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The training effect of '' core muscles '' to improve athletic performance.
Experts agree that the ''core'' muscles play an important role not only in the sports movement and activities of daily living.
It is highly recognized by strength and conditioning coaches in general that a well-developed musculature of the ''core'' is vital to enhance athletic performance.
But what is the '' core '' ?
It called at times ''power band'' or even '' the house of power''.
It consists of the muscles that surround the center of gravity of the human body and includes the abdominals (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal andexternal obliques), hip (psoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor facia latae, pectinius, gluteus maximus, medius and minimus; semitendinosus; semimembranosus; biceps femorus; adductor brevis, longus, and magnus; gemellus superior and inferior; obturator internus and externus; quadratus
femoris; piriformis) and back (erector spinae; quadratus lumborum; paraspinals; trapezius; psoas major; multifidus; iliocostalis lumborum and thoracis; rotatores; latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior).

These muscles are responsible for the support of postures, creating movements, actions coordination of muscle tissue, allowing the stability of the body to absorb forces, power generation, and transmission power.

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A strong and stable '' core '' provides a strong link to transfer forces from the ground through the lower body and turns through the upper body and limbs. This transfer forces necessary for the athlete's ability to run, to change direction, to jump, throwing, swing or hit. This means that regardless of the movement activity the center of the body is responsible for the process and the result. Whether to swing a golf club, throwing a ball, diving in a swimming pool; even the transport of furniture, the core muscles act eccentric, concentric and isometric yet to successfully execute the movements.

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The benefits of a ''strong core muscle system'' are:

-Increased development power-
The strength is the dominant component of many sports, where the power and speed combination plays an important role in the performance of an athlete. A strong and stable core allows the force to be generated and transferred through the kinetic chain.

-Improving stability-
Most major muscles of the upper and lower body are in contact with the pelvis and the spine wherein the reinforcement helps create a stable platform that allows more powerful and effective limb movements.

-Better balance-
A strong ''core''helps the spine and pelvis to maintain stability and their balance when the muscles of the shoulders, arms and legs is active.

-Reduce risk of injury-
Experts believe that the weak '' core '' can lead to overloading of extremities, body points that can cause damage to some cases. Increasing the athlete's ability to produce the absorbing forces while stability and balance leads to reduce the risk of injuries.

Also the role of the '' core muscles '' is to stabilize the protection of the spine from damaging effects forces. Injuries of the spine can occur when the athlete has insufficient bearing capacity to stabilize the spine using wrong the muscles.
Contraction of the abdominal muscles and muscles of the ''core'' without causing movement of the abdominal wall involve torso muscles and increase the stability and balance.

Maximising Sports Performance

To conclude the training of the muscles of the ''core'' cannot be overlooked because of the benefits the athlete has of this and should be incorporated these exercises in the training program. But they should not replace other strength training programs, particularly those which focus on increasing the rate of force development.


1. Brumitt J. (2004). Th e missing component of core training: Endurance.NSCA’s Performance Training Journal,3(6):16 – 18.

2. McGill SM. (2002). Low back disorders:Evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

3. Luoto S, Heliovaara M, Hurri H Alaranta M (1995). Static back endurance and the risk of low back pain. Clinical Biomechanics, 10:323 – 324

4. Anderson, KG, and DG Behm.(2004). Maintenance of EMG activity and loss of force output with instability.Journal of Strength and Conditioning. Research, 18(3):637 – 640.

5. Behm, DG, (1995). Neuromuscular implications and applications of resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 9:264 – 274.

6. Behm, DG, AM Leonard, WB Young, W Andrew C Bosney, and SN Mackinnon. (2005). Trunk muscle electromyographic activity with unstable and unilateral exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(1):193 – 201.

7. Cosio-Lima, LM, KL Reynolds, C Winter, V Paolone, and MT Jones. (2003). Eff ects of physioball and conventional fl oor exercises on early phase adaptations in back and abdominal core stability and balance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(4):721 – 725.

8. Rutherford, OM, and DA Jones. (1986). The role of learning and coordination in strength training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 55:100 – 105.

9. Bosco C, Komi PV. (1979). Potentiation of the mechanical behaviour of the human skeletal muscle through pre-stretching. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 106(4): 467 – 572.

10. Cavagna GA. (1977). Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sports Sciences Review, 5: 89 – 129.

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1.The effect of core training.

In professional soccer, it is not always possible to isolate strength and endurance training on separate days. Competition schedule, limited training time devoted to physical fitness, as well as other contextual variables nesecicitates the concurrent arrangement of strength and endurance sessions within the same training unit or within different training units performed in close proximity (within the same day). Typically, current approach dictates the execution of strength exercises before endurance exercises when strength and endurance are trained within the same session or strength workouts the day before endurance workouts.

