Is Speed needed?

I have a question I’d like to debate and hear views on …
Applicable to Soccer, hockey maybe and other team games.

You have been put in charge of devloping the Manchester United first team soccer training program for next year …

On a basic level - do you concetrate on developing their aeroic, 75% speed or Tempo speed so that the team can apply a steady level of running and pressure over the whole 90 minutes - especially in the final 15-10 minute period?


Do you concetrate on speed and quickness, hoping that the speed will kill teams off with faster movements and hope speed endurance isn’t an issue with 10 minutes to go in a game?

The reason I ask is because I spoke with a colleague recently who works with a top UK team who according to him do NO sprinting in training.

When the new coach arrived and assessed the team as a whole and found that the average weight and height of the team was greater than their opponents.
He figured they had far more strength than other teams. He also new the team had a history of injury problems (hams, groins etc.) with excessive training regimes etc. so he opted to train the team spariingly and used only Tempo runs in training, he did do A, B and other drills but the only speed work was in games!!!
Ball work was at 3/4 pace, but sprinting was almost non-existant.


How would you apply pressure if you aren’t fast enough to be there? Re team prep- are you sure nothing was done to improve speed? Sometimes the REMOVAL of obstacles is the cure. What was done besides the tempo? Weights? Jumps? Are they faster now?

Yes I think that was it - Charlie - removing obsactles was a big part.

Less training volume over all, so smarter training.
Better strength training programmes combined with lower volumes and no training while fatigued means injury occurnace and prevention is better also.
Plyometrics and strength training formed the basis of the training.

I guess the idea of reducing the amount of speed work is that if you are constantly moving at a steady tempo-like pace and your opponent is starting from a stopped or very slow speed and relying on pure speed, in a game situation who will get there (to the ball) first?

Training smarter is likely the answer. As for the second part. If the training is working, they will be faster as well. Adding speed work to an already overloaded program will guarantee that the team will get slower. Unfortunately, that is usually the “solution” that is tried when speed is poor, without a complete analysis of the program first.

speed is a major factor in nearly every soccor the entire team must be quick! as a defender the player must stop a striker(fast) from getting past and scoring thus leading to a defenders making sure speed is a factor in their game.wingers,strikers,mid-fielders must all be relativley quick and i honestly don’t see why speed training isn’t part of the programme.

i do know that frank dick had a certain rugby team doing speed work alot and convinced the boss’ that speed was a major factor.any sluggishness by any player on the field will result in him getting passed out or losing the ball.

as i stated before,soccor dosen’t involve any more than 30m max of flat out speed so the speed training should address this distance.0-30m!

No one is argueing that speed isn’t a factor, the question is, how to get it in specific and, often, pre-existing training circumstances. (0 to 30m is the key)

a typical workout for soccor players would be numerous laps warming up(serious amounts!) stretching,certain control drills and ending up with 5/6 a side practice.if players want to stay on to work on a specific area they do so but on there own will.

we all agree that speed must be performed when fresh.i think soccor needs to look at the set up of track athletes and how we/they approach the warm-up and prepare for speed sessions.i don’t see no reason why a soccor team can’t do 2 speed session per week before touching a ball.

the elite players have great natural control/touch and they have it perfected to the stage were they don’t have to practice it that often.instead they could work on speed,reaction/strenght and 0-30m accelerations.


Just a few questions guys …

Speed is important - but HOW important?
I think perhaps the USE of speed is as important as being fast, but maybe that’s a sport specific comment or view.

One point Xman -
“we all agree that speed must be performed when fresh”
I understand that, I know what you mean.
But how do you train for the speed needed in the last 20 mins when you’re tired? Without increasing chance of injury?

Charlie -
Various stidues have been done on soccer and the energy requirments etc.
One study I came across by Nike said only ~8% of the time was spent sprinting.
Does this mean only 8% of the total training time should be spent sprinting?
Should sprinting only be performed at the beginning of training sessions?

One other question, Team- game sprinting, as in games like soccer are almost always from a moving start - how does this change the training emphasis?
Should it mean more ‘flying 30s’ work or more Fartlek work, where the emphasis is on very fast sprinting, between jogs or strides?

In sprinting, strength (through weight training) is a general property.

Perhaps in soccer, speed (though sprint training) is a general property as well…


You would be very surprised how often the world class soccer players still pratice.

David Beckham still takes 30-40 free-kicks every day.

I agree most of them have alot of natural ability, but, they also put in the hours needed (especially when they were younger) practicing.

First: Perhaps I need to put my “specific” comment in context. I meant the specific circumstances that the team is in when new training is planned.
Second: The game itself provides specific work. Individual qualities are enhanced in the circumstances that best suit that componant- not by simulating a game setting (if that was the way to go, then you would simply eliminate the off-season and keep playing the game all the time).


I am a conditioner for a national level soccer team in australia. How would you best set up a training week in the pre season ie General prep and specific prep. My specific prep is currently
Monday speed + agility weights
Tuesday Conditioning tempo + games
Wednesday strentch class + regeneative massage
Thursday As for Monday
Friday Tempo or pool work
Saturday tactical team session
Sunday rest

Your thoughts

That seems pretty solid. Just try and separate speed work from actual matches or hard match practice as much as possible.

Some quick thoughts:

  • No 23, if you are doing ball work it’s impossible to eliminate sprinting, unless you do tactical work all the time.

  • Leeroy, if the ball work is limited to tuesdays games and saturdays tactical work then it’s too little for a SPP; personally I like your setup better than the “traditional” one, though.

Other thoughts:

  • Wingers are the one that need linear speed the most, other than them, there is little correlation between linear and multi-directional speed.

  • Most of the sprints are 20m or less in length.

  • The mid-fielders are those that run the most kms in a match.

  • If you are not the one getting on the ball first (SPEED), all the endurance in the world won’t help you win a game.

  • Alactic capacity is an important quality for the soccer player.


Thanks for the reply. in response the coach does in fact conduct game related sharp skill practise on Mondays and Thursdays as well. From a conditioners point of view i find due to the amount of football specific practice being performed the volume of speed and agility work must be kept low (0-30 m emphasis).

I would just like to bump this.
Id like to see Leeroy’s sample workout expanded upon and developed.
Like what would be the best weight exercises to do and when? Modified westside? Defranco’s WS4SB2 ??
Agility workouts? Like ladder stuff and illinois drills?

I play a sport with similiar requirements physically to soccer and would like a good program to work off…

Does it seem like soccer is moving more and more towards “one-dimensional” players? What I mean is that players are more and more defined by one skill only.

At the same time though, the allrounders are getting better in every respect. You have players now who have most every skill developed too an equal level. In one respect these players can be viewed as “one-dimesional” too - i.e. being an allrounder is a skill of it’s own.

Such a development makes it desirable to have players in the squad who rely on pure speed too. I have seen a tendency lately here in Norway where coaches are willing to try out players based on their speed alone, mostly attackers. Canadian Stephen Ademolu is one such player.

Of course, speed always creates a buzz with the fans and the media.

I’m sorry Thor I just don’t get exactly your point?

[Maybe it’s me and I need sleep!]

What I meant was players with more spezialised roles.