scientific studies related to soccer training

5 Types of Soccer Fitness Training (Effects on Aerobic Fitness)

Soccer Training can be separated into six main classifications. A combination of these different types of training is considered optimal for aerobic training. Mixing controlled interval training with small sided games is considered the typical modern approach to football fitness.

  • Interval Training
  • Repeated Sprint Training
  • Small-Sided Games
  • Speed and Agility Training
  • Circuit Training

Interval Training

Its long established that interval training is one of the foundations of football fitness historically. The beneficial aspects from interval training on aerobic endurance have been reported in studies in professional soccer (Wong et al., 2010).

In addition, studies with competitive/elite level youth players have also shown the positive training effects of structured interval training over a period of time (Bravo et al., 2007, Helgerud, J, 2004). Anaerobic endurance improved in an 8-week conditioning program using interval training (Sporis et al., 2008)

Physical adaptations seen in a study by (Hoff et al., 2002) were as follows: a) VO2max, b) lactate threshold, c) running economy, d) distance covered (6.4-20%) in a match, e) number of sprints (100%), f) number of involvements with the ball (+24%), g) work intensity, h) 200-2400m-tests (4.2-7.9%).

Simple examples of structured soccer interval training tests showed that performing 4 x 4 sets at 90-95% of maximal heart rate with a 3 min jog periods, twice weekly increased players aerobic capacity (Bravo et al., 2007, Helgerud et al., 2001, Impellizzeri et al., 2006). Performing 4 x 4 sets at 90-95%, with 3 minute jog recoveries at increased frequency has also clearly shown improvements in fitness capacity. 3-4 times per week benefits were shown over a 5 week period on U14 players (Sporis et al., 2008). The same has been shown in other complimentary studies for extended periods (4-8 weeks) (Dellal et al., 2012, Iaia, F.M et al., 2009, Sporis et al., 2008).

Repeated Sprint Training

The ability to perform repeated sprints over varying distances it critical in football (soccer). For testing purposes repeated sprints can be classified as several sprints often with incomplete recovery periods due to the unpredictability of a match. Several studies for repeated sprint training have shown improvements to aerobic endurance (Meckel et al., 2009, Mujika et al., 2010, Buchheit et al, 2010). Youth players also have displayed increased aerobic endurance with 40m repeated sprint training at maximum intensity (Tonnessen et al, 2011).

Small-Sided Games

The specificity of small sided games fitness training makes it an ideal format for training players. Controlled small sided games involve specific football movements and combine technical and tactical training and conditioning into one training exercise. Small sided games studies have show evidence of the following physical adaptations in footballers significant increase in aerobic endurance (Hill et al., 2009, Mallo et al., 2008). Also increases in VO2 Max capacity in both elite and youth players (Jensen et al., 2007, Chamari et al., 2005) and improved running velocity at lactate threshold (Impellizzeri, et al, 2006). Additionally, in-season use of small sided fitness games showed positive effects on repeated sprint ability.
The negatives of small sided games fitness training are shown in the inability to fully control players work rate, their overload, movement and therefore intensity. The random nature of the demands on small sided games can only be controlled to a certain extent. The difficulty in controlling intensity has been shown in studies (Little, 2009). Considerations need to be made concerning players positional demands in small sided games, the performance on the opponents and/or motivation levels, etc.
For these reasons it is suggested that a combinations of fitness training methods be used in order to optimally develop a players fitness levels.

Speed & Agility Training

Some studies (in similar sports) have found a moderate correlation between speed and agility exercises/drill and an increase in aerobic fitness (Buchheit et al., 2010).

Circuit Training

A more limited area of training research, some studies have sown the effects of football circuit training on aerobic fitness. Improvements were see in both VO2 MAX after 20 training sessions (two training session/week) for 10 weeks.The players performed four sets of 3 minutes of recovery jogging at 70% max heart rate (Hoff et al., 2002). Chamari (2005) also showed similar results with using circuit training.