Some studies have tried to investigate the effect of sequencing strength and endurance in soccer players specifically. For example McGawlay and Andersson pair-matched eighteen semi- and fully-professional players that completed 3 sessions per week of high intensity aerobic training followed by strength/power training (n=9) or strength/power training followed by high intensity aerobic training (n=9) for a pre-season period of five weeks (1). In this study the football exercises and strength/power exercises each lasted for 30 minutes and they were performed within the same session at 19:00. In another study, a strength training session was followed by soccer-specific endurance training or the same soccer-specific endurance training was performed in the morning followed by strength training in the early afternoon (2). In the first scenario both sessions were completed with a 3-4 morning period (08:45 and 10:30 respectively), whilst in the second scenario the players performed the endurance session at 10:30 and the strength session at 14:00. In this way, players that completed the strength exercises first had a 30-45 minute recovery period before the endurance exercises, whilst players that completed the endurance exercise first had 120 minutes of recovery before the strength session (2). Another study using a large sample of players compared performing strength before endurance in a single training session, endurance before strength in a single training session and strength and endurance training on alternate days (3). From the above studies, there were evidence to suggest that performing endurance before strength may be a little more beneficial for performance variables (2).

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Although not specifically designed to test this hypothesis our recent study within a professional soccer club was conducted by performing the endurance session prior to strength session within the same day (4). These two sessions were conducted ninety-six hours prior to the next game and involved a morning session of medium/high volume endurance training (20-40 minutes) and an afternoon session of medium/high volume of strength training (30-40 minutes). The endurance training was always performed in the form of small-sided games. The goal of these sessions was accumulation of time in the high intensity aerobic zone (e.g., no stoppages by the coaching staff). Strength training utilized free weights and was based on a combination of multi-joint strength and power exercises. Sessions included 4-6 exercises such as primary and assistant strength and assistant power exercises. The repetition range for assistant power exercises was fairly low (3-5), whilst core and assistant strength exercises had a somewhat more variable repetition range (4-8). There was a ~4 hour difference between endurance and strength sessions.

From a practical stand point of view endurance training preceded strength training due to the fact that the morning session also included technical/tactical training and performing strength exercises would have affected the subsequent execution of the technical drills. On the contrary, endurance training could easily be executed following the technical/tactical part of the morning session.

Recent evidence in the area of molecular biology tends to support the completion of strength after endurance (5). Based on the activity of enzymes AMPK (marker of endurance training adaptations) and mTORC1 (marker of strength training adaptations), if endurance is performed first and strength latter on the day, the AMPK produced during the endurance activity will switch off as soon as recovery occurs and will not interfere with the strength training session. In addition the mTORC1 that will be produced by the evening strength session will remain elevated for the remaining of the day, only to be switched off by the production of AMPK during the endurance session the next morning.

In accordance with above evidence our study demonstrated small by practical improvements in velocity at 4mM (V4) and CMJ for both starters and non-starters from September to January (4). Therefore both practical reasons as well as meaningful performance enhancement may suggest performing strength session after the endurance session (following at least 3 hours of recovery) in professional soccer.


  1. McGawley K, Andersson PI. The order of concurrent training does not affect soccer-related performance adaptations. Int J Sports Med, 2013; 34:983-990.
  2. Enright K, Morton J, Iga J, Drust B. The effect of concurrent training organisation in youth elite soccer players. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2015; 115:2367-2381.
  3. Makhlouf I, Castagna C, Manzi V, Laurencelle L, Behm DG, Chaouachi A. Effect of Sequencing Strength and Endurance Training in Young Male Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res, 2016; 30:841-850.
  4. Papadakis L, Patras K, Geogoulis AD. In-season concurrent aerobic endurance and CMJ improvements are feasible for both starters and non-starters in professional soccer players: A case study. J Aust Strength Cond, 2015; 23:19-30.
  5. Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Med, 2014; 44:S117-S125.
Maximising Sports Performance
2.Sequence of strength and endurance training in professional soccer

In order to achieve major improvements on performance, the athlete must be most of the time on his limits. Being to “fresh”, means that the athlete is not working hard enough. Feeling too tired, means that the body will not allow further exercise without adequate recovery.

Exercise regimes are designed in cycles in order to increase stress and then to give time for the body to develop the essential adaptations during rest period. However, this process is far more complicated that it sounds and involves neuromuscular pathways, physiological changes, psychological adjustments and hormonal imbalances. In order to achieve the perfect balance, which will give you the idea when to push, and when to give some rest someone needs to take in account all these parameters, if not weekly at least monthly.

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The balance between overtraining and performance improvement lies between a fine line. The role of an exercise physiologist (or sports medicine professional) is not only to provide numbers but to identify with every cost this fine line and advice the rest of the technical and medical team with practical solutions.

This is the way to achieve the “supercompensation” which is a process that we need to maintain for several training cycles in order to secure that the final point on the graph of performance, would be significantly higher from the starting point initially.

