The Physiological Demands and Current Training Methods In Elite Football

By Dean Harriton


Football at the professional level is played with 10 field players and one goal keeper totaling 11 players taking part during the game, in addition to this there is the opportunity to use 3 of any 5 substitutes allowed to sit on the bench, these numbers are per team[1]. There are two teams playing against each other trying to score more goals than the other. This is achieve by getting the ball behind the opposing 10 field players and past the goal keeper, in to the goal [2, 3]. The game must be played on a rectangular sized pitch, meaning that one side has to be longer than the other. The touch line (length) is being between 90 and 120 meters, and the goal line (width) is between 45 and 90m[3, 4]. In season games (regular matches) last for 90mins with only the referee allowing extra time to a game for injuries, stops in play or substitutions. In the past fifteen or so years it has been hypothesized the game has become much faster and more physical which in turn makes game intensity rise[5]. Coaches have had to change their training programs to now cater for this physiological evolution of the football player and team. Sport Science had quickly become a major factor in football for every team’s preseason across the world, at a professional level. In now days if you do not pass a physical screening you are in major jeopardy of not signing at the club [6, 7]. As the game progresses, the physiological demands put on players in the current 2014 season, make the clubs expect nothing less than a supreme elite athlete. To keep players at this level of fitness the current training protocols and procedures need to be changing all the time. Up to date training protocols and philosophies for coaches are pivotal for their team to have success. It has long been known that running long distances in preparation for a football season when compared with running small sided games (SSG) have similar outcomes. There has been much conjecture about what is the better way to conditioning football players [8-10]. Injury prevention has become a major aspect of the programs that coaches throughout the world, put together for their teams[11]. Flexibility amongst other areas is widely use as a form of injury prevention across all sports[12]. It is assumed, that increasing the flexibility of a muscle-tendon unit produces improved performances and has decreased the chances of injuries[12]. Sports that have elements of a high intensity usage of the stretch – shortening cycle which includes closed skills like; bouncing, jumping, and short sprints, have to have muscle tendon units that are accommodating enough to enable storage and release of the high quantities of elastic energy that is advantageous in such sports that use the above movements. Professional football programs now have major time allocated to injury prevention and specific player prehabilitation [6, 12]. Another form of injury prevention that has been used by coaches is strength, sports specific strength[13, 14]. This literature review will provide insights in to the physiological demands imposed on players by the game. It will also provide insights to the coaches current training methodology’s to keep their players at the top of their game.

Current Training Methods in Professional Football

In reviewing a lot of literature on the current training methods in professional football I have become aware of many different ways to train footballers. SSGs have been well used of late by coaches for football training. As a football match has eleven Vs eleven, coaches at training use much smaller numbers on a much smaller pitch[10]. Sometimes in the past coaches would use SSG for the technical and tactical components of a football match, however more recent studies have shown that SSG can be effectively used for football specific aerobic training [15-18]. In 1993, Balsom et al were able to prove that there was a really close correlation between repeated sprints and a limited lactate production. The repeated sprints allows the lactate production to happen while increasing the bodies creatine phosphate metabolism[19, 20].

                    Small Sided Games (SSGs) Football Specific

One of the currently used training stimuli by coaches is SSGs [21]. They are often used with modified rules, minimal structure and less players then normal football games[22]. SSGs have many variables that can control their intensity. Coaches are able to change the outcomes and intensity of SSGs by, creating different pitch areas, manipulating the number of players that are used, maximizing or minimizing the level of encouragement given, the training process (if it is continual or more stop start interval training), the rules or lack of and if they want to add goal keepers[23, 24]. This methodology applies to some other sports as well. When comparing current training methods in a rugby league setting, SSGs are used mostly for the same process. A study by Foster, C. D et al, (2010) showed when coaches adopt SSGs as a method of training, it provides sufficient intensities to enable some aerobic adaptations, and it also facilitates a setting suitable for the “transfer of skill from a pressurized training environment to a competitive environment”[23]. This form of simulation is important for coaches as SSGs are able to replicate certain match situations at training with the same intensity and skill level for an in season game. In addition to the above research on SSGs the data on the players time spent and distance covered in a 11v11 match reflect really well [5, 25, 26].

