If we have a squad of 20 players, only 10 outfield players can start, so those who don’t play need to train harder during the week. If we’ve played on a Saturday, the players who started the game may only train for 45 minutes to an hour. The others will do a longer session, including additional football work, small sided games to work on high intensity fitness and straight running drills as well.
We like to train players at their maximal aerobic speed. This is the speed at which a player can run aerobically (low to high intensity) before they start to hit a level where they can’t maintain their running speeds for a prolonged period of time. We have a specific way of measuring our players’ ability to do this. Fifteen lengths of a football pitch will typically be 1500 metres. The time it takes to cover that distance divided by 1500 will give you your maximal aerobic speed. We can then prescribe the intensity of each player’s runs off their maximal aerobic speed.
We use Tabata training a lot. An example of this would be 20 seconds of running at maximum speed, followed by 10 seconds rest. Our players will do that for 3-4 minutes, which is about six to eight reps. The players are normally dead on their feet after that. We’ll give them two to three minutes recovery between sets. Fitness will dictate how many sets they do – after a game it’s normally a couple – followed by some high speed running. This will involve a 10-second box to box run followed by 30 seconds rest.
The perfect session
If I was training on my own at home and I had an hour to fill, typically I’d expose myself to something aerobic, for example three minutes of hard running, with two minutes off for five reps. I’d also do to two sets of HIIT training – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for four minutes, resting for three minutes between sets. I’d then finish off with high intensity distance conditioning – box to box runs in 10 seconds. Six to 10 reps with about 30 to 50 seconds rest between each set is optimal. This would take you up to about an hour’s worth of running work and will top up your fitness between games.