This block is typically 2–6 weeks in duration and involves relatively high volumes and lower intensities (specifically muscular endurance/hypertrophy). The primary objective of this non–sport-specific phase is to increase the player's tolerance to the continuously increasing training and competition demands and to address individual dysfunction. Exercises prescribed during this phase should focus on the individual needs of the player. See Table 9 for an example general preparatory phase mesocycle.
This block is typically 2–4 weeks in duration and involves high-intensity training with relatively lower volumes. The focus should be on sport-specific training modes to help facilitate greater transfer to training and matches (Table 10).
This block may be up to 35 weeks in duration; training intensity and volume may vary and is easily adapted to the competition schedule. The objective of this phase is to maintain the player close to their physical peak, with some suggesting that you may even be able to increase strength levels throughout the season (7). For example, Hoffman and Kang (47) reported significant in-season improvements in strength (1RM squat and bench press) in American football players (n = 53; 2 d/wk during in-season resistance training at >80% 1RM). However, American football and soccer impose different physiological demands with the latter more aerobic in nature and associated with high levels of fatigue and cortisol concentrations (56). As such, the goal is likely to be to minimize loss of strength in elite players. For an example competition mesocycle, see Table 11.
After the competitive season, there is a transition period before structured training commences. This period of active rest is used to dissipate any muscular, neural, and psychological fatigue (85). Nonstructured, low-intensity, low-volume recreational activities are recommended during this time.
It seems prudent to address injury incidence and potential preventative strategies within soccer. Soccer is classified as a contact sport with the majority of contact occurring between opposing players while contesting ball possession. In such a sport, injury of varying severity is inevitable. It is reported that elite male soccer players incur approximately 1 performance-limiting injury each year (21,39), with the average injury resulting in 24.2 days lost to training and competition (40). These inevitable injuries appear more likely to occur during competition rather than training (90). Arnason et al. (5) identified a trend between the high number of days lost to injury and the lack of team success in elite male soccer players.
* Warm-up with more emphasis on stretching.
* Regular cool-down.
* Adequate rehabilitation with sufficient recovery time.
* Proprioceptive training.
* Protective equipment.
* Good playing conditions.
* Adherence to rules.
It is interesting to note that S&C training (or strength training in general) was not identified as a key factor. In addition to an increase in muscle strength, tendon, ligament, and cartilage strength would also increase along with bone mineral density (28,30,80), and therefore improve the structural integrity of all joints involved. Also, athletes who display an agonist-antagonist muscular imbalance may exhibit alterations in neural firing patterns, leading to increased braking times and inaccurate movement mechanics during rapid ballistic movements (50), which may expose soccer players to the aforementioned prevalent noncontact injuries during running and turning (39,40). In addition to addressing muscle imbalances, implementing exercises/drills aimed at improving the neuromuscular skill, coordination, and movement mechanics of speed and change-of-direction actions may also be of value.
Soccer is characterized as a high-intensity, intermittent contact team sport that requires a number of proficient physical and physiological capabilities to perform successfully. Aside from the necessary technical and tactical skills required, soccer players must also develop and retain a high level of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, speed, agility, strength, and power. The authors recommend that these qualities are developed using the following methods:
* Aerobic and anaerobic capacity—HIIT, SSG, and RSA.
* Speed and agility—neuromuscular skill and coordination, strength, postural control and stability, and plyometrics.
* Strength—heavy resistance training.
* Power—ballistic resistance training exercises, plyometric drills, and Olympic-style weightlifting.
When implementing the training program, it is recommended that a traditional periodized approach is applied during the off-season and preseason periods and a nontraditional approach is implemented in-season (the competition period). In addition to the physical development training, it is important to incorporate components of injury prevention. This article provides S&C coaches with the necessary scientific research to implement an evidence-based training program to enhance soccer performance.
1. Aagaard P, Simonsen EB, Trolle M, Bangsbo J, Klausen K. Effects of different strength training regimes on moment and power generation during dynamic knee extension. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 69: 382–386, 1994.