                   Endurance Based Training for Football (Generic)

Furthermore there was an article written by Professor Jan Hoff and Jan Helgerud in 2004 on Endurance and strength training for soccer players. They stated that endurance interval training utilizing the footballer’s intensity at 90 – 95% of their max HR working with in 3 to 8 minute bouts have proved to be really successful in the improvement of endurance in football. The validity demonstrated, by Helgerud et al. in 2001, found that footballer’s had improved, their running economy at lactate threshold, their lactate threshold and their Vo2 max by 11, 16 and 7% respectively. Accompanying these conclusions were a 20% growth in the total distance covered, a 5% rise on average excise intensity within match play, a 23% increase of the footballer’s connection with the ball and the times that the footballer performed a sprint had doubled.

Physiological Demands in Professional Football

Football, and its acyclical nature and intensity, is be categorize “as a high intensity intermittent team sport” [27]. When football is played at an competitive level elite players on average cover roughly about 10-12 km this changes between player to player a lot and it also changes according to the players position [28]. They cover this distance at a typical intensity boarder lining at the anaerobic threshold, (this being 80-90%of maximal heart frequency, Hf max , or 70-85% of maximal oxygen uptake, Vo2 max). Goal keepers have a very important job in football. Their element of preparedness has to be at a maximum all of the time. Goal keepers when compared with field players have minimal distance covered but use a lot more explosive power that field players[29]. If coaches/trainers are able to improve the force of muscular contractions that footballers have when performing speed related skills, acceleration when turning, sprinting and jumping the changing of pace may improve[5]. Lower extremity anaerobic leg power has been suggested to be one of the most sought after attributes of football players. “It refers to the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest impulse in a given time period”[29]. This impulse noted to aid in the speed/power of a shoot, the height of a jump to head the ball and the change of pace to get away from an opponent.

                    Distance covered by footballers during a game

The distance covered usually depends on how active the footballer is in these areas and amongst many others. The mean distance covered according to the players positional roles during a match are; strikers – 11,254m, external midfielders – 11,990m, central midfielders – 12,027m, external defenders – 11,410m and central defenders – 10,627m[30]. As football is played at different paces, one important aspect of match analysis is distance covered in maximal efforts. In reviewing more specific literature on distance covered and work rates in a football match it was uncomplicated to discover that the distance covered by central defenders was a lot shorter in comparison to all other playing positions. Conversely if we looked at the high intensity distance covered (maximal efforts) the central defenders work rate was not that different from the data read on the center midfielders. Furthermore central defenders and central midfielders covered a much shorter distance in sprinting when compared to all the other positions [25, 30].

                    Time spent in different movement patterns during a football game

During a football match the players perform different types of motions, actions or reactions and/or exercises that are attempted intermittently and at different speeds[30]. Generally speaking the footballers have to pass the ball and change position within a very quick time frame. Therefore it has been suggested that the players are either jogging or walking when they are not in close proximity to the ball[31]. The majority of literature on match play that was looked over for this review discovered that footballers were executing the above movements at a consistent sub-maximal level [32-35]. In study by Stroyer, J, et at. (2004) investigating non elite players on, “the aerobic demands and activity patterns during match play in young soccer players” concluded that on average, between the first and second half of a football game there was an increase in the time spent, in the standing movement pattern for the second half. In the first half players were on average standing for 10.4sec (+/-4.3sec) and in the second half 12.4sec (+/-4.9sec). When they compared the non elite with the elite player results the findings were consistent. In the first half the players were standing for 9.1sec (+/- 3.9sec) and in the second half 10.1 (+/- 4.2sec).


This review can conclude that a high level of aerobic capacity needs to be built in to footballers so they can compete at the highest level according the high physiological demands placed on footballers by the game. The coaches can improve the player’s aerobic capacity by using a mixture of SSGs and intermittent short sharp football specific drills[8, 27]. The major factor that manipulates the response to the intensity of a SSG and intermittent drills is the encouragement of the coach[10]. E. Rampinini et at, found that the progression/passing of the ball in a six-a-side game to different players was a lot more frequent than a three-a-side game. This would explain the lower intensity of the six-a-side match. Conversely Wisloff and Hoff (2001) found that footballers were reaching the same heart rate responses inside the optimal intensity range, successful for progression of aerobic fitness, with interval training at 90 – 95% of their max heart rate. Through the research it was hard to ascertain if and how the football was able to be used in the intermitted drills so that the players are still able to have access to the football whilst training their aerobic capacity. SSGs have been seen to merge these two areas really well. With this information coaches are able to firstly pick, accordingly to screenings and medicals, a certain type of player, a player that perhaps suits their style of play and will be able to competitively perform in his position consistently throughout the year (excluding unplanned events like injuries).


