This question usually concerns all coaches, not only those working in lower leagues, but also those at the topmost level. Shad Forsythe, an American who has been responsible for the motor preparation of the German national team for years, said at one of the trainings: “It’s difficult to improve something that we do not measure”. And it is hard not to agree with him.
What is worth measuring and why?
We need to be aware of the efforts we should prepare our subjects for. In today’s football, the players, depending on their position on the pitch, cover a distance of even 12-13 km during one match. For some time now, as shown by the reports from the European or World Championships, we can observe a relatively small increase in the total distance covered, but the high intensity (speed runs in the range of 19-23 km/h or sprints) and explosive efforts start playing an increasing role. This presents us with further challenges to prepare the athlete’s bodies in such a way that they can work in high intensity ranges for as long as possible and regenerate for further efforts as soon as possible.
The basis of a player’s physical preparation is oxygen efficiency, however, the result is most often determined by actions in which anaerobic metabolism plays a major role. This includes sprints, jumps, 1×1 game, slide tackles. This is confirmed by the authors of works which focus on the influence of explosive power and speed training on the disposition of a player [Commeti et al., 2001; Little and Williams, 2005; Gissis et al., 2006; Di Salvo, 2007; Gonaus and Müller, 2012].
This applies to professional players, but what about amateurs? Is the effort any similar when playing in the third, fourth or fifth league? Should amateur players also work on their aerobic and anaerobic efficiency, explosive power, etc.? If yes, when and with what loads, at what volume? How to control the loads, check the effects? These are the questions that a coach has to answer in order to develop an optimal preparation plan.
How to prepare your team for the season?
So how to “get down with” preparing a football team at an amateur level? At this point, it is worth clarifying what we mean by the term “amateur”. Let’s assume that these are the players who train 4-5 times within a weekly micro-cycle.
Let’s assume that we took over the team in December and have a preparation period ahead of us, lasting 8-10 weeks until the start of the league. In the literature we can find various methods or concepts of motor preparation. The two basic ones are shown in the picture below.
There are supporters of Cometti’s concept, but I think that in the case of amateur athletes, the traditional concept seems to be more appropriate, because without a proper “aerobic foundation” it is difficult to effectively shape and develop the remaining features. Such a concept is also presented by Bompa et al. 2013 (below)
Source: Preparing players for the starting effort, Jan Chmura, 2008
Therefore, at the beginning, we need to know the current state of the bodies of our players in order to obtain a “reference point”. Ideally, it would be possible to use modern solutions that support trainings, i.e. mobile heart monitoring systems and GPS-based systems providing an abundance of valuable data, or even recording sessions with the use of drones. However, these technologies are quite expensive (although they are becoming more and more available) and the budgets of clubs might not allow it. Therefore, it is best to carry out cardiopulmonary exercise tests and field tests in conditions closest to the specificity of a given discipline, thanks to which we would have at our disposal such data as: running speed and HR values at aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, HRmax, VO2max, speed and HR in the glycolytic zone, restitution, etc. Such precise parameters can be obtained thanks to a field test with a mobile ergospirometer, yet at an amateur level…costs.
In such a situation, we either find that it is “impossible”, or we look for solutions that are slightly less precise, but also useful. I am in favor of the latter.
So you can use the chosen test to determine some of the above mentioned parameters in an indirect way. It can be e.g. the Beep Test, and for this sport-testers, preferably with the possibility of reading the heart rate values at any time during the effort. On this basis, we can already collect interesting data (e.g. HR on PPB) that will prove helpful (Conconi F., Ferrari M., Ziglio P., Droghetti P., Codeca L.1982: Determination of the anaerobic threshold by a non-invasive field test in runners). After the control tests, every 4-6 weeks, we will have a picture of the response of organisms to the applied loads and their level of adaptation.
How to create a micro-cycle training plan?