This process involves:

sports specific questionnaires,

reaction tests, physiology tests,

urine and blood markers analysis,

and daily monitoring of the football players by the technical staff of the team.

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3.The theory of supercompensation in sports performance

Young athletes should understand the importance of the below in order to be able to identify when, what and how much they should consume to maximize their athletic performance.General dietary rule to increase the athletic performance:

"Healthy balanced-diet + proper meal planning + adequate hydration”.

Priority should be given to:

1. Coverage increased energy needs (consume food every 2-3 hours).

2. Proper selection of healthy carbohydrate snacks before, during and after training/match.

3. Adequate hydration.

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Meal planning on training days:

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day:

  • Provisioning energy and nutrients in the body and activating metabolism (breaking the overnight fast and starting brain's and body's function).
  • Increase the athletic performance (adequate energy for high trainings' requirements).
  • Maintaining healthy body weight (skip breakfast -> overeating throughout the day).

Examples of healthy breakfast:

  1. Low-fat milk/yogurt + whole grains cereals + honey/fruit
  2. Whole wheat bread + peanut butter + honey/sugar-free jam + low-fat milk
  3. Whole wheat toast (low-fat cheese, turkey, vegetables) + fresh juice/fruit
  4. Whole wheat bread + honey/sugar-free jam without sugar + boiled egg + few unsalted nuts

Snack at school:

  • Reduction of hunger between breakfast and lunch and maintaining healthy body weight (skipping snacks -> overeating afterwards).
  • Provisioning energy and nutrients in the body (as well as breakfast).
  • Preparing from home (healthier and more nutritious options than in the school's canteen).

Examples of healthy school snacks:

  1. Fruit + few unsalted nuts
  2. Whole wheat toast (low-fat cheese, turkey, vegetables) + fresh juice/fruit
  3. Coarsely chopped raw vegetables + whole wheat rusks/bread
  4. Healthy homemade cake (without sugar and butter)
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Lunch (3-4 hours before the training):

  • High in carbohydrates (increase muscles' and liver's glycogen stores), moderate in protein and low in fat and simple sugars (easily digestible to avoid gastrointestinal problems).

Examples of lunch meals:

  1. Whole wheat pasta/Noodles + minced chicken with fresh tomato + salad
  2. Fish + brown rice/potato + salad/grilled vegetables
  3. Omelette + brown rice/whole wheat bread + salad/grilled vegetables
  4. Chicken fillet + sweet potato/orzo + salad/grilled vegetables
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1st afternoon snack (1-2 hours before the training if there is adequate time):

  • High carbohydrate snack (energy) with minimal protein, fat and fiber (easily digestible to avoid gastrointestinal problems).

Examples of afternoon snacks:

  1. Fruit/fresh juice + few unsalted nuts
  2. Low fat yogurt + fruit/honey
  3. White bread + peanut butter + honey/sugar-free jam

2nd afternoon snack (5-10 minutes before the training):

  • Small snack with simple carbohydrates (immediately digestible for energy).

Examples of small snack (in order of priority):

  1. Fruit/juice without fibers
  2. Cereal bar with low calories (<100kcals)
  3. Carbohydrate gel
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During the training:

  • Small snack with simple carbohydrates when training lasts >60 minutes (immediately assimilable to maintain energy during training).

Examples of small snack (in order of priority):

  1. Fruit/Diluted fruit juice
  2. Isotonic drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes
  3. Carbohydrate gel

Snack immediately after training (5-60 minutes):

  • Small snack with simple carbohydrates - protein (immediate recovery of muscles & muscle glycogen).

Examples of small snack immediately after training (in order of priority):

  1. Low fat yogurt/milk + fruit/honey
  2. Whole wheat rusks/rice cakes + honey + low-fat milk

Shake/bar with protein and carbohydrates

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Dinner (1-3 hours after training):

  • Complete meal with all food groups (muscle glycogen replenishment and as well as the lost nutrients - necessary for the development of a young athlete).
  • Similar composition as lunch (high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein-fat).

Examples of healthy dinner:

  1. Options of lunch
  2. Healthy homemade pizza in the oven (tomato sauce + low-fat cheese + turkey/chicken + vegetables)
  3. Whole wheat fajitas pita + chicken/tuna + avocado sauce with low-fat yogurt + vegetables
  4. Lean pork/beef steak + brown rice/sweet potato + low-fat yogurt + salad
  5. Oven meatballs with minced pork/chicken + bulgur + low-fat yogurt + salad

Salad with eggs/chicken/tuna + potato/whole wheat penne pasta + avocado + vegetables + olive oil

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Adequate hydration and proper planning on training days:

Fluids intake is very important for an athlete as his performance can be affected by what, how much and when he drinks.

Water: Necessary nutrient for athletes (maintaining body temperature & avoiding dehydration).