2. Abernethy B, Wann J, Parks S. Training perceptual motor skills for sport. In: Training for Sport: Applying Sport Science. Elliott B, ed. Chichester: John Wiley, 1998. pp. 1–68.
3. Allerheiligen B. In-season strength training for power athletes. Strength Cond J 25: 23–28, 2003.
4. Arampatzis A, Schade F, Walsh M, Bruggemann GP. Influence of leg stiffness and its effect on myodynamic jumping performance. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 11: 355–364, 2001.
5. Arnason A, Sigurdsson SB, Gudmundsson A, Holme I, Engebretsen L, Bahr R. Physical fitness, injuries, and team performance in soccer. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36: 278–285, 2004.
6. Asci A, Acikada C. Power production among different sports with similar maximum strength. J Strength Cond Res 21: 10–16, 2007.
7. Baker D. Applying the in-season periodization of strength and power training to football. Strength Cond J 20: 18–27, 1998.
8. Baker D, Newton R. Methods to increase the effectiveness of maximal power training for the upper body. Strength Cond J 21: 10–16, 2005, 24–32.
9. Balsom P. Precision Football. Kempele, Finland: Polar Electro Oy, 1999.
10. Bangsbo J. Time and motion characteristics of competition soccer. In: Science Football (Vol. 6), 1992. pp. 34–40.
11. Bangsbo J. The physiology of soccer—with special reference to intense intermittent exercise. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl 619: 1–156, 1994.
12. Bishop D, Girard O, Mendez-Villanueva A. Repeated-sprint ability—Part II. Sports Med 41: 741–756, 2011.
13. Bojsen-Moller J, Magnnusson SP, Rasmussen LR, Kjaer M, Aagaard P. Muscle performance during maximal isometric and dynamic contractions is influenced by the stiffness of tendinous structures. J Appl Physiol (1985) 99: 986–994, 2005.
14. Casamichana D, Castellano J. Time motion, heart rate, perceptual and motor behaviour demands in small-sided games: Effects of field size. J Sports Sci 28: 1615–1623, 2010.
15. Castagna C, Impellizzeri FM, Chamari K, Carlomagno D, Rampinini E. Aerobic fitness and yo-yo continuous and intermittent tests performances in soccer players: A correlation study. J Strength Cond Res 20: 320–325, 2006.
16. Chamari K, Chaouachi A, Hambli M, Kaouech F, Wisløff U, Castagna C. The five-jump test for distance as a field test to assess lower limb explosive power in soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 22: 944–950, 2008.
17. Chamari K, Hachana Y, Kaouech F, Jeddi R, Moussa-Chamari I, Wisløff U. Endurance training and testing with the ball in young elite soccer players. Br J Sports Med 39: 24–28, 2005.
18. Clemente F, Couceiro M, Martins F, Mendes R. The usefulness of small-sided games on soccer training. J Phys Educ Sport 12: 93–102, 2012.
19. Cronin JB, McNair PJ, Marshall RN. Force-velocity analysis of strength training techniques and load: Implications of training strategy and research. J Strength Cond Res 17: 148–155, 2003.
20. Cronin JB, Sleivert G. Challenges in understanding the influence of maximal power training on improving athletic performance. Sports Med 35: 215–234, 2005.
21. Dvorak J, Junge A. Football injuries and physical symptoms. A review of the literature. Am J Sports Med 28(5 suppl): S3–S9, 2000.
22. Edge J, Hill-Haas S, Goodman C, Bishop D. Effects of resistance training on H+ regulation, buffer capacity and repeated sprints. Med Sci Sports Exerc 38: 2004–2011, 2006.
23. Ekstrand J, Gillquist J. Soccer injuries and their mechanisms: A perspective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc 15: 267–270, 1983.
24. Farley CT, Blickhan R, Sato J, Taylor CR. Hopping frequency in humans: A test of how springs set stride frequency in bouncing gaits. J Appl Physiol (1985) 191: 2127–2132, 1991.
