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Soccer players need a combination of fitness attributes such as strength, endurance, power, co-ordination, speed and agility, in order to perform and play at a high intensity considering games last 90 minutes plus, therefore as stated by (Stolen et al, 2005) success depends on players being mentally, physically, technically and tactically prepared for competition.
Within this assignment I will outline the preparation requirements for a soccer player under the following headings: Strength Training, Endurance Training, Speed Agility and Quickness Training. While doing so I will give general information on each of the three topics, and then move on to give information about the specific requirements for the soccer player.
According to Darden, (1992)
“Well developed, strong, lean body parts will help any athlete or non-athlete perform better.” Pg: 45
Stated by Croisier et al., (2005) Strength training is very important for any competing athlete, as it corrects muscle imbalances and reduces the risk of injury, for safety it is important for everyone taking part in strength training to use a spotter and apply good lifting technique to avoid injury. Strength training is also important for non-athletes as it enhances quality of life for people as they can go about everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, carrying shopping bags, walking up stairs etc. (Evans, 1999).
Strength training can be divided into three phases such as absolute maximal strength, explosive power, and lastly muscular endurance. McDonagh and Davies, (1984) stated that maximal strength is the biggest force that can be exerted in a single maximum voluntary contraction. According to Stone, (1981) maximal strength is proven to increase jumping ability and motor performance. The athlete’s main goal is to build as much maximal strength as possible so that they can turn this strength into muscular endurance and explosive power.
Explosive power can be developed using a combination of heavy, moderate and light weights (Fleck and Kraemer, 2004). Plyometric training has been shown to be one of the most effective methods for improving and enhancing explosive power (Fleck and Kraemer, 2004) which occurs when the active muscle switches from rapid eccentric muscle action to rapid concentric muscle action (Luebbers et al, 2003). The purpose of plyometrics is to improve the athlete’s capacity to apply more force more rapidly. Therefore, the greater the athlete’s ability to generate maximal force or strength to begin with, the more this maximal force and strength can be converted into sport-specific power.
According to Dick, (2007) a complex form of training develops muscular endurance, circuit type training which concentrates on soccer specific exercises works well. He states that including a variety of different exercises, movements, as well as equipment combinations and training methods in the circuits will help keep athletes motivated. More sports specific exercises may include using high box step ups rather than lying leg press for the leg muscles, water resistance for training leg muscles, swiss ball for working on core stability and balance.
Dynamic movements such as headers, tackling, sprinting and kicks all involve a high level of muscle strength, endurance and power. Players need strength to defend against components who try to push them off the ball while in the air or on the ground, (Cabri et al, (1988). Therefore it is important for athletes to improve their soccer specific strength in the preparation period as the athlete needs to be capable of using muscle strength and power effectively and also consistently within a game and during the season Bangsbo, (1994).
As stated by Bompa, (2009) the soccer player’s performance during the season depends on their adaption and psychological adjustment to training and competitions, and their development of skills and abilities. The duration of each of the stages below depends firstly on the competition schedule and also on the time the athlete needs to increase their level of training and athletic shape, therefore an adequate planning schedule of training and fixtures needs to be put in place.
According to Davis et al, (1992) the strength training program for the soccer player is dependent on their positions which can be broken down into four stages goalkeeper, defender, midfield, and attacker given that the athletes need to build up strength and power in relation to their position on the field and what is expected of them. Sport specific training provides a stronger relationship to the soccer player then general strength training because of the way it works the muscles, the speed of the movement and the actual sporting performance Dick, (2007).
The following specific requirements for the soccer player were retrieved from Bompa and Carrera, (2005); Dick, (2007); Hoff and Helgerud, (2004); Shepard, (2006)
In the off-season the soccer player is in the preparation stage their training to train. After their recovery and adequate rest, soccer player’s work on building up muscles and a solid functional strength base, they achieve this by preparing the body for more intense work in later phases, strengthening the stabiliser muscles and working on improving imbalances in the body. As soccer players in general have over developed quads from repetitive kicking action therefore they need to work on balancing flexors and extensors also, in order to reduce the risk of injury later on in the season,
Off season- Early pre season
In this phase the soccer player needs to build maximal strength, since power is the overall outcome, the athlete needs to develop strength first and then convert it into soccer specific power.
Late pre season
In the late pre season the athlete needs to keep working on muscle power and strength endurance, converting strength gains into soccer specific power and muscle endurance. For this stage plyometrics and/or circuit training should replace weight room sessions.
