As the strength and conditioning coach for a high level field-sport team (i.e., soccer, rugby, etc.) the head coach has provided you with 15 minutes after the warm-up twice per week (Tues and Thurs) to give the athletes a workout. The coach specifically states that he wants the athletes to be able to run faster and jump higher as a result of your program when he tests them again in 8 weeks’ time. You have access to a squat rack with a little bit of weight, sleds for resisted sprint training, and cones, benches and miscellaneous equipment for plyometric and speed drills. Under these conditions, what type of plan do you come up with? Do you do circuit training? Strength work? A combination of various methods? Block training off into 2-4 weeks blocks and alternate methods? These situations are real-life problems that we have to deal with as performance coaches.
In a new study published ahead of print in this month’s issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a group of Spanish researchers studied this exact situation. Thirty-one high level U-19 male soccer players were divided into 3 groups: 1) a squat group 2) a resisted sprinting group and 3) a speed and plyometric training group. Over the course of 8 weeks, each group trained twice per week following a standardized team warm-up. The squat group trained with between 40-60% of 1RM for 2-3 sets of 4-8 repetitions and were instructed to move the bar as fast as possible on the concentric portion of the lift. The resisted sprint group performed 6-10 sets of 20 m sprints towing a sled with 12.6% of their body weight. The plyometric/speed group performed a series of jumps, hop, skips, bounding, lunges and agility drills. Before and after the training program, all athletes were tested for the countermovement jump, 50 m sprinting speed with 10 m splits and change of direction speed.
The results showed that every group substantially improved countermovement jump and 30-50 m split. The plyo and squat groups improved the 0-50 m time. Only the squat group improved 10-20 m time. Between group analysis demonstrated that the squat group was more effective at improving sprinting speed compared to the other groups. This finding is interesting considering a recent meta-analysis demonstrated that specific training (i.e., sprint work and resisted sprinting) was the most effective for improving sprinting speed, while squat training had smaller effects. The fact that moderate loads were used and performed as explosively as possible may explain this discrepancy. Overall, the results show that each training modality can be effective for improving speed and explosiveness, however change of direction ability likely needs more specific training to facilitate improvements. Coaches can therefore cycle through these different methods in a periodized manner, or use a combination of them to produce results.
de Hoyo, M., Gonzalo-Skok, O., Sañudo, B., Carrascal, C., Plaza-Armas, J. R., Camacho-Candil, F., & Otero-Esquina, C. (2016). Comparative Effects of In-Season Full-Back Squat, Resisted Sprint Training, and Plyometric Training on Explosive Performance in U-19 Elite Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, (30)2:368-377