25. Farley CT, Morgenroth DE. Leg stiffness primarily depends on ankle stiffness during human hopping. J Biomech 32: 267–273, 1999.
26. Farrow D, Young W, Bruce L. The development of a test of reactive agility for netball: A new methodology. J Sci Med Sport 8: 40–48, 2002.
27. Flanagan EP, Comyns TM. The use of contact time and the reactive strength index to optimize fast stretch-shortening cycle training. Strength Cond J 30: 33–38, 2008.
28. Fleck S, Falkel J. Value of resistance training for the reduction of sports injuries. Sports Med 3: 61–68, 1986.
29. Fleck S, Kraemer W. Designing Resistance Training Programs. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2004. pp. 263–269.
30. Folland J, Williams A. The adaptations to strength training: Morphological and neurological contributions to increased strength. Sports Med 37: 145–168, 2007.
31. Gabbett TJ, Kelly JN, Sheppard JM. Speed, change of direction speed, and reactive agility of rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res 22: 174–181, 2008.
32. Gambetta V. Speed development for soccer. Natl Strength Cond Assoc J 12: 45–46, 1990.
33. Gamble P. Periodisation of training for team sports. Strength Cond J 28: 56–66, 2006.
34. Gamble P. Training for Sports Speed and Agility: An Evidence-based Approach. Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2012. pp. 7–19.
35. Garhammer J. A review of power output studies of Olympic and powerlifting: Methodology, performance prediction, and evaluation tests. J Strength Cond Res 7: 76–89, 1993.
36. Gorostiaga E, Walter C, Foster C, Hickson R. Uniqueness of interval and continuous training at the same maintained exercise intensity. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 63: 101–107, 1991.
37. Gravina L, Gil SM, Ruiz F, Zubero J, Gil J, Irazusta J. Anthropometric and physiological differences between first team and reserve soccer players aged 10-14 years at the beginning and end of the season. J Strength Cond Res 22: 1308–1314, 2008.
38. Haff G. Roundtable discussion: Periodization of training—Part 1. Strength Cond J 26: 50–69, 2004.
39. Hawkins R, Fuller C. A prospective epidemiological study of injuries in four English professional football clubs. Br J Sports Med 33: 196–203, 1999.
40. Hawkins R, Hulse M, Wilkinson C. The association football medical research programme: An audit of injuries in professional football. Br J Sports Med 35: 43–47, 2001.
41. Helgerud J, Engen L, Wisloff U, Hoff J. Aerobic endurance training improves soccer performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 33: 1925–1931, 2001.
42. Helgerud J, Hoydal K, Wang E, Karlsen T, Berg P, Bjerkaas M, Simonsen T, Helgesen C, Hjoth N, Bach R, Hoff J. Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39: 665–671, 2007.
43. Hill-Haas S, Dawson B, Impellizzeri FM, Coutts AJ. Physiology of small sided games training in football: A systematic review. Sports Med 41: 199–220, 2011.
44. Hoff J. Training and testing physical capacities for elite soccer players. J Sports Sci 23: 573–582, 2005.
45. Hoff J, Gran A, Helgerud J. Maximal strength training improves aerobic endurance performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports 12: 288–295, 2002.
46. Hoff J, Wisloff U, Engen L, Kemi O, Helgerud J. Soccer specific aerobic endurance training. Br J Sports Med 36: 218–221, 2002.
47. Hoffman J, Kang J. Strength changes during an in-season resistance training program for football. J Strength Cond Res 17: 109–114, 2003.
48. Hoffman J, Kraemer W, Fry A, Deschenes M, Kemp M. The effects of self-selection for frequency of training in a winter conditioning program for football. J Appl Sport Sci Res 4: 76–82, 1990.
49. Holmberg P. Agility training for experienced athletes: A dynamical systems approach. Strength Cond J 31: 73–78, 2009.
50. Jaric S, Ropert R, Kukolj M, Ilic D. Role of agonist and antagonist muscle strength in rapid movement performance. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 71: 464–468, 1995.
