Coaching Today

Is Long-distance Running Really Important in Soccer Training?

By David Soltero

Is Long-distance Running Really Important in Soccer Training?_DBSoccer is a sport where players are constantly running for 90 minutes and where conditioning plays an important role. People often think that because soccer players run a lot in a game and there are no time-outs that they need to have a good aerobic capacity and, consequently, need to run long distances in order to be physically fit and ready to play.

This theory is correct in a way because players do need to have a good aerobic capacity to play the sport; however, there are other important training components that long-distance running do not provide and, therefore, it is not the best way to prepare the players to be able to play the sport.   

Why isn’t long-distance running the best way to train for soccer? When analyzing the game, players run approximately 70 percent of the actual minutes of the game. Players run a lot in terms of the distance run during a game; however, the question is, how do they accomplish those runs? Is it long-distance running at the same tempo throughout the entire game? The answer is no.

Most of the runs made in soccer are explosive, high-intensity runs, rather than long, slow runs. Jonas Forsberg, in his article, "How to Build a Soccer Conditioning Base," says that soccer is a "power-sport," where sprinting, maximum strength and jumping ability is extremely important. Running long distance will affect the players’ performance in an opposite way, making them weak and slow instead of strong and fast as most people believe. Running long distance will stimulate the slow twitch muscle fibers, meaning that the body will adapt to the slow tempo being performed during long- distance running and, over time, the fast twitch muscle fibers will "drown," which will make the players slower and weaker. 

Aerobic conditioning should be performed in a different way rather than long- distance running.  Instead of long-distance running, coaches should focus on short and more dynamic sprinting drills.  A more sport-specific conditioning program should be done. These are some examples of drills that a coach can do on a conditioning program:

  • 5-yard Shuttles - Set cones at every 5 yards for 25 yards (5, 10, 15, 20, 25). Sprint out to the first cone (5 yards) and back to start, second cone (10) and back, third cone (15) and back, fourth cone (20) and back, and fifth cone (25) and back to start in the indicated amount of time. The amount of rest depends on the time you run it in. You always have the “remainder of the minute” to rest. If you run it in 35 seconds, you have 25 seconds to rest, and if it is done in 40 seconds, you only have 20 seconds to rest. Take extra rest where indicated. Repeat the number of sets indicated on that day. If you miss any, do that many extra. Do not do more than three extra.
  • 120s - Sprint the length of a 120-yard field in 18 seconds or less. Immediately turn and jog back to the start line in 30 seconds. Stand and rest 30 seconds. Then start No. 2. Complete 10 times. Additional 15 second rest is given after No. 4 and No. 7. The sprint down and the recovery jog back are both timed for a reason. If you do not make either stage in time, you should consider that you missed that one. If you miss any, do that many extra. Do not do more than three extra.
  • 300s - Put two cones 50 yards (or 25 yards depending on the day) apart from one another (be liberal with your yards…if you are easily finishing 55 seconds, your steps are too short!) Run from the start cone to the second cone and back three times (or 25-yard cones = up and back - 6 times) It is a total of 300 yards. You need to run this in 57 seconds (or 63 seconds for 25-yard cones). You will have one minutes to rest before running the next set. Take extra rest where indicated. If you miss any, do extra.
  • Run the long distance around a track or a soccer field and the shuttles on a field.

½ mi (2 laps) - 3:15 min

REST 2 MINUTES

½ mi (2 laps) – 3:30 min

REST 2 MINUTES

6yd, 18yd, 60yd, sprint shuttle - 35 sec

REST 1 MINUTE

¼ mi (1 lap) – 1:45 min

REST 1 MINUTE

6yd, 18yd, 60yd, sprint shuttle - 35 sec

REST 1 MINUTE

6yd, 18yd, 60yd, sprint shuttle - 37 sec

REST 1 MINUTE

¼ mi (1 lap) – 1:55 min -NO REST!!!!

6yd, 18yd, 60yd, sprint shuttle - 37 sec

REST 2 MINUTES

½ mi (2 laps) – 3:50 min

 

  • Split 150s - Set up three cones (0, 50 yards, 100 yards). Sprint 100 yards in 14 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. Sprint back 50 yards in seven seconds. Jog one minute back to the start. Repeat six times = 1 set.

In conclusion, long-distance running is not the best way to train for the sport of soccer. Even though most people think that long-distance running helps athletes develop an appropriately conditioned and physically fit body, there are different ways of training that can be more beneficial than doing a long run – that being short interval sprints. In order to reach peak performance, the player should have the appropriate training that would be beneficial rather than harmful. 

Reference: 

Forsberg, Jonas.  How to build a Soccer Conditioning Base. Recreation and Sport: Soccer. 2010.


About the Author: David Soltero is a soccer coach from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a physical education degree.  Recently, he started his master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Central Florida.

 

 

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