Question on Structuring Training for Soccer

This was sent to me as a private message, but every time I tried to send a reply, the system hung indefinitely. Therefore I’m posting the question and my answer.

Hey Flash,

I have read a couple of really old threads of you talking about soccer training and sprinting and stuff. I am an aspiring soccer player and was wondering if you could offer some advice. The first question I had was generally when playing soccer, even a pickup game, I hit several moments higher than 75% of my maximum speed so would doing sprint training the day before or after playing soccer be detrimental to my recovery and not allow me the best way to become fastest.

I play pickup games on Sat and Sun, full rest on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are my speed and strength days and on Wednesday and Friday I do tempo in the morning and skill work in the evening (trying to stay in >75% of my max speed zone). Do you think it is necessary to do tempo in that case or can I fully focus my energy on skill work? Or will that result in not developing good endurance for soccer as I am planning on playing in college.

Also for my speed work I was thinking of doing 3 sessions of acceleration work then 1 session of focusing on flying sprints and accelerations in the beginning. I was thinking this would be a good idea as flying sprints would teach me to relax while in top speed, which is a good skill to have like being relaxed when I am at high speeds and have to receive the soccer ball or dribble first touch etc. and this also offers a nice plyometric and elasticity components to my training. So something like doing 80-100m of acceleration and the rest devoted to flying sprints. What do you say about that? And about my acceleration work, how quickly should I transition from 10m distances to fully doing 30m’s? And when I do 30ms fully should I still do a couple in the beginning (say 2 10m’s and 1 20m) to get in gear to do a full 30m sprint?

I would greatly appreciate if you could offer me advice on this.


Overall I’d say your outline sounds good. Regarding flying sprints, that’s typically how you would accelerate on the field anyway. You’re trotting along and then there’s a quick acceleration burst. Soccer players usually are not accelerating from a dead stop most of the time. It’s hard to give a specific recommendation on extending from 10 - 30m, but I would definitely keep some of the shorter stuff in while adding the longer accelerations. The timing of the progression should be determined by your season schedule if there is one. I would also recommend doing your speed work on grass most of the time if you’re not already. I’m not sure if you use a track at all, but the grass will be easier on your legs. It took me a long time to learn that lesson.

As far as tempo is concerned, a lot of your skill work could fall under the categorization of tempo. If you have an off season you could do more structured tempo work like a track athlete and then gradually replace the tempo volume with more skill work as the season approaches. During the season I would imagine most of your tempo conditioning would be provided and maintained by your technical work as well as the games themselves. Charlie mentioned on several occasions that Mark McKoy incorporated a lot of his hurdle training into his tempo workouts.

Ange would also be a good source of advice as I know she’s recently gotten involved in soccer coaching.

Hope this helps.

I had have same issue with private message.

My reply is what Flash said :wink:

Another thought that just occurred to me is in addition to the flying sprints where you would do a single 20m max effort after a 20-30m buildup, you could also use alternating in-out drills such as Easy-Hard-Easy, Hard-Easy-Hard, using 10-20m segments. This more closely simulates the types of running patterns that occur in soccer. I think 10m segments would be more specific to soccer. You could start with 20m alternating segments in the off season and progress toward more specific 10m segments during the season. 10m segments are not only more specific but less fatiguing because you wouldn’t be hitting as high speeds, and if you kept the total reps the same you would also be cutting the total volume in half. Just an idea to play with.

Hey guys thanks for the responses. My apologies I only realized today my inbox was full lol. I am in off season right now and when I get to college I will just be playing intramurals until spring season where I will get to come out to the college soccer team. This is what the coach recommended I do. So my off season should be quite long. From my experience I have felt doing skill work only does not really help my aerobic fitness so once I develop my aerobic fitness maybe just one session or just the skill sessions and matches would take care of it like Flash said. Soccer is a very skill oriented sport so I try to get in as much as skill work as I can while still trying to improve my physical components. It is pretty tricky but I’m getting better at it. The problem I have is I’ve been dealing with lower leg/shin problems for like more than 2 years now and I’ve gone through rehab and everything but once I start training structurally they start coming back to me so I have to really watch how much work I do. Some days I start getting tenderness in my shin early or they start feeling fatigued and overworked and super tired right after I get my blood moving and warmed up well and start training. Do you guys think I should focus on tempo to condition myself better and that way I can carry out my skill sessions in the evening more easily also? I’ve found some occasions where it got better and that was when I stuck to my routine and did hill work and just conditioned my lower legs well so I’m trying to do something similar again. Yes I always train on grass expect when I do soccer shooting and trapping wall drills against the wall for a little bit before my tempo and speed sessions.