51. Jullien H, Bisch C, Largouet N, Manouvrier C, Carling CJ, Amiard V. Does a short period of lower limb strength training improve performance in field-based tests of running and agility in young professional soccer players? J Strength Cond Res 22: 404–411, 2008.
52. Junge A, Dvorak J. Soccer injuries: A review on incidence and prevention. Sports Med 34: 929–938, 2004.
53. Komi PV. Training of muscle strength and power: Interaction of neuromotoric, hypertrophic, and mechanical factors. Int J Sports Med 7(suppl 1): 10–15, 1986.
54. Kotzamanidis C, Chatzopoulos D, Michailidis C, Papaiakovou G, Patikas D. The effect of a combined high-intensity strength and speed training programme on the running and jumping ability of soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 19: 369–375, 2005.
55. Kraemer W, Häkkinen K, Triplett-Mcbride N, Fry A, Koziris L, Ratamess N, Bauer JE, Volek JS, MCConnell T, Newton RV, Gordon SE, Cummings D, Hauth J, Pullo F, Lynch JM, Mazzettii SA, Knuttgen HG. Physiological changes with periodized resistance training in women tennis players. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35: 157–168, 2003.
56. Kraemer W, Nindl B, Ratamess N, Gotshalk L, Volek J, Fleck S, Newton R, Hakkienen K. Changes in muscle hypertrophy in women with periodized resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36: 697–708, 2004.
57. Kraemer W, Ratamess N, Fry A, Triplett-McBride T, Koziris L, Bauer J, Lynch JM, Fleck SJ. Influence of resistance training volume and periodization on physiological and performance adaptations in collegiate women tennis players. Am J Sports Med 28: 626–633, 2000.
58. Little T, Williams AG. Specificity of acceleration, maximum speed, and agility in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 19: 76–78, 2005.
59. Little T, Williams AG. Effects of sprint duration and exercise:rest ratio on repeated sprint performance and physiological responses in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 21: 646–648, 2007.
60. MacLaren D, Davids K, Isokawa M, Mellor S, Reilly T. Physiological strain in 4-a-side soccer. In: Science and Soccer (2nd ed). Reilly T, Williams AM, eds. New York, NY: Routledge, 1988. pp. 115–129.
61. Mallo J, Navarro E. Physical load imposed on soccer players during small-sided training games. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 48: 166–171, 2008.
62. McMillan K, Helgerud J, Macdonald R, Hoff J. Physiological adaptations to soccer specific endurance training in professional youth soccer players. Br J Sports Med 39: 273–277, 2005.
63. Mirkov D, Nedeljkovic A, Kukolj M, Ugarkovic D, Jaric S. Evaluation of the reliability of soccer-specific field tests. J Strength Cond Res 22: 1046–1050, 2008.
64. Murphy AJ, Lockie RG, Coutts AJ. Kinematic determinants of early acceleration in field sport athletes. J Sports Sci 2: 144–150, 2003.
65. Newton R, Kraemer W. Developing explosive muscular power: Implications for a mixed methods training strategy. Strength Cond J 16: 20–31, 1994.
66. Nicholas S, Tyler T. Adductor muscle sprains in sport. Sports Med 32: 339–344, 2002.
67. Peterson MD, Rhea MR, Alvar BA. Applications of the dose-response for strength development: A review of meta-analytic efficacy and reliability for designing training prescription. J Strength Cond Res 19: 950–958, 2005.
68. Plisk SS, Gambetta V. Tactical metabolic training: Part 1. Strength Cond J 19: 44–53, 1997.
69. Rampinini E, Impellizzerri FM, Castagna C, Abt G, Chamari K, Sassi A, Marcora SM. Factors influencing physiological responses to small-sided games. J Sports Sci 25: 650–666, 2007.
70. Reilly T, White C. Small sided games as an alternative to interval training for soccer players. In: Science and Football V: The Proceedings of the Fifth World Congress on Science and Football. 2005. pp. 559.