1. Stølen, T., et al., Physiology of Soccer. Sports medicine, 2005. 35(6).            

2. Reilly T, G.D.J.S.S., Science and football: a review of applied research in the football codes. 2003. 21: p. 693-705.      

3. Sugden, J. and A. Tomlinson, FIFA and the contest for world football: who rules the people's game? 1998: Polity Press.   

4. Hoff, J., et al., Soccer specific aerobic endurance training. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2002. 36(3): p. 218-221.                                                                                                                        

5. Tumilty, D., Physiological characteristics of elite soccer players. Sports medicine, 1993. 16(2): p. 80-96.

6. Engebretsen, A.H., et al., Prevention of Injuries Among Male Soccer Players A Prospective, Randomized Intervention Study Targeting Players With Previous Injuries or Reduced Function. The American journal of sports medicine, 2008. 36(6): p. 1052-1060.

7. Fallon, K.E., Screening for haematological and iron-related abnormalities in elite athletes—analysis of 576 cases. Journal of science and Medicine in sport, 2008. 11(3): p. 329-336.

8. JAN HELGERUD, L.C.E., ULRIK WISLØFF, and JAN HOFF, Aerobic endurance training improves soccer performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 2001. 33(11).

9. Bangsbo, J., The physiology of soccer--with special reference to intense intermittent exercise. Acta physiologica Scandinavica. Supplementum, 1993. 619: p. 1-155.

10. Rampinini, E., et al., Factors influencing physiological responses to small-sided soccer games. J Sports Sci, 2007. 25(6): p. 659-66.

11. Inklaar, H., Soccer injuries. I: Incidence and severity. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ), 1994. 18(1): p. 55.

12. Witvrouw, E., et al., Stretching and injury prevention. Sports Medicine, 2004. 34(7): p. 443-449.

13. Wisløff, U., et al., Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2004. 38(3): p. 285-288.

14. Olsen, O.-E., et al., Exercises to prevent lower limb injuries in youth sports: cluster randomised controlled trial. Bmj, 2005. 330(7489): p. 449.

15. Balsom, P., et al., Precision football. Kempele, Finland: Polar Electro Oy, 1999.

16. Bangsbo, J., 4 Physiology of training. Science and soccer, 2003: p. 47.

17. Drust, B., T. Reilly, and N. Cable, Physiological responses to laboratory-based soccer-specific intermittent and continuous exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2000.

18(11): p. 885-892. 18. Reilly, T. and D. Gilbourne, Science and football: a review of applied research in the football codes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2003. 21(9): p. 693-705.

19. Balsom, P., et al., Creatine supplementation and dynamic high‐intensity intermittent exercise. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 1993. 3(3): p. 143-149.

20. Bangsbo, J. and M. Mizuno, Morphological and metabolic alterations in soccer players with detraining and retraining and their relation to performance. Science and Football, E&FN Spon, London, 1988.

21. Hill-Haas, S., et al., Physiology of Small-Sided Games Training in Football. Sports Medicine, 2011. 41(3): p. 199-220.

22. Gamble, P., Challenges and game-related solutions to metabolic conditioning for team sports. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2007. 29(4): p. 60-65.

23. Foster, C.D., et al., Heart rate responses to small-sided games among elite junior rugby league players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2010.

24(4): p. 906-911. 24. Hill-Haas, S.V., et al., Physiology of small-sided games training in football. Sports Medicine, 2011. 41(3): p. 199-220.

25. Bloomfield, J., R. Polman, and P. O'Donoghue, Physical demands of different positions in FA Premier League soccer. Journal of sports science & medicine, 2007. 6(1): p. 63.

26. Barbero-Álvarez, J.C., et al., The validity and reliability of a global positioning satellite system device to assess speed and repeated sprint ability (RSA) in athletes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2010. 13(2): p. 232-235.

27. McMillan, K., et al., Physiological adaptations to soccer specific endurance training in professional youth soccer players. British journal of sports medicine, 2005. 39(5): p. 273-277.

28. Withers, R., et al., Match analysis of Australian professional soccer players. J Hum Mov Stud, 1982. 8: p. 159-76.

29. Cometti, G., et al., Isokinetic strength and anaerobic power of elite, subelite and amateur French soccer players. International journal of sports medicine, 2001. 22(1): p. 45-51.

