Monday, January 10, 2011

8-weeks soccer pre-season plan - Part 2

Physical Preparation Goals

Speaking of goals, what are the goals of Physical Preparation training component? That’s easy, right? Improving performance and reducing injuries. But what is improved performance and how do we judge it? To answer that we would again need to take a look at three-level 
analysis system.

First level of analysis is game analysis and involves different types of analysis, one of which is important to physical preparation component and it is called time-motion analysis. Time-motion analysis provides times (distances and/or frequencies) of certain movement patterns that emerges during the game. Without going into depths of time-motion analyses and their results, one of the interesting aspects  of it is the total distance covered in a game and more importantly distance covered at higher intensities (since this makes a crucial distinction between higher and lower level of players) and its distribution over a game time. In the picture below taken from AWESOME article (the one that I will come back to numerous times and it is a must read) by Edwards and Noakes:

It can be seen from the picture that the difference between elite and moderate level soccer players is in the amount of high intensity activity during a game (even if they might have same total distance covered and VO2max).  Also, it is important to maintain amount of high intensity activity toward the end of the game, especially the last 15 minutes where it is usual that most of the goals are given/get.

Thus, the improved performance (along with injury reduction) for physical preparation standpoint is in the improvements of the (1) quality of the high intensity activity (neuromuscular power) and (2) to maintain it longer and more often. All activities of physical preparation are thus aimed to reach those goals or improve TRANFER to the game-match activity within those lines.

Another interesting and crucial concepts brought by Edwards and Noakes is the pacing strategy. Here is the quote from the paper:

Soccer players are well known to self-regulate match-play efforts according to numerous intrinsic
and extrinsic factors such as their current fitness levels, the importance of the game, and
positional and tactical considerations.[2,25] The level of each player’s sustained cardiovascular
stress during a match has also been shown to be positively related to pre-match aerobic fitness,[18]
with better conditioned players more able to sustain a higher level of physical work throughout
the full duration of the match and regulating core body temperature more effectively at a sustainable
level.[15,16,18] This suggests that players modulate effort according to a subconscious
strategy based on both pre-match (e.g. prior experiencein similar circumstances, fitness levels,
match importance) and dynamic considerations during the game (skin temperature, accumulation
of metabolites in the muscles, plasma osmolality and substrate availability). Each player’s perception
of a developing cellular homeostatic disturbance consequently induces behavioural
changes across all outfield positions (such as covering an opponent’s movement rather than
intercepting, walking rather than jogging, or passing rather than dribbling) to limit physical
efforts so as to avoid unsustainable elevations in physical discomfort at a premature stage of the
match. As such, subconscious physiological factors influence conscious behavioural decisions to
regulate effort.

In our own research we have shown that fatigue (you can read more about the fatigue in this blog entry and in papers by Ament et al. and by Marino et al.) affects pacing strategies of the players depending on the context (in this case position played). Thus, the fatigue that is developed during the game affects (by both conscious and un-conscious mechanism) pacing strategies of the players (in which case middle defenders are differently affected than middle fielders and forwards for example).

Ament et al. provided really good overview of current fatigue understanding in the table below:

Edwards and Noakes proposed three complementary pacing strategies in soccer:

Thus along with decreasing fatigue (by increasing physical preparedness), the goal of training should be to improve pacing strategies of the players and different physiological factors will affect macro-pacing, meso-pacing and micro-pacing strategies within the game.

I know that this sound confusing, and that’s why I urge you to read mentioned papers.

Since the players with improved physical preparedness will be able to afford different pacing strategies, it is extremely important that they get used to playing. That’s why it is important to actually play while improving fitness.  This goes well with the concept of affordances from ecological psychology and constraints-led approach to skill acquisition. Improved fitness will afford players the ability to improve pacing strategy, but to do it, they need to get attuned to improved physical preparedness by being involved in soccer playing. For example, increase vLT (velocity at lactate threshold or functional threshold) and vVO2max (velocity at maximum oxygen consumption), along with hydration status and nutritional status will afford players the ability to increase macro- and meso- pacing strategies, while improved RSA (repeated sprint ability, which is also related to vLT and vVO2max) and glycolytic power/capacity will afford players the ability to increase micro-pacing strategies. Anyway, to improve those pacing strategies it is not enough to only increase physical preparedness (along with, of course, technical skills and tactical-decision making), but also devise special training sessions specially aimed at improving pacing strategies by utilizing small-sided games and full-sided games (10v10). The importance of this concept can be seen in the fact that more advanced athletes compared to lower levels, along with having similar aerobic capabilities affords themselves better pacing strategies and show better performance.

