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Leonidas Papadakis | Maximising Sports Performance


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Speed performance in soccer

Maximising Sports Performance »

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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Speed performance in soccer

Maximising Sports Performance »

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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Speed performance in soccer

Maximising Sports Performance »

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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Speed performance in soccer

Maximising Sports Performance »

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.


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Speed performance in soccer

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.