The concept of flying sprints make sense and I do the buildup. 10m distances is best to be used I think most of the time at least and it’s more specific to the game like you said and it would also be easier on legs.

What do you recommend for a speed routine then? I’m still not quite clear on that part and want to do what would be best for my sport and my development. Should I include both flying runs and acceleration work in all my sessions? Or do it like 3 focusing on acceleration and one on flying sprints over the span of 2 weeks. Acceleration is really important as I am an attacker and I get into a lot of 1v1’s and that first step has to be really quick and explosive so I think dead stop accelerations will help me as well but most of the time I will be moving with some speed or jogging as I’m dribbling the ball or moving into space.

I’ve heard it is important have progression in your sprint work so that you don’t plateau but I’m not sure how much of that is true for me as a soccer player who’s main focus in on short bursts of accelerations and trying to get to high speed quickly.

Get the Edmonton download if you haven’t already. Also, the Bike Tempo workout is invaluable. ESTI has a ton of experience preparing college aged soccer players. Once you have a solid understanding of Charlie’s multi-sport principles, perhaps he can guide you a little in implementing them in a real-world way. The key is, you need to keep things SIMPLE- it sounds like you think too much.

Watch the Edmonton download 15 times (I’m not at all joking here, it takes at least ten views to truly internalize what Charlie is saying on any given topic I find), come back, and ask more questions when you have internalized the principles.

I already downloaded the Bike tempo before. I am tight on my pocket and saving for college so I won’t be able to do that edmonton download but I’m not sure how much of that information would be valuable for a soccer player. What do you mean by keeping things simple? I am trying to keep it simple that’s why I’m asking advice for what is best :slight_smile:

I’ve noticed soccer players have a short step length, even the elite ones.

Yeah the shorter stride helps them change direction quickly and accelerate so it is beneficial to have this for this sport. Sharmer you have have any comments on the structure of my soccer training?

Aerobic fitness is big component of soccer, if you’re playing 2-3 games a week, I probably wouldn’t do much more in terms of speed, but fartlek training could have some benefits. For instance run 200 jog 200 repeats.

The games are not like real games tho… they are just pickup games in a small area (not even a real size soccer field) and I don’t even sprint much cause it’s crowded or not enough space. Lately I’ve been playing more intelligently trying to use more skill than my physical abilities. I’ve looked into Fartlek before but I feel like tempo work is sufficient for endurance. Can you comment on the speed sessions? Do you think I should combine acceleration work and flying sprints in one session or seperate them like I did giving each it’s focus. Maybe I should do 1 acceleration and 1 flying sprint focused session per week as I progress?

That’s a hard question to answer you could use the combined method for 6 weeks and test or the single method over 6 weeks and test. To make results valid use a washout period between ( 1-2 wks of lower activity). Try and keep sleep diet and supplementation the same throughout. Concurrent training both acceleration/flying speed in the one session has not been researched in sport science. Studies on resistance and aerobic training (concurrent training) have shown mixed results. There is one study showing that elevated HR to 120-130 BPM increases strength however other studies show doing aerobic training prior to RT decreases strength.

The order of combining flying work and acceleration would be important. If you did a high volume of acceleration work before flying work, there would a decrease in the quality of the flying work. For this reason it would be my preference to separate the sessions. Flying work involves acceleration so you’re working on both quantities simultaneously.

Yes that’s true could you give me a sample speed routine of what would you do in my case and how you would progress?

80m x 6 at maximal effort, 10 minutes recovery, twice a week for 8 weeks, after the 4th week add 1 repetition for the remaining 4 weeks, by week 8 80mx10.

I have no idea what your training background or work capacity is, so I’ll suggest something very conservative as a starting point. If you’re doing two speed workouts a week you could alternate between standard accel work and flying sprints.