Proper hydration: Daily fluids requirements (depending on age, body weight and environmental temperature) and adequate fluids intake before, during and after training.

  • Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for children 9-13 years: boys 2.4L/day, girls 2.1L/d.
  • RDI for children 14-18 years: boys 3.3L/d, girls 2.3L/d.

Before, during and after each training, all athletes should consume the proper amount of fluids:


Before training

During training

After training


2-3 hours

30 minutes

Every 15-20 minutes

Immediately after or

as soon as possible

How much?




450-675ml for every 0.5kg of body weight loss


Cold water

Cold water

Water, isotonic drink with carbohydrates-electrolytes*

Water, low-fat milk,

fruit/vegetable juice, smoothies

* Isotonic drink: Not every day - only during training sessions last for 1 hour or longer.

Easy and simple way to detect dehydration: Urine color control - the lighter color, the more hydrated is someone, the darker, the more dehydrated.

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The target should be the color of the numbers 1, 2 or 3.

The color of the numbers 4 and 5 indicates dehydration.

The color of the numbers 6, 7 and 8 indicates severe dehydration.

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4.Nutrition guide to Maximize athletic performance of young athletes

Many practitioners refer to fit training exercises with coordination skills. Most people may think of pictures of soccer players going through an "agility ladder" or rings and cones.

But what do we really train?

Ηow could we really help our athletes to increase their overall abilities by directly focusing on the specialization of motor patterns that the athlete will be called to do in the game?

How could we develop brain signals with a better motor result?

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Motor skills are refered into 2 categories which interact:

Physical abilities

1. Strength

2. Speed

3. Endurance

(According to many sports scientists, flexibility is included as one of the main physical abilities)

Coordination skills

1. Ability to kinesthetic differentiation

adaptation of motion in space and time based on kinesthetic information

2. Ability to balance

maintaining body position and recovery in case of loss (static / dynamic)

3. Ability to orient in space

determining the position and movement of the body in time and space related to a predetermined field of action

4. Rhythmic ability

tone management during a movement (tempo / frequency)

5. Complex reaction ability

rapid motor response to external stimuli (visual / auditory)

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Analyze the above parameters in detail in your exercises and understand exactly what your athlete is called to perform.


In field training , with coordination skills, we include some if not all the above parameters by "copying" the motor patterns performed by the athletes during the competition. In many cases we can even simulate the energy systems of the game through our exercises.So if we have tennis athletes, the training of coordination skills is quite different from the training of football players.

The main goal of practitioners and sport scientists is to determine the dominant role of coordination skills in different sports.

These in turn play an important role in the overall improvement of the footballer's performance with the accuracy and economy of movements in constantly changing conditions. The ability to differentiate kinetic variables with the accuracy of the assessment where the position of the body changes in time and space. The speed and accuracy of movements with the expected and unexpected changes of stimuli, (with the whole body or parts including the speed of reaction to the stimulus).

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So imagine a soccer player during a match where he has to analyze team placement data, opponents placement and ball position depending his own body. At that moment he will be called upon to respond to an off-balance stimulus by changing direction, quickly activating torso and limb motor units, to achieve a full-precision football movement at the execution speed required by the occasion. The success of the outcome will create the performance improvement profile we aim at by training the partial parameters.

Soccer training by its very nature contains a series of stimuli of coordinative skills and practitioners should choose carefully

a) When coordination training stimuli will be included

b) What parameters will be used each time

c) How much load will they receive

So we do coordination skills training?

The main guideline should be the overall improvement of their football performance by calculating the load they receive from the total football training with SSG's, Tactics, Technical based training exercises, etc. The isolated and not planned approach creating random overloading conditions in specific capabilities can in the long run yield in addition to a plateau of improvement, even drive us to opposite results.

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Coordination Skills in Football

My article was triggered by a post by the Barca Innovation Hub about increasing the overall sprint distance in a game by 35% over the last decade.

This increase, in addition to the constantly changing demands of the sport, also changes the needs of the players' physical abilities. These needs create different profiles of high level players as well as changes in the coaching process to enhance the acquisition of such skills.

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The high speed run activities account for 6-12% of the total distance covered (9, 30) and sprints may reach values of up to 350 meters (2, 13). Additionally, there are positional specific amount of sprints (1, 7) and durations (7), with wide midfielders and attackers performing the highest amount of sprints in total

The sprint in the global literature refers to the speed > 25km/h that the football player will catch. This speed will be able to be recorded by the GPS after the acceleration phase where the player will have covered a few meters (depending on whether he is in motion or at a standstill status). The total number of meters with speed > 25km/h will be added through the monitoring system and will be considered as the total sprint distance in the match. The variation varies depending on the position of each player but also has a range of value + - even in the same comparison positions and even the same player.

