Physiology of a Soccer Player

Wanted to start a thread on some parameters you may believe a soccer should have, in terms of what is optimal for a soccer player? For example, normal Resting Heart Rates, normal VO2 max values, normal sprints time (10m, 30m).

Im working with a top professional club in the MLS, i see some extremely low HR’s including one striker with a 41 bpm. My first impression is wow thats amazing then i think there is validation in questioning ‘is it?’ should a striker be that aerobically trained or do i want him more anerobically trained? There arises the question what is optimal??

your thoughts

Check this link out

I think you’re going to see some physiological variances based on the strategy of the club/league/country. The American game, unfortunately, is about being fitter than other teams.

You see this beginning in the youth leagues all the way to the national team, our players are trained to run forever to offset a lack of skills. Americans spend their youth playing games and tournaments rather than developing skills and speed and due to this our players are going to exhibit extremely high aerobic attributes.

thanks for the comment mate. Few questions, do you really think there is a huge physiological difference in players from different leagues, the standard of play for sure but physically? i understand there will be slight differences but not too big i wouldnt of imagined. I think there would be more of a difference between positions.

My resting HR is in a similar range (41-43) and I’m only a semi-professional soccer player so it certainly sounds plausible James.

41 isn’t as exceptionally low as it might seem. I’m naturally a 400m-800m type, and if I jog regularly my resting rate goes below 40.

Here’s some stuff:

x. A physiological evaluation of professional soccer players.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the physiological functions of a professional soccer team in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Eighteen players were evaluated on cardiorespiratory function, endurance performance, body composition, blood chemistry, and motor fitness measures near the end of their competitive season. The following means were observed: age, 26 yrs; height, 176 cm; weight 75.5 kg; resting heart rate, 50 beats/min; maximum heart rate (MHR), 188 beats/min; maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max), 58.4 ml/kg-min-1; maximum ventilation (VEmax BTPS), 154 L/min; body fat, 9.59%; 12-min run, 1.86 miles; and Illinois agility run, 15.6 secs. Results on resting blood pressure, serum lipids, vital capacity, flexibility, upper body strength, and vertical jump tests were comparable to values found for the sedentary population. Comparing the results with previously collected data on professional American Football backs indicated that the soccer players were shorter; lighter in body weight; higher in VO2 max (4 ml/kg-min-1) and body fat (1.8%); and similar in MHR, VE max, and VC. The 12-min run scores were similar to the initial values observed for the 1970 Brazilian World Cup Team. The agility run results were superior to data collected from other groups. Their endurance capabilities, agility, and low percent of body fat clearly differentiate them from the sedentary population and show them to be similar to that of professional American football backs.


The aim of this study was to investigate maximum aerobic power (VO2 max) and anaerobic threshold
(AT) as determinants of training status among professional soccer players. Twelve professional 1st team
British male soccer players (age: 26.2 ± 3.3 years, height: 1.77 ± 0.05 m, body mass: 79.3 ± 9.4 kg)
agreed to participate in the study and provided informed consent. All subjects completed a combined test
of anaerobic threshold (AT) and maximum aerobic power on two occasions: Test 1) following 5 weeks
of low level activity at the end of the off-season and Test 2) immediately following conclusion of the
competitive season. AT was assessed as both lactate threshold (LT) and ventilatory threshold (VT ). There
was no change in VO2 max between Test 1 and Test 2 (63.3 ± 5.8 ml⋅kg-1⋅min-1 vs. 62.1 ± 4.9 ml⋅kg-
1‚ãÖmin-1 respectively), however, the duration of exercise tolerance (ET) at VO2 max was significantly
extended from Test 1 to Test 2 (204 ± 54 vs. 228 ± 68 s respectively) (P<0.01). LT oxygen consumption
was significantly improved in Test 2 versus Test 1 (P<0.01) VT was also improved (P<0.05). There was
no significant difference in VO2 (ml‚ãÖkg-1‚ãÖmin-1) corresponding to LT and VT . The results of this study
show that VO2 max is a less sensitive indicator to changes in training status in professional soccer players
than either LT or VT

Has some vert stats:

x. Strength and endurance of elite soccer players

Purpose: The major purpose of the present study was to examine whether there exists a relationship between preseasonal physiological tests and performance results in the soccer league. Further, it investigated maximal oxygen uptake and maximal strength in proportion to body mass for soccer players. A secondary aim was to establish some normative data of Norwegian elite soccer players.

Methods: Two teams from the Norwegian elite soccer league participated in the study.

Results/Conclusion: The present study supports previous investigations indicating a positive relationship between maximal aerobic capacity, physical strength, and performance results in the elite soccer league. It is concluded that for soccer players, maximal oxygen uptake should be expressed in relation to body mass raised to the power of 0.75 and maximal strength in relation to body mass raised to the power of 0.67, when the aim is to evaluate maximal aerobic capacity when running and strength capacity among players with different body mass. Midfield players had significantly higher maximal oxygen uptake compared with defense players using the traditional expression, mL·kg-1·min-1, while no significant differences were found expressing maximal oxygen uptake either absolutely(L·min-1) or in relation to body mass raised to the power of 0.75 (mL·kg-0.75·min-1) among players grouped by position. There was a significant correlation (r = 0.61, P < 0.01) between squat 1RM and vertical jump height. Vertical jump heights for defense and forward players were significantly higher compared with midfield players. Mean results from the laboratory test were 63.7 mL·kg-1·min-1 or 188.6 mL·kg-0.75·min-1 for maximal oxygen uptake, 150 kg or 8.0 kg·mb-0.67 for 90° squats, 79.9 kg or 4.4 kg·mb-0.67 for bench press. Mean values of vertical jump height were 54.9 cm.

