Strength training + HIIT for football (soccer) players
Evidence suggests that involving strength training within a soccer training regime has various benefits for the performance of their sport (1,4). This is due to the numerous explosive activities required in soccer such as kicking, jumping, sprinting, turning tackling and changing pace (4). Improvement in these areas are achieved via muscular strength training that is targeted to the appropriate muscle groups (4). There are two ways to increase muscular strength – muscle hypertrophy and neural adaptation (4). In soccer, the latter is usually more ideal than the former. This is due to gains in body mass can lead to a decrease in speed and overall performance (4). Therefore, it is suggested to complete strength training within these parameters: 4-6RM (rep max) for 3-4 sets and 2-5 minutes rest between sets (4).
It is important to note that aerobic capacity training must also be considered due to the average distance players run in a 90 minute game being at 8-12km (4). Repeated-sprint and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to improve players 40m sprint time and max aerobic speed, with some researchers saying that high level soccer athletes can only gain further aerobic improvements via HIIT (4).
Strength + HIIT?
Due to the aerobic and explosive requirements of soccer players, it is of practical interest to simultaneously train these two methods and is likely to be why this topic has been investigated in multiple studies (4). It is important to note that research thus far has largely been contradicting with some studies proving performance enhancement and others showing performance inhibition (4). In 2010, and for the first time, the benefit of simultaneous HIIT with strength training was investigated and produced positive results. The results of combining these two training methods achieved significantly higher vertical jump height, 10m and 30m sprint times, YYIRT, MAS and MAS distances (definitions in table 2) when compared to soccer training alone (4). These improvements correlate with other studies that showed a relationship between strength muscular strength and explosive performances – however there was no improvement of shooting power (4). This is likely due to the relevance of energy transfer across multiple joints and a lack of strength training in this area (4).
The study was also effective at preventing gains in body mass despite partaking in 2 strength sessions per week. This was achieved via the training protocols mentioned earlier (4 sets of 6RM) that prevents muscle hypertrophy (4). This therefore prevented the reduction in mitochondrial density and oxidative enzyme activity – negative effects related to gains in body mass (4). The strength training program included:
- High pull
- Jump squat
- Bench press
- Back half squat
- Chin up
Progression of the loads were increased a 5kg increments (jump squat and back half squat) and 2kg increments (high-pull, bench press and chin up). These exercises were selected by a strength and conditioning expert to have minimal muscle hypertrophy and negative effect on aerobic endurance (2). In regards to the HIIT methodology – training parameters were set at 15 seconds on with 15 seconds rest. Further findings were found in 2014 when Ferrete et al. investigated the benefits of a 26-week in-season program involving both strength and high-intensity oriented training (3). They also highlighted the importance of high level strength and power training to simulate the explosive and highly intense actions within a game (3). In this study they identify that the gains can be made from just 2 short strength and high-intensity sessions per week (3). Improvements from this training program include:
- On-field vertical jump
- Maximal sprint
- Agility abilities
Example strength program (that you can try)
- Dumbbell bench step ups
- Single-leg squat
- Jump squats
- Lateral band walks
- Weighted sled drags
SOCCER EXAMPLE STRENGTH PROGRAM
To summarise, the addition of strength training to a soccer training regime enhances explosive performances (such as sprinting and jumping) with the use of HIIT improving intermittent continuous aerobic endurance (4). While it is agreed that strength training has various benefits for soccer players, it is still debated as to when and for how long this training regime should be undertaken – with some researchers suggesting its exclusive use in preseason, whileothers recommend throughout the season (3,4).
Alec Lablache POGO Physiotherapist
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog
- DW Fitness First. (2018). The best gym workout for footballers. Retrieved from https://www.dwfitnessfirst.com/inside-track/fitness/the-best-gym-workouts-for-footballers/
- Robert S. Heidt, J., Sweeterman, L. M., Carlonas, R. L., Traub, J. A., & Tekulve, F. X. (2000). Avoidance of soccer injuries with preseason conditioning. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(5), 659-662. doi:10.1177/03635465000280050601
- Suarez-Arrones, L., Saez de Villarreal, E., Núñez, F. J., Di Salvo, V., Petri, C., Buccolini, A., . . . Mendez-Villanueva, A. (2018). In-season eccentric-overload training in elite soccer players: Effects on body composition, strength and sprint performance. PloS One, 13(10), e0205332-e0205332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0205332
- Wong, P., Chaouachi, A., Chamari, K., Dellal, A., & Wisloff, U. (2010). Effect of preseason concurrent muscular strength and high-intensity interval training in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(3), 653-660. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181aa36a2
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