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The overall increase in strenuous metabolic effort in a sprint has an impact on the player's physiology. In a match, the players are called upon to perform continuous short explosions with indefinite breaks between them. So it makes sense during a game and while it is coming to an end that muscle fatigue occurs (factors that affect speed in terms of its quantitative characteristics) where it is due to 3 main reasons:

  • Reduction of ATP-PC stores.
  • Increase of toxic metabolic by-products.
  • Excitation-contraction muscle coupling disorder.

However, in addition to a quantitative reduction (total distance covered) it can make its appearance exponentially, reduce of the quality characteristics of a single effort (reduced maximum speed in a single sprint).

Factors that affect the speed in terms of its quality characteristics:

1. Muscular composition and architecture

2. Flexibility

3. Fatigue

4. Technique

5. Length & Frequency of stepping

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Some of the above parameters contain main genetically predetermined characteristics and less training intervention (1, 2), while others are susceptible to strong interventions (3, 4, 5) through the training process.

The training in football with the aim of improving physical characteristics has now been differentiated, with the main aim of achieving explosive maximum efforts for the largest possible total volume but also with the highest quality possible characteristics in a single effort that can be decisive in the outcome.

The coaching staffs are now called upon to find the balance between the parameters of training loads in order to achieve maximum athletic performance in the match.

To benefit from training that focuses on increasing sprints per game, players will need to build a base to place the "top of the pyramid". Adequate endurance capacity can increase total sprints per game. This also reduces fatigue levels, increases the rate of lactate removal, improves VO2 kinetics in sprints as well as improves PC uptake between sprints.

Maximising Sports Performance

But if the players meet the standards of tolerance and improvement through coaching fees, the next step is needed. Application of training stimuli that will highlight the dominant feature of high quality execution and the ability to achieve a high number of total sprints per match.

A peak that can be covered with "repeated explosive actions" training contents or the so-called Repeated Explosive Activity training process (Papadakis MSc). Football draws knowledge and practices from the specialized sports community but oriented to its needs. This pushed me to find new innovative coaching stimuli.

The placement of the corresponding stimuli depending on the execution period is crucial. Choose sports-specific workouts (with small, medium large sided games or sub-group and individual workouts) and work: rest ratios, creating an environment in which the player will be fully trained to achieve high athletic performance goals with high quantity but also quality reports.

After all, football is a sport of continuous explosive actions for a prolonged time (90 'or 120') and not a sport of continuous tempo endurance needs.

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Speed performance in soccer

The daily life of all of us has entered a new trajectory due to the problems created by the pandemic phenomenon of the virus, covid-19 and of course football has been affected. New safety protocols from the scientific community force footballers infected with the virus, to enter a form of quarantine for a respectable period of usually about 2 weeks. During this period, the footballer experiences the phenomenon of de-training since he is not allowed to participate in sports activities with the team.

But what happens to the athlete's body when the exercise suddenly stops?

There are definitely many physiology structure changes in the body. The cardiovascular (aerobic) gains beginning to be lost - mainly the heart's stroke volume decreases, the muscles' ability to process oxygen, and the body's ability to use carbohydrates for fuel. The training improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are starting to disappear. And when strength training is stopped, the benefits gained in muscle fiber size and other neuromuscular adjustments are slowly lost.

Even two weeks of abstinence can lead to a significant reduction in fitness. In general, however, the loss of aerobic capacity occurs faster than the decrease in muscle strength.

Athletes who have trained intensively for a long time experience more slow and gradual reductions when they stop exercising compared to low-level athletes.

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After the de-training period, how long will it take to regain the previous level of fitness and how?

As the Liverpool FC international player Konstantinos Tsimikas confessed to us, who recently went through the coronavirus adventure, in the first week of his inclusion, he abstained from any activity and in the second week he followed an aerobic individual program with mobility and core exercises. When he returned, after a quarantine of 14 days, he continued with an individual football based program and very soon he rejoined the team training , without finding any other particular problem in his physical condition.

We point out, of course, that the time and degree of restoration and recovery depends on various factors, the training history and genetic characteristics of each player. recorded some general instructions that can lead to faster and safer reintegration in football training with the team. The following suggestions of course can be executed only after consultation with the personal doctor of the footballer and if he had mild or no symptoms. Thus his body can accept the partial stress that will be caused by the individual workouts that will follow.

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1. Mobility exercises 5'-10'. (The training creates a profile of "stiffness" in muscles and joints resulting in reduced flexibility and mobility)

2. Training of aerobic capacity on a treadmill or stationary bike 65-85% M.H.R. 20'-40 '. (Aerobic capacity is affected from the very first days where VO2max is gradually reduced). Stimuli can gradually increase in intensity depending on the athlete's condition.

