Applying Recovery Principles to Tournament Play

By Taylor Tollison (reprinted with permission from Performance Conditioning Soccer)

Rest, recovery and regeneration are vital to your optimal performance. Restoration is the act of restoring something or someone to a satisfactory state. In sports this means that the body must recover from the mental and physical exertion of the activity to the point where the athlete trains at optimal levels.

During sport many things happen in the body that can cause reduced performance. Lactic acid production and reduced glycogen levels are two of the most well-known factors that contribute to fatigue. It is because of by products like lactic acid, hydrogen ions and glycogen depletion that we must restore and regenerate our body to optimal levels prior to the next competition.

It is important to remember that when we work hard we must rest hard. It is during rest that our bodies grow, not during work.

Intense Work + Intense work = Failure and injury

Work + Rest and Restoration = Success and growth

When athletes work without proper rest they are setting themselves up for failure and injury. Tudor Bompa said improper recovery can lead to fatigue. Fatigue will cause a lack of coordination and concentration, which can cause poor movement quality and thus injury. He further said proper recovery accelerates regeneration, decreases fatigue and enhances adaptations to exercise. The desired goal of sports training programs is adaptation to exercise and lowered risk of injury.

Applying Restoration Principle to Soccer Tournament Play

During tournament situations especially where athletes play 3-4 games in a weekend, proper recovery techniques reign supreme. Follow the six guidelines below for ideas on how to speed recovery in tournament and regular scheduled game situations.

1. Food and Hydration

One source said that the ideal time for replenishing your carbohydrate stores is 30-60 minutes after your game or practice. This is especially important for soccer teams that sometimes have multiple competitions in a day. When replenishing fluids, drink about 20 ounces per pound of body weight lost during the match. Next be sure to replenish carbohydrate stores with a carbohydrate-protein mix. One study showed that a carbohydrate-protein mix is more effective than a traditional 6% carbohydrate only sports drink. (1)

A research study compared a team that ate a carbohydrate rich meal to a team that ate a normal meal. The team that ate the carbohydrate rich meal covered 25% more distance. This shows that having enough of the right fuels in the body for competition play a big part in how the game is played.

2. Post-game regenerative run

The post-game regenerative run can be used immediately after a game or the day after the game. If you have a game later in the day, it is especially important to immediately follow the game up with a good easy regenerative jog. If you don’t play for a couple of days then perform the run the day after the game. This will help clear negative by products built up during the game.

3. Stretching

Always stretch after training or games. This will decrease the soreness that sometimes appears after training. Perform nice easy static stretching focusing primarily on the lower extremities.



4. Self-Massage

Massage is widely known as an effective tool for recovery. Most individuals don’t have access to a massage therapist so use a foam roller or a slightly flat soccer ball. Roll specific muscles over the foam roller or soccer ball for effectiveness. Your focus should be on the lower extremities. Self-Massage is used to increase blood flow, relax the nerves and loosen muscle. Important Note: Self massage can be uncomfortable but even a professional massage has uncomfortable moments.

5. Hot Cold contrast baths

The hot-cold contrast baths can also advance recovery. To perform Hot-cold contrast baths simply sit in hot water for about 2 minutes 30 seconds then about 45 seconds in the cold water. Repeat this a few times for maximum benefits.

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6. Sleep

Athletes must sleep to recover. If they don’t get enough sleep their physical performance will be impaired.

Even though rest and recovery is not a glamour topic like speed and agility, it lays the foundation for planning all your training. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a coach or parent is to think that the harder and more frequent my athlete exercises the better athlete they will be. Proper rest and recovery between intense games and conditioning is key to growing and preventing injury.

References: (1) Williams, Michael. "Effects of Recovery Beverages on Glycogen Restoration and Endurance Exercise Performance." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 11, no. 1 12-19


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Performance Conditioning Soccer

Ken Kontor is founder and president of Performance Conditioning Inc. His company is the world’s largest single source of sports-specific conditioning information. Among the educational resources provided are Performance Conditioning Volleyball, Cycling and Soccer newsletters now in their 14th year of publishing and 15 sports-specific conditioning books and training card systems. He is a founding member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of the Volleyball Conditioning Accreditation Program (V.C.A.P.) curriculum offered through the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditation program. Among his contributions to this program was writing the curriculum. He has established the Off-bike Conditioning curriculum promoted by USA Cycling. In the past he has worked with USA Roller Sports and USA Triathlon producing conditioning specific newsletters. Prior to the establishment of Performance Conditioning Inc., Mr. Kontor was a founding father, executive director and publications editor of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 14 years an organization of over 16,000 sport conditioning professionals. He was an original member of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist committee that established the internationally recognized C.S.C.S. credential. He has traveled extensively throughout the world including the former Soviet Union, East Germany and the Leipzig Institute of Sport, Hungary and Bulgaria with the purpose of introducing their strength and conditioning methods to the NSCA membership. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Inc. and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of Japan. He has lectured extensively on the conditioning of athletes throughout the world.