Day 1: Med ball accelerations x4-6, 6x10m, 2x20m
Day 2: 2x(20+20+20, LHL), 2x(20+20+20, HLH), med ball throws x6-8

Progress to:
Day 1: 4x10m, 4x20m, 6x30m
Day 2: 4x(10+10+20, LHL), 4x(10+10+20, HLH), med ball throws

Alternatively, you could do day 1 as split runs with limited accelerations such 2-3x(4x10+30) and gradually extend the acceleration portion of each run while also increasing the rest interval between runs until you are accelerating the whole distance and you would be doing 2x4x30m.

Just suggestions.

Why would you do 80m sprints for soccer?

Nice suggestions. I have not been doing consistent sprint works recently so I need to start over again. If I am able to I will start with some hill work as these have helped me in the past and also help my shin/ lower leg problems. For the flying days do you think I could just do standard flying sprints with 30m buildup and start with 10m fly zone and progress to 15 or 20 maybe. And in the buildup zone I should go tempo speed and then go my fastest in the fly zone. I was suggested this because it is hard to run fast for a long period especially when you are starting a new off season. Maybe I should go a bit faster than tempo speed in the last 10m of my buildup zone and then hit it fast and stay relaxed on my fly zone? I have done flying sprints in the past and they probably should be enough work to help me get my gains from that type of workout. And your body should be upright when doing these sorts of sprints right? My main priority when doing sprint workouts is just to get faster. I don’t really worry about the running patterns of the actual soccer game so I try to keep it simple. But your suggestion of LHL or HLH might be helpful and I was thinking for soccer as it mainly involves short acceleration bursts and is also about getting to your top speed the fastest then should I do drills or adjust my workouts so that I am able to get to my top speed as fast as I can? Are these LHL or HLH drills better at getting to your top speed faster than flying sprints and they involve the jogging/cruising stage and then accelerating and jogging again or vice versa which are common sprint patterns in a soccer match so would this help me more than just trying to get faster? I am just throwing out thoughts. And when I go from the low part to the high part in LHL or HLH am I leaning my body forward as I accelerate?

For LHL, HLH you’re not jogging during the light or easy parts, you’re simply holding your speed. The switch back and forth in effort helps to prevent the formation of a dynamic stereotype that can stagnate your progression. It’s a way to trick the nervous system essentially. They’re not top speed drills. They’re more to develop acceleration.

For top speed you would use the 20m flying sprint with an gradually increasing build up distance. The buildup gives you a little more distance to accelerate gently so that you’re not burning all your energy overcoming resting inertia. This should allow you to apply more energy later in the acceleration curve which hopefully will allow you to achieve a higher top speed than if you did a maximum burn from a dead stop.

There are TONS of old posts about flying sprints and in/out drills. Do not overcomplicate this stuff. Pick a few methods, try them out in small volumes and then go from there as you learn more and see how your body reacts. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. Pick the simplest one you can do consistently and go from there. There are several approaches to use, don’t try to incorporate all of them. Simple, simple, simple.

Ah okay that makes more sense now. So in the EFE, what speed am I going in the first 20m? Just going a little fast and maintaining it? If these drills already help relaxation and maintaining high speeds then I don’t see the need to do flying sprints on their own and these will also help acceleration which is the focus for my soccer speed. You said if were to do 2 sessions a week then alternate between acceleration and flying sprints right? But in day 2 you showed me in and out drills so that’s why I thought these were to be done instead of flying sprints. Why do you suggest I start off with 20m distances for these drills? Is it more to get the technique down and condition myself more than anything else? And for progressing on my acceleration work should I eventually just progress to doing mainly reps of 30m sprints or will doing too much sprinting of one particular distance cause plateauing or cns fatigue?

Btw do you guys think I should do acceleration with a short 5-10m jog or buildup as that is how you usually do it in a soccer game?

You can drop the distance back to 40 or 60. But use the same progression.

Whenever you do a LHL in/out drill, the initial segment is an easy acceleration. When you hit the H segment, you accelerate hard and then hold whatever speed you reach for the last segment. The LHL and HLH drills are acceleration drills, not top speed drills. You’re accelerating at maximum effort during the hard segments, but they’re not long enough to reach top speed. In order to truly achieve top speed in a flying sprint you would need a 40-50m lead in.