A Systematic Review on Small-Sided Games in Football Players: Acute and Chronic Adaptations

Bujalance-Moreno, P., Latorre-Román, P.Á., García-Pinillos, F.

Small-sided games (SSGs) are a popular training method in football, played on a smaller pitch with modified rules and fewer players. This article reviewed literature from January 2000 to July 2018 to analyze the short- and long-term effects of SSGs on football player performance.

Fifty-three studies, including 44 cross-sectional and 9 intervention studies, were reviewed. Cross-sectional studies mostly described differences between SSG protocols, while some compared “interval” and “continuous” SSG training regimes. Intervention studies compared SSG-based protocols with high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) running protocols and assessed the effects of SSG-based training alone.

Overall, SSG-based football training programs (consisting of 2 to 4 SSG sessions per week) were found to improve athletic performance in football players. These improvements included enhanced sprinting, repeated sprint ability (RSA), change of direction (COD), as well as muscular and physiological adaptations. This suggests that SSGs can be an effective method for improving various aspects of football performance.

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