A major challenge for strength and conditioning coaches is minimizing decrements in performance (i.e., sprinting speed) as the season trudges on. In the sport of soccer, there’s been reports of nearly 5% reductions in sprinting speed at the end of the season. This is obviously problematic considering this is right around the time of the post-season, the most important time of the year where we want performance to be optimal. A big part of maintaining or even improving performance qualities throughout the season certainly has to do with maintaining an effective in-season training program. Simply put, if the athletes aren’t lifting, they will get weaker. This leads to reduced force production on the field, consequently resulting in less height when jumping and more time to get from A to B. Therefore, coaches are strongly interested in implementing effective training strategies to prevent the drop-off in performance toward seasons end.
A new study published ahead of print of Science and Sports compared the effectiveness of a 2 different seven-week in season training interventions on sprinting speed and repeat sprint ability in twenty U-17 soccer players. The subjects were split into a plyometric training group who performed 4 jump exercise twice per week and a resisted sprint training group who performed 4 sprint exercises with 10-13% of body mass twice per week. Before and after the training period, the subjects performed a 30 m sprint test and a repeat sprint ability test.
The results showed that the resisted sprint training group experienced a small improvement (ES = 0.37) in sprint times at the end of the season whereas the plyometric training group saw no improvement (ES = -0.17). For the repeated sprint ability test, the resisted sprint training group again outperformed the plyometric training group, demonstrating moderate (ES = 0.73, 0.95) improvements vs small and trivial changes (ES = -0.21, 0.16) in peak and mean repeated sprint ability, respectively. Thus, it appears the including resisted sprinting twice per week throughout the competitive seen may attenuate decrements in both maximal and repeated sprinting speed. However, don’t rule out plyometric training as it is unclear how performance in other tasks like jumping were effected.
Borges, J. H., Conceição, M. S., Vechin, F. C., Pascoal, E. H. F., Silva, R. P., & Borin, J. P. (2016). The effects of resisted sprint vs. plyometric training on sprint performance and repeated sprint ability during the final weeks of the youth soccer season. Science & Sports.