30. Di Salvo, V., et al., Performance characteristics according to playing position in elite soccer. International journal of sports medicine, 2007. 28(3): p. 222.

31. Gabbett, T.J. and M.J. Mulvey, Time-motion analysis of small-sided training games and competition in elite women soccer players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2008. 22(2): p. 543-552.

32. Bangsbo, J., L. Nørregaard, and F. Thorsoe, Activity profile of competition soccer. Canadian journal of sport sciences= Journal canadien des sciences du sport, 1991. 16(2): p. 110.

33. Mayhew, S. and H. Wenger, Time-motion analysis of professional soccer. Journal of Human Movement Studies, 1985. 11(1): p. 49-52.

34. Ohashi, J., et al., Measuring movement speeds and distances covered during soccer match play. Science and Football II. London: E+ FN Spon, 1988.

35. Rhode, H. and T. Espersen, Work intensity during soccer training and match-play. Reilly T., A. Lees, K. Davids, WJ Murphy (Wyd.): Science and Football. Spon, London, 1988

Talent Identification for Football (soccer)

By Dean Harriton

Lead summary
Agility, Strength and Power and Change of Direction Speed are some of the physiological characteristics of football. These characteristics have vital roles in the talent identification process. Assessing these main areas for strengths and weaknesses will prove vital, in the selection process. In acquiring the most accurate data from a test battery, sports specific testing is important when testing footballers. To be able to do this successfully the sports physiological characteristics need to be considered for the test battery to be valid.


In football each different position has different physiological factors that dictate performance which in turn dictate the talent identification process. There is common ground in this area across the positions but the more specific the physiological factors are to the position, the more chance the athlete has to excel playing their predetermined position.
For the player to be successful in his position according to his physiological factors, a range of tests relating to football has to be carried out. For this to transpire at an optimal level for elite athletes an in death knowledge of the physiological factors and testing techniques has to be apparent.
This current review is based upon Talent identification for football. 

The positions on a football pitch do dictate the training programs that are given to the athletes.
Firstly we will concentrate on the two wide defenders left back #2 and right back #5. These two players have specific physiological factors that dictate their performance. In the 1 – 4 – 3 – 3 system these two wide full backs are used also as attackers. In this system they have to transition from defending their own goal, clearing the ball out of the danger zone to attacking their opposition’s goal and trying to score. A full size pitch is 110m from goal to goal, the width of the pitch is 90m. They have to make this transition within seconds. It could not only be once but 3-4 times in a matter of 6-7mins[1, 2].

          Physiological Characteristics

Speed – in these positions without a football, the footballer’s high lactate threshold and acceleration speed are the two most influential factors that dictate performance. The 2 and 5 need consistent speed over a longer distance E.g. 40 – 70m. They need to have this speed continually throughout the 90min game to perform at the highest level[1, 3].
Agility – In every position on the pitch the ability to be agile is most beneficial. The 2 and 5 need agility in front of goal to try and score and they need it to protect their goal by making tackles or trying to block shots[4].
Strength and Power– In order to have a far superior fitness level to most of the other players on the pitch these two players cannot afford to be over weight in muscle mass or fat mass. So this would be classed as a physiological factor that dictates performance. The strength and power needed in this position is built upon straight line speed. Multi-directional speed is still needed but the majority of the sprinting specifically in the position is straight line[5].

          Positional demands

From the fullbacks to the two center defenders the 3 and 4, the back line of four players, do not have as many physiological factors that dictate performance as the rest of the players but are still vital positions in the team. These two positions do not cover a lot of ground during the game. They do need to be of a certain build and height etc. to fulfill the characteristics of these positions successfully.
Speed – This is very important for these two positions as defensive shape and structure is key defending successfully. The players that the 3 and 4 mark are usually very fast so they must keep up with and also try to beat them to the through balls to get back position[6].
Agility – In the positions of the 2 and 5, agility plays a major role in performing successfully in these positions. The defenders need to be agile as to keep up with the attackers, try and intercept through balls, their mind needs to be very fast in terms right or left to stop attackers.
Strength Power and – It is a big help if the center defenders are very solid in their build. They get pushed and pulled quite a bit as most of their game consists of contesting for the ball (shoulder to shoulder and pulling of jerseys). Strikers look to disposes defenders all the time so they have to have the correct amount of muscle mass for them to withstand these challengers and make challengers of their own[7].