So how could the overall plan look like, assuming four units (JT) within a weekly micro-cycle during the general preparation sub-period (4-6 weeks)? Here is an example:
- Monday: day-off
- Tuesday: whole-body exercises, GT (tactical play), load 60-80%
- Wednesday: tests, general strength exercises, load 80-90%
- Thursday: day-off
- Friday: whole-body exercises, GT, load 60-80%
- Saturday: general endurance exercises / control match, load 85-95%
- Sunday: day-off
Main accents: general fitness, aerobic endurance (higher volume, lower intensity), muscle strengthening exercises (functional strength).
We may encounter various methods of shaping aerobic capacity, but most importantly, it is worth ensuring that most of the working time should be below the anaerobic transition threshold (PPB) in the range of 80-85% HRmax. It is also important to determine the heart rate or speed on the PPB for each player on the basis of tests, and then try to perform the training, maintaining the principle of load individualization. In the 3rd-4th weekly micro-cycle it is worth increasing the intensity, so that the players work more time on PPB as well as above.
Fitness games during the training of the staff of Lower Silesia
As it was stated (among others, by Paul Robins, a motor preparation coach, the erstwhile colleague of Jurgen Klinsmann), most of the exercises with balls (all the time) do not allow to achieve the above-threshold load, therefore it is necessary to select the means and apply additional tasks, modify the number of goals, effort times and rest breaks in such a way as to achieve the load planned in the training.
It is important to apply the principle of gradation of training loads (from smaller to larger ones), we plan micro-cycles so that work and rest consists of stimulation phases, divided by rest phases (e.g. Monday and Thursday), 75% whole-body sessions and 25% targeted and special sessions.
How to build aerobic capacity?
Fartlek: continuous load with a variable, usually medium intensity with accents of more intensive work, time 2-3 blocks of 10-15 minutes, no repetitions and rest breaks, HR 150-170 beats/min.
Extensive continuous training: continuous load, no rest breaks, time 30-90 min, no maximum effort (approx. 50% of maximum capacity), no repetitions, HR 140-160 beats/min.
Intensive training: interval load for 30-40 minutes with blocks with intensive threshold load, 3-5 blocks (repetitions), 5×6 to 5×8 minutes, 5 minutes rest between loads, HR 160-180 beats/min.
Extensive interval training: load directed at short and intensive efforts, time up to 60 seconds, HR 170-180 beats/min, number of series 2-5, number of repetitions in series up to 8, rest up to 90 seconds between repetitions, 4-6 minutes between series.
How to build anaerobic capacity?
Since the dominant source of energy are high-energy compounds of phosphorus and glycogen and the process of energy production for muscle work is carried out with a small proportion of oxygen, anaerobic capacity should be shaped by stimulating the above-mentioned energy resources. In practice, we use the interval method, with maximum intensity, lasting 10-90 seconds, with breaks that do not allow full relaxation.
How to build speed?
When shaping it, in terms of the locomotive aspect, the exercises should be performed with maximum (100%) or sub-maximum (80-95%) intensity, duration of single repetitions should amount to 2-8 seconds, time of rest breaks should ensure full regeneration, number of repetitions 4-6, number of series 2-4, active break after series for 4-6 minutes,
- 1m of sprint = 10m of regenerative jog
Development of speed during the preparation period should be based on strength and endurance preparation. In the first weeks, it is recommended to use short run lengths (5 m) to increase the distance to 10-15 m in the following micro-cycles.
Bearing in mind that due to the limited number of training units, it seems necessary to use complex trainings, i.e. those where within one unit we shape 2 or 3 motor skills one after another. The essence here is to keep the right order, e.g. at the beginning (after a warm-up) speed, then strength, and finally endurance.
- The Sonda Sports GPS system helps you monitor your training load.
How to control the training load?
Sports-testers are useful here as they allow to record the heart rate ranges in which the work has been done, but the Borg protocol can also be useful, i.e. individual, subjective assessment of the severity of the training made by the player.
Will such an overworked period ensure success? There is no guarantee.
Motor preparation constitutes one of many factors influencing and determining the result. The player, apart from physical preparation, must have all the necessary technical and tactical tools as well as a strong psyche and appropriate mentality. Only a combination of all these elements significantly increases the chance of achieving the final success.