Analysis of Repeated High-Intensity Running Performance in Professional Soccer

Carling, C., Le Gall, F., Dupont, G.

The aims of this study were twofold: (1) to characterize repeated high-intensity movement activity profiles of a professional soccer team in official match-play; and (2) to inform and verify the construct validity of tests commonly used to determine repeated-sprint ability in soccer by investigating the relationship between the results from a test of repeated-sprint ability and repeated high-intensity performance in competition.

High-intensity running performance (movement at velocities ≥19.8 km/h for a minimum of 1 s duration) was measured in 20 players using computerized time–motion analysis. Performance in 80 French League 1 matches was analyzed. In addition, 12 of the 20 players performed a repeated-sprint test on a non-motorized treadmill consisting of six consecutive 6 s sprints separated by 20 s passive recovery intervals.

In all players, most consecutive high-intensity actions in competition were performed after recovery durations ≥1 s, recovery activity separating these efforts was generally active in nature with the major part of this spent walking, and players performed 1.1 ± 1.1 repeated high-intensity bouts (a minimum of three consecutive high-intensity bouts with a mean recovery time ≥20 s separating efforts) per game.

Players reporting lowest performance decrements in the repeated-sprint ability test performed more high-intensity actions interspersed by short recovery times (20 s, P<0.01 and 30 s, P<0.05) compared with those with higher decrements. Across positional roles, central-midfielders performed more high-intensity actions separated by short recovery times (20 s) and spent a larger proportion of time running at higher intensities during recovery periods, while fullbacks performed the most repeated high-intensity bouts (statistical differences across positional roles from P<0.05 to P<0.001). These findings have implications for repeated high-intensity testing and physical conditioning regimens.

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