The positions in the middle of the park have a lot of running (in transition) to do out of all the players in this system[8]. Their numbers are 6,8,10 and there are many different types of formations in the middle. The 6 and the 8 will be classified as defensive midfielders. The 10 and 8 have the license to travel forward and assist in the attack.  The #8 has to be the fittest in the team and takes on the responsibility of going what’s called box to box (18 yard box to attacking 18 yard box). The #10 sits in behind the striker and is the play maker providing the attacking options to the three front men.
Agility – This is a very important physiological factor that does dictate performance. Having a fast mind to tell your body what to do and when to do it is critical in beating players, dribbling past players and making the correct decision with or without the ball.
Power and Strength – A very strong core is the starting point for every footballer. In this position (midfield) the ability to have multi-directional speed and a very fast pace can separate the better players from the rest[3]. Therefore the 6, 8 and 10 need to be predominantly fast, twitch fiber based, thus helping them in jumping as well as explosive speed.

The strikers 7(right), 9 (middle) and 11(left) are all speed dominate, especially for the two wingers 7 and 11 as they are used sometimes as outlets to release pressure from the defending side.  They are used also for their agile ability on the football being able to move the ball at pace and still be in control. This requires certain physiological factors that dictate performance.

Power and strength – This requires a great amount of leg strength and power. Once they control the ball they need to shoot hard and fast to pass the goal keeper. In the contest for the ball they need strong core muscles to stabilize and balance their body against all defenders. Their power and strength to contort their bodies to protect the ball and control it in very tight situations is the difference between good players and the best players.
Agility – Is a physiological factor that the 7, 9 and 11 must have to be able to get around players when they have possession of the football. Their ability to lose defenders relies on their agile presence. Their mental capacity to digest information quickly and then make informed decision based on these judgements is what is classified as physiological factors that dictate performance[9].
Speed – speed is the essence of any sport. As a striker in football speed is a factor that dictates performance. There is a certain type of striker that does not need speed and is still able to perform in the position successfully. This player would have to be technical brilliant with relation to having the ball at his feet. In the 1-4-3-3 system looked at in this article the striker has speed and has the technical ability to accompany it.  

Identification process

When selecting players for football the selectors need to identify the best talent, talent identification. The most productive way to do that is to have a very good understanding of the physiological characteristics of the position and of football in general. Most importantly what tests need to be administered to get the appropriate data  for meaningful and realistic strength programs.

Due to the nature of the restrictions in this review I will only be concentrating on three tests.

1.   Agility – Perceptual and decision making test
2.   Strength and Power – RM Back Squat
3.   Change of Direction Speed – 505


Sheppard in (2006)[10] stated that at that specific time, there was minimal agreement amongst sports scientist about the definition of agility. He continues by mentioning that agility has been defined as a physical component i.e. rapid change in direction, as opposed to the combination of both physical and cognitive functioning. In 2004 Sheppard and Young combine the use of cognitive and physical functioning to help define agility as “a rapid, whole body, change of direction or speed in response to a sports specific stimulus”
A good example of this definition in relating to football would be a goal keeper reacting to a shot being taken as he/she is altering their movements to coincide with the direction and speed of the ball.

The cognitive part of agility can be referred to as perception and decision making factors[10]. Visual scanning and anticipation, pattern recognition and knowledge of situations are what underpin perception and decision making abilities[10]. At an elite level, faster cognition can determine the outcome of a match, from scoring a winning goal to saving the result. Change of direction speed (CODS) is the second component of agility which will be discussed further on in the paper

          Strength and Power

Strength and power can be generated through forces and torques that is sporadically being applied to the ground during a game of football [11]. Mimicking the actions in the testing process can be vital in the talent identification and/or strength diagnosis in footballers. Knowing this information on athletes will be critical in the implementation of their sport specific strength programs. These programs need to be focusing on generating Strength and power in athletes so they can be competitive in performing particular athletic bouts during a game i.e. Jumping, sprinting and CODS [12, 13].
A max squat can be used as a method of assessing strength.  As a higher force production increases the rate of contraction, it can be said that having a higher max squat can increase straight line speed[11].
According to Newton 2nd law a force is required to accelerate and object. The greater the force the faster the object will accelerate.
Therefore as straight line speed requires high production force, (the back squat is a test that provides data on the muscles ability to provide that force)[11]. The heavier weight lifted the more force that is able to be applied at the initial point of contact in to a straight line sprint thus allowing you to accelerate faster[11].