The mentioned concept is of special importance in the last parts of the game where the fatigue builds up and thus players need to learn optimal pacing strategies to allow them to fulfill their tactical and strategic tasks and finish the game. The concept of pacing strategy goes well with the discussion of whether one should base training on individual characteristics of players or positional demands. Now you see why it is important to do BOTH of those concepts, since basing training on individual characteristics makes individualization easier in improving physical preparedness, yet basing training on positional demands allow improvements in specific pacing strategies of the players. We need to do both.

All of this goes well with the concept of complex training by Anatoly Bondarchuk, that allows the best transfer between training elements in such a small amount of time as is 8-weeks pre-season period. Here is the picture from Periodization Confusion article.

For the sake of simplicity I classified methods and exercises together based on the work of Dr Anatoly Bondarchuk. This classification can be applied to all seven mentioned training components.

Name of exercise/method
Competitive (CE)
Exercises that are identical or almost identical to competition event
10v10 on full pitch
10v10 with different constraints
Friendly games
developmental (SDE)
Exercise that repeat the competitive event in training but in its separate parts
Small sided games with different constraints aimed at emphasizing certain aspect of performance
preparatory (SPE)
Exercises that do not imitate the competitive event, but train the major muscle groups and physiological systems
Technical and tactical drills (pre-set)
Speed, explosive, reactive training
Strength training (legs)

preparatory (GPE)
Exercises that do not imitate the competitive event and do not train the specific systems.
Strength training (assistance, upper body)
Core training
Low intensity plyos
Aerobic training (running and non-running)
Activities involving other sports
Exercise classification based on work of Dr Anatoly Bondarchuk and UKA Exercise Classification Hierarchy

So, for this 8-weeks pre-season period I decided to use complex-method of assembling all four types of exercise/methods. Although this classification ‘merges’ all training components to provide bigger picture, same classification can/should be done for each training component and it’s sub-types. This is exactly what I am going to do for physical preparation.

In the following table I’ve listed major sub-components of physical preparation with their goals

Exercise/Methods Used
Speed work
Improvement in the acceleration, speed and agility
Explosive strength
Improvement in the explosive strength and reactive-strength
Improvement in the relative strength and functional hypertrophy
GPE (upper body & core), SPE (lower body)
Aerobic capacity/power
Improvement in vLT and vVO2max
Glycolytic capacity/power
Improvement in RSA (repeat sprint ability) and special endurance

Since I consider soccer to be alactic-aerobic sport (see the interview with the fitness coach David Tenney of Seattle Sounders), where the aim is to improve quality of high-intensity efforts that tax alactic energy system and the improvement of the recovery between it (this tax aerobic energy system, since the speed of CP recovery is dependent on aerobic power, yet there are some thought that it is recovered using glycolytic system), it is also important to do some glycolytic capacity/power training since this will further pull aerobic capacities and also improve micro-pacing within the game. Another interesting concept worth mentioning are the ‘matches’ concept form cycling (see Training and Racing with a Power Meter ). It could be said that each athlete has certain amount of matches in the match box and can burn them during specific situations in the game. This may include long sprint in the counter-attack repeated, or repeated short sprints and duels. After burning this ‘match’ athlete will experience transient fatigue and will demand lower pace in the game. This fits well with the micro-pacing concept.  Thus, the goal of glycolytic capacity/power is to increase the number of the matches in the match box, so to speak.  This type of work plateaus quickly and there shouldn’t be too much of volume of it. More on this could be read in excellent series on endurance development by Lyle McDonald, especially in this part.

I have also put RSA into glycolytic sub-group although it may be argued against it and whether it demands its own group. It is believed that replenishment of CP (that is spend during the sprint) during the recovery is achieved by aerobic system, and the higher the aerobic capacity/power the faster the recovery and thus the lower the fatigue effects (this has been shown in the research numerous times, although there are some contradictory ones, anyway, I am too lazy to list them). This is why aerobic power/capacity training provides a base for RSA development. Anyway, there are some new ideas that the quick (there are two parts of it: quick and slow) replenishment of CP are achieved by glycolytic mechanism. This doesn’t change my planning though, and if you are more interested I direct you to the great new up-to-date review article regarding energy systems by Baker el al., which also goes into debunking lactate as toxin and cause of fatigue. Great read and it is free. In the following pictures are general outlines of three energy systems from that article:

In the next picture  there is  the Energy System continuum (in running) that I’ve depicted for the sake of ‘conceptualizing’ couple of different ideas (recruitment of fast twitch and slow twitch fibers, RPE, HR, bLA, etc), so please note that this is only conceptual, although usable to depict some training modalities.

