Soccer is a game where conditioning is of huge importance when it comes to maximizing performance.
At the beginning of pre-season, most coaches today focus a lot on building an aerobic base that prepare the players for the season.
Building an aerobic base
The term «aerobic base» has been frequently used over the last 10-20 years, and the reason for building this base is because of the evidence that a player run 8-12 km during a soccer game over the period of 90 minutes.
So far so good. But when it comes to the distance covered during a soccer game, shouldn’t we really focus on how we reach that distance, rather than just focusing on the distance itself?
Is the actual distance the most important aspect?
Sure, a professional soccer player may run 11-12 km during a game, but that distance is not accomplished through long distance running at the same tempo throughout the whole game, quite the opposite.
What separates a world class player from an average player is not necessarily the distance covered, but rather the number of high intensity runs and sprints being performed.
Long distance running will make your players slower and weaker
If you still think running long distance running is the way to go for soccer conditioning, then this should hopefully change your mind.
Running long distance will stimulate your slow twitch muscle fiber, meaning your body is adapting to the slow tempo being performed during long distance running, and over time your fast twitch muscle fibers will «drown», which will make you slower and weaker.
Soccer is a «power-sport», where sprinting, maximum strength and jumping ability is of extreme importance. Running long distance will do the opposite for your players and make them weak and slow.
Is there a need for an aerobic base?
Not in the traditional way through long distance running. My philosophy on soccer conditioning is that it all should be performed on the soccer field, and most of the conditioning should be sport-specific, meaning most of it should be performed with the ball.
However, during the beginning of pre-season, I build an aerobic base through tempo running.
Tempo running is where the players run at around 75-80% of what they would run when sprinting that distance. The distance I use for tempo running is 100 meters (the length of a soccer field), and 200 meters (back and forth).
A rule of thumb for the distance and time is:
– 100 meters: 18-22 seconds
– 200 meters: 38-44 seconds
So if they do 100 meter tempo runs, they should run at a pace where it would take them 18-22 seconds to run 100 meters.
I use tempo runs for 3-4 weeks, 2-3 sessions/week, increasing the distance with 200-300 meters per workout. I coach a Boys 18 team, so if you coach younger players, be a little more careful with the volume.
The first session might be 8 x 100 meters, and then the next 10 x 100 meters, and then after that I would alternate 100 meter runs with 200 meter runs in the same session.
I often let the players rest halfway through for 2 minutes, and then let them run the rest of the distance after that.
Tempo running will help you build that aerobic base necessary for soccer, and it will ensure that your players still stay strong and explosive.