          Change of Direction Speed

Change of direction speed (CODS) is the second of two underpinnings of agility with the first being perceptual and decision making as stated previously. Similarly CODS can be broken down into further sub-categories, these include; leg muscle qualities, anthropometrics, technique and straight sprinting speed [10].

Leg Muscle Qualities and Straight Sprint Speed
Leg muscle qualities of CODS can be defined by strength, power and reactive strength[10]. The combination of strength and power measures with sprint performance are heavily linked[10, 14]. There appears to be distinctive physical determinants between strength and straight line speed and strength and CODS [10]. This demonstrates that strength and straight-line speed cannot be transferred to CODS. The nature of CODS is better determined by unilateral leg rather than bilateral leg strength [10, 15]. This shows that CODS can be affected by single leg dominance or imbalances [15]. A weakness or dominance in one leg can have a negative effect when cutting in the opposite direction of the leg being used [15].
Anthropometry can also play a role in CODS. There is a strong connection between CODS and the relationship of body weight and relative strength [16]. Therefore, a greater force production would be required for heavier athletes to produce the same change in velocity when compared to lighter athletes [17]


Agility – Perceptual and decision making test
Perception and decision making plays a vital role in football [18].  Having to be as sports specific as possible in our testing, we need to get as close to the game situations as possible. Having this test were the players make a decision according to a stimulus is one of the closest ways to reenact the game in a testing environment cognitively speaking.
McMorris and Graydon 1997[19] performed similar tests, where football players were shown  slides of an attacking nature. These players had to make choices, whether the player in possession of the ball should run with the ball, dribble, pass or shoot. The players had to “respond as quickly and accurately as possible. Therefore, the task required the player to visually search the display for relevant information, determine what options were available and decide which of these was optimal’’. This style of testing would seem to be far less taxing on the human body than actually putting the players through field based tests. This test has minimal fatigue and can be run indoors so weather is never an issue.
More recently in (2005) D. Farrow and W. B. Young [20] tested netballers. This was carried out at the Australian Institute of Sport. In this similar test to Figure 1, the players actually performed mental and physical reactions to visual game related stimuli. This physical agility test has limitations though. The equipment needed i.e. light gates, projector, screen and lighting is very expensive some teams may not have access to the lights gates or the facility. It takes a high speed camera to capture the images on display and in slow motion. Fatigue plays a role as well, there only so many test can be run before the athletes scores are floured due to being fatigue. This all depends on the conditions, the fitness of the athlete and the protocols, just to name a few.
Either of these tests coupled with others would be suitable for testing some of the physiological factors that dictate performance, in agility[10].
Strength and Power –Back Squat
When performing a back squat you must place the bar on you back on your rear deltoids. It needs to be comfortable.   The athlete needs to bend through their knees while the bar is on their back. The athletes stop bending when their hips become lower than parallel. As their hip joints become lower than their knee joints they must Squat up again. Nearly every muscle the athlete’s body is working when they squat. The footballer/athlete moves the weight with their legs, their abdominals are used to stabilize the weight and their body, and their arms squeeze the bar. The back squat is not only a leg exercise, it's can be used as a full body exercise.
The athletes can expect to increase their strength in their legs through a full range of motion when performing a back squat. The athletes increase their flexibility. You must be flexible to perform this exercise to get the maximum results.


In this article I reviewed the Talent identification process for football. The physiological factors that would dictate the player’s performance must be taken in to account if the talent identification process is to be successful. Agility, Strength and power and Change of Direction Speed are factors that are used in all positions on the football pitch[5, 21]. Some positions use more than others but these are the main physiological characteristics that are used. To be in a optimal state physically you have to have certain traits. However in the mental capacity an athlete can be slightly less conditioned and still be on par if not better that the physically optimal athlete with less mental strength. Gabbett, Kelly, and Sheppard in 2008[22] mentioned four out comes;
1.    Fast movers and fast thinkers translate to good change of direction speed and good perceptual skill
2.    Fast movers and slow thinkers translate to good change of direction speed and below average perceptual skill.
3.    Slow movers and fast thinkers translate to below average change of direction speed and good perceptual skill.
4.    Slow movers and slow thinkers translate to below average change of direction speed and below average perceptual skill.
In gathering scientific data through different means of research the test battery mentioned above has been constructed. This data and articles presented has confirmed that Agility, Strength and Power and CODS are major positional traits that selectors look for when commencing a Talent Identification Process. 