Studies on the physical performance of elite soccer players indicate that the average maximal O2 uptake ranges between 56.8 and 67.6 mL·kg-1·min-1 (1,5,6,8,10,22,27,30), whereas mean body fat (%) is between 8.6 and 11.2% (8,10,22,27). Muscular power has mainly been reported as jump height, using different tests. Some studies have found a vertical jump of 55.6-63.4 cm (27,28), whereas other studies reported a countermovement jump height of 41.4-41.6 cm and a standing jump height of 38.5-39.0 cm (8,9). Flexibility, muscle strength and hamstring to quadriceps strength ratios among soccer players have also been reported in several studies, but methodological differences (test type, speed, joint angle, etc.) make direct comparisons difficult (9,10,18,19).

Yo-yo test:

x. The Yo-Yo IR2 Test: Physiological Response, Reliability, and Application to Elite Soccer

Purpose: To examine the physiological response, reliability, and validity of the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery level 2 test (Yo-Yo IR2).

Methods: Thirteen normally trained male subjects carried out four Yo-Yo IR2 tests, an incremental treadmill test (ITT), and various sprint tests. Muscle biopsies and blood samples were obtained, and heart rate was measured before, during, and after the Yo-Yo IR2 test. Additionally, 119 Scandinavian elite soccer players carried out the Yo-Yo IR2 test on two to four occasions.

Results: Yo-Yo IR2 performance was 591 ± 43 (320-920) m or 4.3 (2.6-7.9) min. Test-retest coefficient of variation in distance covered was 9.6% (N = 29). Heart rate (HR) at exhaustion was 191 ± 3 bpm, or 98 ± 1% HRmax. Muscle lactate was 41.7 ± 5.4 and 68.5 ± 7.6 mmol·kg-1 d.w. at 85 and 100% of exhaustion time, respectively, with corresponding muscle CP values of 40.4 ± 5.2 and 29.4 ± 4.7 mmol·kg-1 d.w. Peak blood lactate was 13.6 ± 0.5 mM. Yo-Yo IR2 performance was correlated to ITT performance (r = 0.74, P < 0.05) and V˙O2max (r = 0.56, P < 0.05) but not to 30- and 50-m sprint performance. Yo-Yo IR2 performance was better (P < 0.05) for international elite soccer players than for moderate elite players (1059 ± 35 vs 771 ± 26 m) and better (P < 0.05) for central defenders (N = 21), fullbacks (N = 20), and midfielders (N = 48) than for goalkeepers (N = 6) and attackers (N = 24). Fifteen elite soccer players improved (P < 0.05) Yo-Yo IR2 performance by 42 ± 8% during 8 wk of preseasonal training.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that the Yo-Yo IR2 test is reproducible and can be used to evaluate an athlete’s ability to perform intense intermittent exercise with a high rate of aerobic and anaerobic energy turnover. Specifically, the Yo-Yo IR2 test was shown to be a sensitive tool to differentiate between intermittent exercise performance of soccer players in different seasonal periods and at different competitive levels and playing positions.

Analysis of the distances covered by first division Brazilian soccer players
obtained with an automatic tracking method

Methods based on visual estimation still is the most widely used
analysis of the distances that is covered by soccer players during
matches, and most description available in the literature were
obtained using such an approach. Recently, systems based on
computer vision techniques have appeared and the very first
results are available for comparisons. The aim of the present
study was to analyse the distances covered by Brazilian soccer
players and compare the results to the European players’, both
data measured by automatic tracking system. Four regular Bra-
zilian First Division Championship matches between different
teams were filmed. Applying a previously developed automatic
tracking system (DVideo, Campinas, Brazil), the results of 55
outline players participated in the whole game (n = 55) are
presented. The results of mean distances covered, standard
deviations (s) and coefficient of variation (cv) after 90 minutes
were 10,012 m, s = 1,024 m and cv = 10.2%, respectively. The
results of three-way ANOVA according to playing positions,
showed that the distances covered by external defender (10642 ±
663 m), central midfielders (10476 ± 702 m) and external mid-
fielders (10598 ± 890 m) were greater than forwards (9612 ±
772 m) and forwards covered greater distances than central
defenders (9029 ± 860 m). The greater distances were covered
in standing, walking, or jogging, 5537 ± 263 m, followed by
moderate-speed running, 1731 ± 399 m; low speed running,
1615 ± 351 m; high-speed running, 691 ± 190 m and sprinting,
437 ± 171 m. Mean distance covered in the first half was 5,173
m (s = 394 m, cv = 7.6%) highly significant greater (p < 0.001)
than the mean value 4,808 m (s = 375 m, cv = 7.8%) in the
second half. A minute-by-minute analysis revealed that after
eight minutes of the second half, player performance has already
decreased and this reduction is maintained throughout the sec-
ond half.

I put together a thread with nearly every study I can find on google scholar, which I planned on pulling data out of and organizing it by experience level/position etc… it’s not formatted fully yet but it could make searching for soccer data easier, not sure:


There is lots of research on VO2 levels of professional players across many countries. You will find they have relatively high numbers (58-70) with mid fielders the highest. When I did research in this area a few years ago it was clear that at certain levels of play, they are high on the VO2 scale. There is also lactate studies like above, sprint, vertical studies too. There was also a review of all the different variables involved in the game, and the biggest conclusion was the difference between players of lower levels and high levels was their sprint speed, all of factors were not statistically different. you can pub med most of these studies. I don’t have the references for them. they are buried in my stoorage closet