I’ll come back to this picture again when I will talk more about each sub-component of physical preparation and in this case aerobic power/capacity  and glycolytic power/capacity development.

Athlete Evaluation

Ok, back to our three level analysis system.  I guess I covered game-analysis from physical preparation standpoint (although there is more to it, and if you are interested I suggest you also check research by Rampinini et al., Gabbett et al., Stølen et al., di Salvo et al. among many others) now we need to cover athlete evaluation.

To assess and evaluate the players we need to do a test battery, since one test can’t tell us about all aspects of performance. Again, the best test is the game, but to evaluate physical preparedness factors and to use them to create individualized training and provide certain overload we need to use explicit testing battery. Knowing both (game analysis and athlete evaluation) can provide us with more info, especially what physical preparedness factor might limit (does it limit and how much) certain game performance. We can assess this by doing cross-section analysis and showing statistic correlations (some of the above mentioned articles goes into this) which can give us some insights, but we can also do longitudinal-study where we find correlations between improvements over time and this provides more insight into the training transfer than cross-sectional study. Example of cross study would be how much is vVO2max correlated to distance covered (total or higher-intensity distance) at one instant in time, but the longitudinal study would give us answer to how much an improvement  in vVO2max correlates with improvement in distance covered and thus provides us with the idea of training effects transfer in a much better way.  Unfortunately, the longitudinal studies takes longer to complete and are more complex (demands training intervention) and thus more expensive, thus there are not so many of them.

Anyway, since I am talking about physical preparation here, for each sub-component I will provide a test that can assess that aspect of physical preparedness.

Speed work
30m sprint with 10m time
Zig-zag run with and without the ball
Explosive strength
Reactive jumps to assess Reactive Strength Index (RSI)
Bench Press
3RM Chin-ups
Aerobic capacity/power
vLT and vVO2max tests (laboratory or field)
Glycolytic capacity/power
150 or 300m shuttles

Some other test might be included too like range of motion test or Functional Movement Screen, body composition, biochemical tests (blood, urine) or what have you.
I have included some links, but I will not go into the too much details regarding testing and stuff since it demand a book on itself. You can check Functional Testing in Human Performance if you want.

With this info we can track physical preparedness improvement over time, along with individualizing some training sessions. If we have certain model we can define strengths and weaknesses (taking some athlete model as a comparator) in physical preparedness of the athlete. In my opinion it is very complex problem to define strength and weaknesses and whether working on strengths or weaknesses alone will improve performance, so I warn again using simplistic and reductionist methods of doings so, but rather use more complex methods, that also involve game analysis (of other elements like technical skills, tactical decision making, psychology characteristics, etc), level of play, etc. Some people are so retarded that they use this type of battery of tests do identify talents. Retarded I know, since physical preparedness in only one aspect of success in soccer or any sport.

One thing I want to clear is why I’ve used specific tests to assess vLT and vVO2max and also YoYo test. Well, I will use vLT and vVO2max to program and thus individualize certain training sessions, but it is impossible to extract those variable from YoYo test results (I’ve been talking over the email with famous researcher David Bishop from Australia regarding this and he basically told me that). The reason for this is that success in YoYo test in not only related to vLT and vVO2max, but also to glycolytic capacity, neuromuscular system, changes of direction skills and inter-effort recovery abilities. You can find more on this in the free article by Martin Buchheit regarding a similar test 30-15IF.

The reason I included YoYo is that it is highly sensitive, reliable and valid tool to assess improvements in, should I call it that way, soccer specific endurance and highly correlates with distances covered at higher intensities during a game.  Thus, YoYo is really important test even if it doesn’t provides information to make individualized interval sessions. If I need to choose only one test to do, I would do YoYo.

Well, that’s all for this part. In the next part I will try to fit all of this together, along with more discussion on each sub-component of physical preparation and provide a certain template that could be followed.

Till next time….

1 comment:

  1. Please note that I am familiar that there are grammatical errors in my writings and I want to say thanks to star61 from forum for his willingness to provide me editing assistance, but I was too eager to finish this and to publish this so I can move one to the next part.

    Hopefully you guys understand this and it is readable.