The Effects of Long Sprint Ability Oriented Small-Sided Games Using Different Players-to-Pitch Area on Internal and External Load in Soccer Players

Castagna, C., D’Ottavio, S., Cappelli, S., Araújo Póvoas, S.C.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the internal and external load imposed by Long Sprint Ability (LSA) oriented small-sided games (SSG) using different players-to-pitch area ratios (densities) in soccer players.

Methods: Nineteen professional soccer players from the same club (age 17.1±0.3 years, height 1.76±0.69 m, body mass 69.7±9.4 kg) participated. Players performed 4 sets of 30-second all-out 1v1 SSGs with 150 seconds of recovery, considering pitch areas of 300, 200, and 100 m² per player (48 hours apart). External load was tracked using GPS technology (20Hz), while heart rate, blood lactate concentration (BLc), and rating of perceived exertion characterized internal load. Peak BLc was assessed with a 30-second all-out test on a non-motorized treadmill (NMT).

Results: SSG300 produced higher BLc than SSG200 (moderate) and SSG100 (large). The BLc for SSG300, SSG200, and SSG100 were 97.8±34.8 (trivial), 74.7±24.9 (moderate), and 43.4±15.7% (large) of the NMT30s peak BLc, respectively. Players covered more distance at high intensity during SSG300 than in other SSG conditions (huge to very large differences). High-intensity deceleration distance was largely lower in SSG200 than in SSG300. SSG100 elicited very large to huge and large to very large lower external load values than SSG300 and SSG200, respectively.

Conclusions: The study found an inverse association between ball-drill density and internal/external loads in LSA-oriented SSG. SSG300 provided BLc closer to individual maximal, indicating potential for LSA development. Further studies using SSG300 as a training intervention and investigating other SSG formats with the same density are warranted.

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