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3.Blood Lactate, An Important Tool in Predicting and Optimizing Performance in Football fitness testing-football Soccer 11
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Stanislav Kasampalis | Laboratory evaluation

Laboratory evaluation »

Aerobic capacity is crucial for the performance in football players, and its assessment is one of the most important ergometric tests in the early stages of pre-season (2,6). In the modern football the distance covered during a match in elite football players range between 10 – 13Km (2,4) and with mean values for VO2max between 55- 75 mL · kg–1 · min (6,2,4), it has been proposed that a VO2max of > 60 mL · kg–1 · min should be the minimum threshold in order to perform in top class contemporary football (6,2,4). However, there many other biochemical factors that should be taken into consideration in football players which their importance and usefulness are crucial to make final conclusions about the fitness levels and the design of a particular training program based on the results. One of the most well know parameters in the athletic world is the anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold. Why this parameter is such of an importance? Because its concentration in the blood is being used as an indicator of aerobic and anaerobic energy production (4,13), it helps to examine the rate of production and its removal from the blood (12), the tolerance to lactate (9), evaluate physical fitness as well as identify any adaptations might occur after following a specific training plan are some of the information can be collected from the test.

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3.Blood Lactate, An Important Tool in Predicting and Optimizing Performance in Football

Laboratory evaluation »

The assessment can be carried out in the laboratory (treadmill) or outdoor (football court). In a laboratory environment the test protocol consists of several incremental stages (4-7, depends on the sport and the athlete) with a small break between the stages in order to collect capillary blood either from the finger (Picture 1) or the ear lobe. Then, the treadmill speed increasing gradually until volitional exhaustion of the athlete where VO2max and vVO2max can be determined as well. After the completion of the test, the anaerobic threshold can be detected with various methods. The diagram bellow shows the determination of 2 thresholds, the LT1 (around 2 mmol L −1) and LT2 (between 3.5 and 4 mmol L −1 ).

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3.Blood Lactate, An Important Tool in Predicting and Optimizing Performance in Football

Laboratory evaluation »

L1 represents the velocity (vLT1) / intensity where the main energy source derived from the aerobic system. L2 shows the velocity (vLT2) / intensity and the transition from aerobic to the anaerobic system and also indicating the upper limit of the steady state between lactate production and removal. Based on these results the sport scientist can develop a training program, monitor the intensity of the players based on the blood lactate results and most importantly work at the right intensities as well as at the right amount of time.

Based on the literature, a football player with high anaerobic threshold would be able to cover more distance in high intensity without accumulating much lactic acid in the blood (6). At the table below, various of velocities at the anaerobic threshold can be seen in professional football players from different leagues and countries.

Laboratory evaluation »

Table 1. Mean ± SD values of velocity at LT2 in various studies in football players.










12.4 ± 1.5

Santos et al




14.2 ± 1.4

Balikian et al.




13.5 ± 0.9

Ziogas et al.




13.2 ± 0.7

Lactate threshold has shown to strongly correlated to endurance performance, and more emphasis has been placed in comparison to VO2max the recent years. Also, measurement of LT should implemented as a tool during in competitive period for the investigation of aerobic fitness (4,5,1,13). The main reason for this is because LT is associated with peripheral adaptations such as an increase in capillary density and in the ability to transport hydrogen ions and it is more sensitive to changes in training regimens, whereas VO2max is basically limited to central factors (Cardiac Output), where it makes it harder to improve (6). Lastly, LT assessment is one of the gold standard methods to evaluate the aerobic and anaerobic fitness and is a valid as well as reliable tool in monitoring changes in aerobic capacity in football players. However, it should not be a primarily criterion for a player selection as there are other important determinants that should be taken into consideration to define overall a player’s fitness.

Laboratory evaluation »


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  1. Ziogas, G, Patras K, N., Stergiou, N., & Georgoulis, A, D. (2011). Velocity at lactate threshold and running economy must also be considered along with maximal oxygen uptake when testing elite soccer players during preseason. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(2), 414-419.