3.Circuit strength endurance body weighted program for the whole body with a work-rest ratio of 40'' : 20 '' of 10'-20 '. (stabilization of energy flow in the muscles and minimization of reduction of muscle nerve capacity)

4. Static stretching for main muscle groups 5'. (muscle elasticity decreases during the inclusion period)

After the negative tests and when the player returns to the team, it will be good to follow an individual program with a sufficient volume of specialized football movements (ball driving, all first touches, passes, turnovers, etc.).

In terms of his physical abilities is now able to follow an intense interval training program, gradually from 80% to 120% of vVO2max thus increasing the duration of activation of aerobic and anaerobic mechanism. Also to introduce a small volume of accelerations, decelerations, jumps and changes of directions, preparing the muscular- tendon system and joints.

His gradual integration into team training with participation in appropriate contents of the team, is the key to a safe and smooth continuation of the following season, something that must be decided together by the coaching and medical staff of the team. After all, all parties must adapt to the new data of our days.

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7.Reintegration of a football player from quarantine covid-19

During the past we witnessed two huge football events where they took place in a delayed manner due to the unpleasant situations of the covid pandemic. Euro 2020 was held in a new format with 24 teams and the final between England and Italy with the winner in the second on penalties and the Copa America 2020 with 10 teams and the final between the "eternals" Brazil and Argentina with the winner also the second with a score of 1-0.

The age of hyper-analysis has now become a necessary condition for the operation and improvement of high-level football teams. Numbers, however, often hide pitfalls since their incorrect reading or even the incorrect use of the results can lead to the oversimplified view of the "negatives" of numbers where they claim that the numbers do not tell the truth.

Here I will quote once again the saying that I personally support all these years in my career "the correct interpretation of specific numbers can lead you to the solution".

Over the last decade through my research, I have highlighted the importance of data analysis and performance parameters in the coaching process and the improvement of teams and players individually. The correct analysis and interpretation of the data as well as the adaptation of the coaching contents for the benefit of the performance I believe have justified the expectations in my career so far.

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The data presented in the article were collected from the statistical analysis platform of technical and tactical data of INSTAT in order to highlight their usefulness if they are interpreted in a more specialized and targeted way.

One number = many interpretations?

In a first comparison between the two competitions we see that in the Euro more goals were scored from the middle and far distance than in the Copa America, making us think about whether the European players have better shooting ability, if the defenses did not put suffocating pressure on limits and outside the area or if there were specific instructions from the coaches (although a personal connoisseur of the teams' game function, if a player finds himself in a position where he believes he can score goals, his instinct for any instructions prevails).

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Direct vs Possession Game, do you know what style of play you have?

The duration of the attacks before scoring a goal, in seconds, brought the trophy winner Italy in 4th place (35.5 '') and the finalist England in 11th (24.9 '')! while in the Copa America the finalist Brazil (45 '') and the trophy winner Argentina (27 '') took the first 2 places. Only Belgium 1st and Spain 2nd managed to approach the queen of ball handling Brazil with 41.5 "and 41.1" respectively.

"One element we have to keep is the average where in the Euro it reached 21" while in the Copa only at 14.4 "showing the willingness or the deficit of the Latin American teams to hold the ball longer.

Open play & Static phases, what weight do they have in scoring?

In both tournaments the goals in open play (positioning & counter attacks) did not differ much for the 3 of the 4 teams (Italy, England, Argentina with average 65% positioning - 35% counters), with Brazil creating a statistical difference (87% positioning - 13% counters) having quite increased the goals from positioning attacks in relation to the counter attacks, highlighting perhaps to the maximum the philosophy that has occupied it all these years.

Another indicator that creates statistically remarkable is the goals from set phases where on average in Euro it was 27% while in Copa 40%!

The achievement of a goal from a set phase includes the ability of the executor and the receivers of the ball, the mental concentration of those involved, the tactical combining, the reading of the opponent by the coaching teams, etc. where Copa teams confirmed a deficit or an extra capacity?

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Algorithms finally work in Football!

The INDEX indices first appeared in basketball, especially in the NBA, trying to interpret many parameters simultaneously in a single number. Based on such an algorithm, INSTAT showed us something that really needs our attention.

In the EURO were ranked England 1st (326) and Italy 2nd (324) while in the Copa Brazil 1st (305) and Argentina 2nd (297) which is very normal since the best teams based on the algorithm were also those that ended up in final of the competitions. But what should impress us is the average of the 2 events where EURO had an average of INDEX 285 while COPA 265.

Here we clearly see a gap in the technical-tactical parameters of the teams where it gives us a clear picture of their overall dynamics with the differences of Latin America and Europe.

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How fast do you play?

Further analyzing the team statistics, the parameter speed of accurate passes, where I personally call the teams and players I watch "speed of play", which shows us the number of passes per minute of possession. Both tournaments have almost the same average as the Euro at 15.5 passes (Italy 6th 16.5 & England 11th 15.9) & the Copa at 15.6 (Brazil 1st 16.5 & Argentina 5th 16).

