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.
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.
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.
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