71. Ronnestad BR, Kvamme NH, Sunde A, Raastad T. Short-term effects of strength and plyometric training on sprint and jump performance in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 22: 773–780, 2008.
72. Rostgaard T, Iaia FM, Simonsen DS, Bangsbo J. A test to evaluate the physical impact on technical performance in soccer. J Strength Cond Res 22: 283–292, 2008.
73. Savelsbergh GJ, van der Kamp J, Oudejans RR, Scott MA. Perceptual learning is mastering perceptual degrees of freedom. In: Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research Theory and Practice. Williams AM, Hodges NJ, eds. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2004. pp. 230–247.
74. Sayers A, Eveland Sayers B, Binkley H. Preseason fitness testing in national collegiate athletic association soccer. Strength Cond J 30: 70–75, 2008.
75. Schmidtbleicher D. Training for power events. In: Strength and Power in Sport. Komi PV, ed. London, United Kingdom: Blackwell Scientific, 1992. pp. 381–395.
76. Serpell B, Young W, Ford M. Are the perceptual and decision-making aspects of agility trainable? A preliminary investigation. J Strength Cond Res 25: 1240–1248, 2011.
77. Siegler J, Gaskill S, Ruby B. Changes evaluated in soccer-specific power endurance either with or without a 10-week, in-season, intermittent, high-intensity training protocol. J Strength Cond Res 17: 379–387, 2003.
78. Sporis G, Jukic I, Ostojic SM, Milanovic D. Fitness profiling in soccer: Physical and physiologic characteristics of elite players. J Strength Cond Res 23: 1947–1953, 2009.
79. Stolen TK, Chamari C, Castagna C, Wisloff U. Physiology of soccer: An update. Sports Med 35: 501–536, 2005.
80. Stone M. Implications for connective tissue and bone alterations resulting from resistance exercise training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 20: S162–S168, 1988.
81. Thomas V, Reilly T. Fitness assessment of English league soccer players through the competitive season. Br J Sports Med 13: 103–109, 1979.
82. Verheijen R. Handbuch fur Fussballkondition. Leer, Germany: BPF Versand. 1997.
83. Verkhoshansky YV. Quickness and velocity in sports movements. IAAF Quart: New Stud Athlet 11: 29–37, 1996.
84. Voigt M, Bojsen-Moller F, Simonsen EB, Dyhre-Poulsen P. The influence of tendon Youngs modulus, dimensions and instantaneous moment arms on the efficiency of human movement. J Biomech 28: 281–291, 1995.
85. Wathen D. “Training variation: Periodization”. In Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. T. Baechle, R. Earle eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000. pp. 513–527.
86. Williams AM, Davids K. Visual search strategy, selective search strategy, and expertise in soccer. Res Q Exerc Sport 69: 111–129, 1998.
87. Wilson GJ, Murphy AJ, Pryor JF. Musculotendinous stiffness: Its relationship to eccentric, isometric, and concentric performance. J Appl Physiol (1985) 76: 2714–2719, 1994.
88. Wisloff U, Castagna C, Helgerud J, Jones R, Hoff J. Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players. Br J Sports Med 38: 285–288, 2004.
89. Wisløff U, Helgerud J, Hoff J. Strength and endurance of elite soccer players. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30: 462–467, 1998.
90. Wong P, Hong Y. Soccer injuries in the lower extremities. Br J Sports Med 39: 473–482, 2005.
91. Yde J, Nielsen A. Sports injuries in adolescents' ball games: Soccer, handball and basketball. Br J Sports Med 24: 51–54, 1990.
92. Young WB, Benton D, Duthie G, Pryor J. Resistance training for short sprints and maximum speed sprints. Strength Cond J 23: 7–13, 2001.
93. Young WB, James R, Montgomery I. Is muscle power related to running speed with changes of direction? J Sports Med Phys Fitness 42: 282–288, 2002.
94. Zatsiorsky V, Kraemer W. Science and Practice of Strength Training (2nd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2006. pp. 98–107.