Negative Associations between Perceived Training Load, Volume and Changes in Physical Fitness in Professional Soccer Players

Los Arcos, A., Martínez-Santos, R., Yanci, J., Mendiguchia, J., Méndez-Villanueva, A.

The aim of this study was to assess the utility of rating of perceived exertion (RPE) training load for monitoring changes in various aerobic fitness and neuromuscular performance variables during a 9-week period of soccer training among young professional players. Nineteen male soccer players (20.2 ± 1.9 years) from the reserve team of a Spanish La Liga Club participated in the study. At the beginning of the pre-season (Test 1) and after 9 weeks (Test 2), the players underwent tests including countermovement jump (CMJ), CMJ with arm swing, single-leg CMJ, a sprint running test (5 m and 15 m times), and an aerobic fitness running test. Following each training session and match over the 9 weeks, players reported their RPE for respiratory (RPEres) and leg musculature (RPEmus) separately. Training load (TL) was calculated by multiplying the RPE value by the duration of each training session or match in minutes.

Accumulated RPEmus, along with the associated TL, and accumulated training volume showed negative correlations with changes in most physical fitness attributes after the 9-week training period (ranging from -0.51 to -0.64). These findings suggest that a high perception of leg muscular effort during training sessions and matches, as well as excessive accumulation of training volume (time), may hinder improvements in several physical fitness variables crucial for on-field soccer performance. Therefore, independently assessing leg muscular effort to quantify TL could be a valuable additional monitoring measure in soccer training.

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