The Effect of a Concentrated Period of Soccer Specific Fitness Training with Small-Sided Games on Physical Fitness in Youth Players

Paul DJ, Marques JB, Nassis GP

BACKGROUND: It is unknown whether a concentrated period of small-sided games and high-intensity training is an effective training approach in youth soccer players. The aim of the study was to examine the effect of a concentrated period of soccer-specific training on physical fitness in youth players.

METHODS: Nineteen male soccer players, from two teams, participated (mean ± SD age: 16.2 ± 0.8 years; body mass: 58.2 ± 7.6 kg; height: 170.8 ± 7.7 cm). One team performed 5 days of small-sided games and high-intensity training (SSG & HIT; n = 12) and the other team regular soccer training with 1 day of SSG and HIT (REG; n = 7) weekly for 4 weeks. The 30-15 intermittent fitness test (30-15 IFT), countermovement jump (CMJ), and change of direction (COD) performance were measured pre and post-intervention. Heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded and session load calculated (RPE x minutes).

RESULTS: Average % of maximum HR and session load were 83% and 344 AU for the SSG & HIT vs 73% and 253 AU for the REG (P< 0.05). 30-15 IFT improved for the SSG & HIT (from 17.0 ± 1.1 to 18.4 ± 0.8 km/h; p< 0.05; ES = 0.57) with no difference for the REG group (Pre: 17.9 ± 1.3, Post: 18.2 ± 1.6 km/h, ES= 0.10). CMJ and COD were unchanged in both groups and no injuries were reported. CONCLUSIONS: A 4-week concentrated period of daily SSG & HIT is effective for improving endurance performance in youth soccer players. This was without injuries and without negating performance in power and change of direction.

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