Spain, however, creates a statistical difference with 17.4 passes average / min of possession.

Most coaches I have worked with and exchanged views with at various forums, want their teams to maintain a high level of speed of play. The rapid movement of the ball during the possession of a team can reveal gaps in the opponent's defensive line to exploit, an element that we see that coaches try to integrate into their game, but where they will have to find the appropriate ways in from the training process for the players to assimilate.

The Spanish training model through the excessive use of Small Sided Games may give us the solution to the training question of how to increase the "speed of play" of our team. Small sided games in my personal opinion "something they give you something they take you" but this is not the case at the moment...

Maximising Sports Performance

Active vs Passive defense, ultimately what you want will lead you to success?

Finally, we must pay special attention to the challenge intensity INDEX algorithm where you refer to the number of defensive duels and interference in the ball when the opponent has possession. Here we also see the teams where the players are more involved in the defensive function, wanting to destroy the game or to snatch the ball from the opponent in an energetic way and not with simple shifts keeping their position in the defensive lineup. These actions often come from the coaches' decisions regarding the defensive approach, but several times they can also come from the defensive characteristics of the players of a team.

In the Euro (with an average of 7.1) Italy 12th (6.9) and England 18th (6.3) show their approach (Spain 1st with 10.1) while in the Copa America (with an average of 7), 8) Ecuador 1st (10.4) Brazil 5th (8.4) and Argentina 7th (7.3).

All 4 finalists of the 2 tournaments in this parameter were ranked from 5th to 18th place. The almost 10% differentiation of European from Latin American teams (on average) may also demonstrate a regular commitment to defense in the face of a freer defense expression or a more "aggressive" approach.

A statistic that may show the coaches that a well-organized and solid defense holding its positions and cohesion is a better guide to success than the players' constant involvement in defensive duels to detach the ball.

Maximising Sports Performance

In conclusion, the numbers given to us after the games should not be a short and light reading but should be treated as gold waiting to be discovered. A deeper analysis in relation to real football knowledge can lead coaches to greater exploitation of their players and an overall increase in the dynamics of their teams.

It can also read the opponent, individually and as a whole function, more substantially in terms of strengths and weaknesses. However, it can also lead the teams' scouting departments to minimize mistakes and increase the chances of including the right players in their teams.

Many say that in football the numbers do not tell the truth…

And I answer them "the correct analysis of specific performance numbers can lead you to the solution".

Papadakis Leonidas MSc

Soccer Performance Specialist

Maximising Sports Performance
8.Euro vs Copa America

Personal belief, all the years of my professional engagement, is the individual evaluation, the individual improvement and their adaptation / application in the group operation. After all, my motto is "winning is a team effort of well-trained individuals".

Thus, individual monitoring and analysis of player statistics can provide a powerful weapon in the battle for improvement. By comparing these 2 big events on an individual level and aiming at specific parameters, the coaches can draw quite useful conclusions in terms of their coaching / tactical approach and decision making.

Maximising Sports Performance

Do algorithms confirm the level?

Looking at the INDEX algorithm (a player's InStat index is calculated in each match based on the quantitative+qualitative characteristics of his actions that are specific to each position) of the Euro players we see 1st Maguire (England 377), 2nd Spinazzola (Italy 367) & 3rd Insigne (Italy 366).

In the Copa America 1st Messi (Argentina 380), 2nd Neymar (Brazil 374) & 3rd Militao (Brazil 336). But what should impress the coaches?

The third of the Euro is 30 points higher, an element that should make us think more. Making a deeper analysis of the average of the first 10 Euro (361.1) & Copa (335.7) creates a gap of 25.4 points. Increasing the average to the top 20, in Euro (351.9) & Copa (322) the gap increases to 29.9 points.

Here we see that European footballers performed much better than Latin Americans (perhaps demonstrating the difference in quality characteristics?). The only oasis is Messi & Neymar where Latin American football uses as the only representatives to close the gap with their European teammates.

If such an analysis continues to emerge then Latin American officials should be deeply concerned about how they can create equal or superior players over Europeans…

How necessary is the player in the attack for his team?

A player's contribution to a goal can involve the randomness of the moment. But a repeated coincidence ceases to be a coincidence.

In the parameter playing in scoring attacks in Euro, instas platform gives us 1st Kane (England contribution to 9 goals - 82%) 2nd Lukaku (Belgium contribution to 7 goals - 77%). But if we look low in the list of INSTAT Pogba, Ronaldo & Benzema had a greater contribution to the goals of their teams with 85%!

On the opposite bank in the Copa Messi 1st (Argentina contribution to 12 goals - 100%) & Neymar 2nd (Brazil contribution to 10 goals 83%). Likewise in the Copa where Cavani & Vargas had their own contribution with Messi with the incredible 100%. That is, they participated in all the goals scored by their teams.

So, if you are scouting an opponent will you see the list order or analyze in more depth who are really the key players for their teams?