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By Patrick Beith

Speed is a product of stride length (the distance your hips travel in a stride) and stride frequency (the number of steps you take in a given time period). However, you will not reach top speed by focusing on increasingly larger steps to increase stride length or taking short, quick steps to increase stride frequency. Instead, top speeds are created by applying 'optimal' force to the ground. Both length and frequency are improved by strength so better strength application results in faster speeds. Really, acceleration training is a form of strength training.

Ground contact times (the amount of time each foot spends on the ground) are another important factor to consider during acceleration. During the earliest parts of acceleration, especially the first two steps, you are trying to overcome (inertia) the weight of your body by moving it forward as quickly as possible. This takes a great deal of strength and power. The stronger and more efficient you are, the more you can extend your acceleration phase.

Since high intensity sprint work involves recruiting specific groups of muscle fibers improves the efficiency of neuromuscular firing patterns, sprinting is taxing to the central nervous system. Once the CNS becomes fatigued, workouts quickly lose their effectiveness. Any type of speed work must be done with full recovery. Generally speaking, that means approximately one minute of rest for every 10 yards that you run. Sprinting is a highly technical activity. Without full recovery, both your muscles and your central nervous system will begin to fatigue quickly, reducing the short and long term effectiveness of your training. For this reason, acceleration should not be trained with fatigue present. To optimize your success, full recovery must be adhered to both in your individual workouts as well as your weekly plan. It takes roughly 36-48 hours to fully recover from a speed workout.

Acceleration Cues

  • Drive the lead arm (same as front leg) up as you begin to sprint.
  • Drive out so the body is at a 45 degree angle to the ground.
  • Keep the heel recovery low during the first 6-8 strides.
  • Drive the elbows down and back. Keep the hands loose, but not open. Arms should remain at approximately 90 degrees from the elbow.
  • Step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force.

Don’t force yourself to ‘stay low’. This will limit the amount of force you can apply to the ground and leads to poor acceleration. Let your upper body unfold naturally. ‘Staying low’ will occur naturally if you are already strong enough.

Get Vertical!

At the beginning of your speed training season acceleration work is used. You can't be efficient running longer distances without getting the proper strength levels and neuromuscular efficiency of the shorter intervals. As your athletes get stronger, you can extend out the acceleration distances. You want your athletes to be driving out as far as possible. The stronger the athlete is the further the acceleration phase will be and will set-up the athletes' top speed better later on.

During acceleration, the foot should strike directly below or slightly behind the hips. You must be able to drive out so your body is at a 45 degree angle to the ground and step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force.

Horizontal to Vertical

Some athletes aren’t strong enough to hold and maintain that ideal drive phase. So, you must trick the athlete's body and make it so that they have to get into the right position.

Start your acceleration work on the ground and work your way up. In order to put the athletes in the best mechanical position, even without great strength levels, athletes will start with short intervals, in a horizontal position. As the athletes get stronger, the acceleration intervals are lengthened and/or the starting positions are more vertical.

Sample beginning of the season acceleration workout:

4 X 25 yards each (400 yards total)
2.5 minute rest between each rep/4 minutes between each exercise

a) Push-up 'Down'
b) Push-up 'Up'
c) Seated Start-Backwards
d) Seated Start-Forward

As the athlete shows that they can handle these positions and their form doesn't break down at all during the 25 yards, you can start lengthening the interval distance and/or change the starting positions.

Maximum Velocity

Maximum Velocity is another way of saying running at full speed. The point in a race, workout or game that you reach maximum velocity depends on strength levels, experience and running mechanics. However, regardless of where and when you reach full speed, there are some differences in running mechanics and effort when compared to acceleration.

When running at full speed, you no longer need to try and apply the same level of force to the track as during acceleration. This is a common mistake among inexperienced athletes. Now that you are at full speed, you will be completely upright (perpendicular to the ground) and your body will no longer be leaning at an angle as you were during acceleration. By continuing to try to run faster and faster throughout a run, as though you were still accelerating, you are actually going to have a breakdown in running mechanics. By continuing to try to accelerate while beginning to fatigue, you will only slow yourself down faster because you can not continue to coordinate your movements with accuracy.

