Strength and conditioning training does not necessarily make an athlete more talented or skilled at their sport. It does however enable an athlete to perform their skills while accumulating less fatigue. More over, basic physical qualities such as strength and power underpin numerous athletic performance tasks such as jumping, sprinting and changing direction. An important consideration for coaches when devising a strength and conditioning program is training frequency. What is the minimal effective dose versus what is the optimal dose? Training time is precious, particularly when dealing with youth athletes who cannot dedicate several hours a day to training. Therefore, it would be useful for coaches to know how many day per week they should dedicate to strength and conditioning training to elicit a training effect among their athletes.
A new study published ahead of print in the European Journal of Sports Science evaluated the effects of a strength and conditioning program performed once or twice per week over several weeks on athletic performance variables in elite youth soccer players. Thirty-six U-19 and U-17 male players were divided into a control group (0 strength and conditioning training sessions per week), a once per week training group and a twice per week training group. The workouts involved full barbell back-squats, leg curls, plyometrics and sled towing exercises. One week before and after the training intervention, all subjects were tested in the counter-movement jump (height and peak power), 20 m sprint time with 10 m split and a change of direction test. Performance results were compared within and between experimental conditions.
The results showed that both training protocols stimulated small to moderate (effect size) performance improvements in the counter movement jump and change of direction test. Small improvements were observed in 20 m sprint time among the twice per week training group. Between-group results showed that both experimental conditions improved performance better than control. However, the twice per week training group experienced greater improvements than the once per week group in 20 m and 10 m sprint time as well as change of direction speed. Thus, strength and conditioning training once or twice per week will yield similar improvements in counter-movement jump parameters but twice per week training appears to result in superior improvements in linear and change of direction sprint speed.
Otero-Esquina, C. et al. Is strength-training frequency a key factor to develop performance adaptations in young elite soccer players? European Journal of Sports Science. In press.