High intensity workouts can involve more than just running!
John De Witt, Ph.D., C.S.C.S
Head Sports Performance Coach, Houston Dynamo Academy
Assistant Coach, Houston Dash
Assistant Coach, Afghanistan Women’s National Team
Since soccer is a sport that requires explosive actions separated by periods of recovery, the best way to improve your fitness is to do just that – perform activities of high intensity followed by some rest.
When we talk about improving our soccer fitness, we can think about a few things that are necessary for success. All involve explosiveness which we can define as the ability to perform some activity at the highest intensity possible. Raymond Verheijen, a Dutch trainer, wrote a book in which he summarized the needs of soccer explosiveness. His summary of needs, which
I like because they put fitness requirements in terms of soccer, is:
- Ability to be explosive
- Ability to stay explosive for longer periods of time
- Ability to stay explosive over the entire game
- Ability to recover between explosive actions
Our body responds to training the way we train. In order to improve our explosiveness and ability to maintain explosiveness, we need to train just like that – with explosive actions that are repeated!
When coaches set up your training sessions, you don’t have much control over when you get high intensity training. But there are ways that you can do this on your own. It is easy to think that high intensity actions have to include sprinting, but that is not the case. While sprinting works, there are other ways to train. The key is to do whatever activity you choose at the highest intensity that you can.
One alternative method of high intensity interval training is to perform Tabata intervals. They are called ‘Tabata’ after the researcher who created the training method. He performed a study that showed the training method works to increase the specific areas of fitness that relate to soccer.
Very simply, Tabata intervals are sets of exercises where you work at maximum intensity for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. You can work for longer if you want and adjust the rest to half as long as the work time, but 20s:10s are the most typical.
When you perform a Tabata workout, you will perform an activity for 20 s, rest for 10 s, perform another activity for 20 s, rest for 10 s, and so on until you reach the end of your set. Set length can vary – I recommend starting with a 5 or 6 minute set and working up to 8 minute sets. You can rest a few minutes and then repeat the set 1 or more times.
The nice thing about the Tabata approach is that you can do pretty much anything for the high intensity work as long as you push yourself as hard as possible. You will know if you pushed yourself if you have a high breathing rate by the end of the set.
Here are some ideas of things you can do with the ball:
- tap between inside of feet
- step ups
- jump forward and backward over the ball
- jump side to side over the ball
- dribble the ball randomly
- set up some cones and dribble random through the cones
- dribble the ball with the soles of the feet forward, backward, side to side
- dribble back and forth between two cones
- dribble a figure 8 through two cones
Here are some things that you can do without the ball:
- squat jump
- body weight squat
- split squat jump
- mountain climbers
- jumping jacks
- Core exercises
You can create your own routine. I will often select 8 exercises, which take 4 minutes to perform, and then repeat the 8 a second time for an 8 minute set. The variations are up to you.
The Tabata approach is a great way to add some variation to your workouts. You can do this on your own, with a partner, or in a group. Have fun, but remember, push yourself