Instead, you want to relax or ‘float’ during maximum velocity. What this means is that you want to ease back in the amount of effort you are expending while running, but without slowing down and losing any speed. This idea sounds contradictory and like any new skill, it takes some practice to perfect. While running, you want to continue to step over the opposite knee, but instead of driving the ball of the foot down into the ground, you are just going to tap the foot downward, letting the ground come to you. Continue to drive the elbows down and back at the same speed, but without the same intensity as during the early part of your run. Remember, you are not going to get any faster at this point so energy conservation is important. We know that your brain tells you to keep running harder so that you do not slow down, but you have to fight the urge to do that and run smart. It is the ability to make these types of adjustments that can be the difference in running a fast time, outrunning an opponent or chasing one down to make the play.

Maximum Velocity Cues

  • Continue to step over the opposite knee, but let the ground come to you.
  • FLOAT - Ease back in intensity, but don’t slow down.
  • Fight the urge to continue to run faster and harder. One of the goals of top speed training is to learn how to decelerate the slowest. The athlete who decelerates the slowest runs the fastest. Relaxation is the only way to decrease the speed at which you slow down.

Sample Workouts:

1. Fly 20s, 30s and 40s:
Place a cone at the starting line, at 15y, at 35y and at 55y. Accelerate hard to the first cone (15y). Maintain the speed you have generated by running relaxed and following the maximum velocity cues from 15 – 35y. Once you hit 35y, slowly decelerate for the next 20y coming to a full stop at the last cone. This is a fly 20. Once you are comfortable holding that speed for 20y, you can move the second cone to 45y (fly 30s) and 55y (fly 40s). Total volume for these workouts should be between 250 – 350 yards.

2. Sprint/Float/Sprint
a cone at the starting line, 15y, 25y, 35y, 45y and at 65y. Accelerate hard to the first cone (15y). Maintain a hard sprint for 10y, focusing on maintaining the speed and intensity created during acceleration. Once you hit the next cone (25y) go into a float by easing back in intensity (don’t try to continue to get faster) without losing any speed. At the next cone (35y) go back to a hard sprint, running at full intensity and trying to increase your speed. At the next cone (45y), shut down by slowly coming to a stop. You should not be at a complete stop before the final cone at 65y, giving you a full 25 yards to slow down.

Speed Endurance

Speed endurance is the ability to maintain speed in the presence of fatigue without decelerating. Therefore, speed/power athletes must train the ability to maintain high levels of speed, even when tired. As you can imagine, making improvements in this area can have profound effects on success and performance late in competitions when every athlete is tired, but the most critical moves and decisions are made and games are won and lost.

Because speed endurance work is based around the idea of athletes competing in a state of physical fatigue, these workouts also have a useful mental component as well. When athletes get tired, they have a tendency to revert back to what is easy for them, which is usually poor form and technique. Therefore when performing this type of workout, it is important to focus on efficiency and form, even when it feels slower. Make the commitment to perfection in practice so that during competition you can focus solely on competing and performing your best. By improving the ability to stay mentally focused on a physically demanding and exhausting workout, athletes improve their ability to execute during the most important moments of their game or competition.

Primarily we use two types of workout to develop speed endurance:

Short distance, short rest: Run for a short distance (10 – 35 yards) while only getting a short rest period (10 – 30 seconds) between repetitions.

2 sets of 7 x 25 yards with 25 seconds rest between reps and 3 minutes between sets

Longer Distance, Longer Rest: Run a longer distance (8 – 20 seconds, or 60 – 150 yards) at full or near full intensity (90% – 100%) with full or near full recovery (5 – 15 minutes) between each repetition.

3 x 80y at full speed with 7 minutes rest between each repetition
2 x 120y @ 90% with 10 minutes rest between each repetition

The type of workout that will reap the greatest benefits depends on the demands of the sport that the athletes compete in and can be modified, adjusted or adapted to suit those particular needs. For some sports, such as football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, where the majority of the demand of the sport consists of short bursts of acceleration followed by low intensity movements, the greatest benefits may be from running workouts of short duration with short recoveries. On the other hand, athletes competing in sports requiring continuous high intensity runs, such as track and field sprinters, may find greater benefit in runs of longer distance and greater recovery times. Both types of workouts allow athletes to compete longer into their competitions without showing high degrees of fatigue, increasing the likelihood of success.