Maximising Sports Performance

Do you correctly interpret the tables with the Mental / Technical characteristics of your footballers?

And we come to one of the most important parameters, in my opinion, in terms of the technical and mental skills of a player (Offenive function). We refer to the "key" passes, i.e the passes to a teammate who is in goal position (one-on-one situation, empty goal, etc.) and a pass to a teammate who "cuts" the entire defensive line of the opponent's team (3 and more players) in the attack phase.

In Euro we see 1st in the list Insigne (Italy 25 attempts/10 succesfull 40% with average per 90 '4.2 / 1.70) and 2nd Pedri (Spain 18/12 67% with average per 90' 2.4 / 1.60). But what do you consider most important? Because if you look very low in the list (8th) you will find De Bruyne (Belgium 15/10 67% with an average of 90' 4.6 / 3.1) where he has the largest number per game of all with 3.1 key passes!

In the Copa we see 1st in the list Messi (Argentina 22/14 64% with average per 90' 2.9 / 1.80) and 2nd Neymar (Brazil 17/12 71% with average per 90' 2.6 / 1.80). While even in the Copa America, Romero A. is almost last (18th) in the list of the top 20 players of analysis (Paraguay 5/5 100% with an average of 90' 2.7 / 2.7) although he did not play enough?

Did his coach paid close attention to this parameter? He took the maximal benefit, of his player, for the team with such an efficiency in the ability he has?

As I have repeatedly expressed through my articles, forums, etc. The numbers are unquestionable and they are just waiting for you to take advantage of them. Targeting must be specific, deep knowledge and even deeper analysis.

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Who are your most effective players?

The Challenges parameter hides several pitfalls if we want to characterize footballers as good in personal duels. Usually in matches, key players in defense and attack are involved in most duels, making it more difficult for them to catch high percentages of successful actions. However, when we want to select footballers for a specific function, we must definitely read the specific parameter correctly and not as it is presented to us.

In the Euro, while we see them ranked based on their total number, but maybe we should see their effectiveness first.

As coaches, in order to form a picture of ability, we should be seriously interested in how effective they are and not only their total number, once the players are involved in a duel.

Here Stones the central defender of England shows as the best with 74% efficiency, while he is 14th in the list! Similarly in the Copa America Colombia's central defender Yerri Mina catches 76%!

In the offensive duels in the Euro, the Russian Dzyuba is the most effective with 52%, although 3rd with Ronaldo catching a percentage of 50% while he is 17th!

On the opposite bank, Messi, although in third place in the Copa with 57%, is the king of attacking duels with Marulanda (9th) & Espinola (20th) at 53%!

Maximising Sports Performance

Analyze properly to choose the most suitable!

Our in-depth analysis will end with 2 main individual parameters where each coach should look after the games.

If you saw in the match statistics that a player of the opposing team loses the ball several times and especially in his own half, how would you deal with him? Would you ask for presses or traps to drive the ball there? Or even if you want to apply a strict profile of your team with build up attacks who are the weaker links?

-You should also make a more careful analysis from the list given to you by the platform because Alioski of (N. Macedonia left defender & midfielder) lost the ball 3.7 times per 90 minutes in his own half and Lainer (Austria right defender & midfielder) 2.4 while their list ranks 18th and 19th respectively!

In the Copa America, Venezuela's Casseres (defensive midfielder and right-back) lost the ball in his own half 2.3 times in the 90th minute & Cuadrado (right midfielder & defender) 2.8.

Maximising Sports Performance

In the end, I analyze a parameter of defensive function that refers, more in my opinion, to the mental characteristics of a footballer. The interceptions where with the correct positioning, prediction, timing, energy, etc. the player manages to intervene and stop the course of the ball.

Players with a high ability index in this parameter are also very useful tools in the overall defensive function of a team and coaches should pay special attention to the analysis of this data by choosing good in defendesive duties.

While the Italians Di lorenzo & Jorginho are high on the list with total interceptions, the Swedish Danielsson, although 5th on the list, has the highest number per game (10). Similarly in the Copa, Colombian Carvallo is 18th but with the higher average per game (8).

Maximising Sports Performance

In conclusion, the numbers given to us after the games should not be a short and light reading but should be treated as gold waiting to be discovered. A deeper analysis in relation to real football knowledge can lead coaches to greater exploitation of their players and an overall increase in the dynamics of their teams.

It can also “read” the opponent, individually and as a whole function, more substantially in terms of its strengths and weaknesses. However, it can also lead the teams' scouting departments to minimize mistakes and increase the chances of including the right players in their teams.

Many say that in football the numbers do not tell the truth…

And I answer them "the correct analysis of specific performance numbers can lead you to the solution".

Papadakis Leonidas MSc

Soccer Performance Specialist

Maximising Sports Performance
9.Europeans vs Latin Footballers?