During this phase the soccer player needs to maintain the gains they have made so far in the season without over reaching and overtraining. The athlete should be balanced and muscles should not be under stress, the athletes upper and lower body should be working in cohesion minimizing shock and stress and therefore reducing the risk of injury.
Bobbert and Van Soest, (1994) stated that muscle training exercises need to be affiliated with sport specific motions so that the athlete can regulate their control and therefore take advantage of their enhanced muscle properties.
According to Tinley, (1994) endurance training involves athletes being able to keep going for long periods of time, and it also requires a high level of stamina, to develop and maintain aerobic fitness and build endurance. Non-athletes might partake in endurance training in order to improve their quality of life, so they can walk up the stairs without wheezing or run a 10k run in six months time.
Stone and Kilding, (2009) stated that soccer players need a high level of aerobic fitness in order to produce and maintain power output during repeated high intensity efforts and in order to recover quickly. Bangsbo et al, (1994); Franks et al, (1999) have observed training intensities deemed suitable for endurance training, during small sided soccer games and on a dribbling track. The size of pitch, intensity, duration and number of players were also seen to have an influence on reaching target heart rate zone. As stated by Bangsbo, (1994) approximately 90% of energy during a soccer game is from aerobic sources, therefore heart rate is a valid indicator of exercise intensity for most of the training.
Anaerobic endurance is important for soccer players especially strikers, they require short bursts of anaerobic power when sprinting for a ball, Shepard, (2006).
The soccer player requires the following endurance training for the duration of the season
During the off season the athlete needs adequate rest and recovery in order to start preparation for the season as soon as possible, Bompa and Carrera, (2005).
Off season- Early pre season
During this stage the team takes part in small sided conditioning games, dribbling tracks, interval training or circuit training that include specific movement and skill development activities. The fitness program in this stage concentrates on aerobic and short term anaerobic endurance, Lawson, (2001); Meir et al, (2001).
Late pre season
The team have increased emphasis on training with the ball in order to transfer the skills and movements into their competitive environment. They are still working on drills and training programs from the last stage, although intensity has increased and sports specific adoptions have been made. The athletes develop decision making and problem solving skills under pressure and fatigue, Kelly, (2009); Little, (2006).
During the in season the team have to maintain the aerobic fitness and sport specific skills they have acquired over the pre season training stages and apply them to their performances, Stone and Kilding, (2009).
Speed Agility and Quickness Training:
Speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) training is important for athletes especially those who play a sport that involves a high level of dynamic movement such as, changing direction, headers, tackling, sprinting and kicks. SAQ enables athletes to develop faster reactions so that they can accelerate more quickly and effectively, move successfully in multiple directions, change direction and decelerate quickly in order improve performance on the pitch, Pearson, (2000).
Stated by Brown et al., (2000) speed, agility and quickness training drills are used to develop co-ordination, balance, and optimise neuromuscular patterning and condition. Shepherd, (2006) speed can be trained and learned through repetition and overload, speed is the athlete’s ability to move in the right direction through the required range of motion as fast as possible. Agility is rapid changes in direction without the loss of speed, balance, or body control, it can be improved by the use of agility ladders. Quickness this is the reaction time and the ability to move fast without hesitation.
The following specific requirements for the soccer player for SAQ training were retrieved from Bompa and Carrera, (2005); Polman et al, (2003).
The athletes need adequate rest and recovery, in order to start preparation for season as soon as possible, Bompa and Carrera, (2005).
Off season- Early pre season
Teams start to train with agility ladders to improve foot speed and foot to ground contact, sprints, hops in different directions, push-ups, dribbling around cones, spot running, turn and sprint drills, working at moderate to high intensity, and adequate rest between repetitions.
Late pre season
Teams continue speed, agility and quickness training like last season but incorporate adaption’s resisted sprints, one on one games, more sport specific movements and increase intensity of training.
To maintain speed, agility and quickness, and their reactions that the SAQ training has taught them over the pre season training and apply the above to their performances on the pitch.
In conclusion to this assignment on the preparation requirements for a soccer player, the following headings have been explained giving general information, Strength Training, Endurance Training, Speed Agility and Quickness Training, then moving on to give specific information about the requirements for the soccer player.
According to Kraemer et al, (2004) an adequate mixture of soccer specific practices and strength and conditioning programmes which require the development of aerobic capacity, strength, power, speed, and speed endurance, can sustain and develop a soccer players physical performance therefore allowing the athlete to perform at their best throughout the whole season.
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