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Page 1

Jan Van Winckel, Werner Helsen, Kenny McMillan,
David Tenney, Jean-Pierre Meert, Paul Bradley

FITNESS IN SOCCER
THE SCIENCE AND PRACTICAL APPLICATION

Page 2

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. TRAINING PRINCIPLES ................................................................................................ 13
1.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 13
1.2 Supercompensation ........................................................................................ 13
1.3 Delayed transmutation .................................................................................... 14
1.4 Cumulative training effect ............................................................................... 14
1.5 Residual effects of training ............................................................................. 14
1.6 Interference or superposition of training effects ............................................. 15
1.7 Training process and goal setting ................................................................... 15
1.8 Specificity (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) ................................ 16
1.9 Transfer effect (cross-training) ........................................................................ 16
1.10 Initial value and diminishing returns ............................................................... 17
1.11 Inter-individual variability ................................................................................ 18
1.12 Nature or Nurture? .......................................................................................... 18
1.13 Principle of reversibility ................................................................................... 19
1.14 Progression .................................................................................................... 19
1.15 Variation .......................................................................................................... 19

2. TRAINING MODELS ...................................................................................................... 21
2.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 21
2.2 General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) ........................................................... 22
2.3 The Supercompensation or one-factor theory ................................................ 23
2.4 Fitness-fatigue model ..................................................................................... 25
2.5 Performance potential model .......................................................................... 31

3. THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF ELITE SOCCER MATCH PLAY ................................. 33
3.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 33
3.2 Activity profile ................................................................................................. 33
3.3 Positional variation ......................................................................................... 34
3.4 Competitive standard ...................................................................................... 35
3.5 Gender Differences ........................................................................................ 36
3.6 Match-to-match variability and stability .......................................................... 37
3.7 Contextual and tactical factors ....................................................................... 37
3.8 Fatigue during match play .............................................................................. 38

4. NUTRITION .................................................................................................................... 43
4.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 43
4.2 Energy ........................................................................................................... 43
4.3 Substrate Utilization and Macronutrient Needs .............................................. 46
4.4 ATP (adenosine triphosphate) ........................................................................ 53
4.5 Energy systems .............................................................................................. 55
4.6 Macronutrient needs ....................................................................................... 56
4.7 Eating patterns of soccer players .................................................................. 57
4.8 Glycogen metabolism and nutrient timing for recovery .................................. 58
4.9 Energy Balance and Body Composition ......................................................... 61
4.10 Vitamins, minerals and free radicals ............................................................... 64
4.11 Water and electrolyte balance in soccer players ........................................... 66
4.12 Food supplements .......................................................................................... 69
4.13 Recommendations .......................................................................................... 71

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FITNESS IN SOCCER
Training continuum186

Process Training (overload)

Outcome
Acute fatigue
(AF)

Functional
overreaching
(short-term OR)

Non-Functional
overreaching
(extreme OR)

Overtraining
syndrome (OTS)

Recovery
Day(s) Days - weeks Weeks - months Months - …

Performance
Increase Temporary

performance
decrement

Stagnation
decrease

Decrease

Example

Acute fatigue
after a day with
two training
sessions

Overreaching
after a pre-
season training
camp

Continued
excessive
training load
after a training
camp with
inadequate
recovery

Several months
with stressful
competition,
stressful team
environment,
excessive load
and inadequate
recovery

Table 11.1: The different stages that differentiate normal training from OR (functional and non-
functional OR) and the OTS. (Meeusen et al., 2013)

11.2 DIFFERENT STAGES OF THE TRAINING CONTINUUM

11.2.1 Detraining
Undertraining or detraining involves a load that is insufficient to maintain or stimu-
late positive adaptation. Many terms—such as tapering, active recovery and unloa-
ding—are also used interchangeably in relation to detraining or undertraining.
Set out below is an overview of the most widely used terms:
1. Active recovery or unloading allows both the training volume and intensity to

drop. Active recovery is used to recover from match load or successive heavy
training loads.

2. Taper: The highest level of performance follows on from a period of tapering.
Tapering is defined by Mujika et al. (2003) as a progressive, nonlinear reduction
of training load over a particular period in order to reduce psychological and
physiological stress and therefore optimize performance. Tapering differs from
unloading in the sense that although the volume and frequency decrease, the
intensity remains the same (80–100%). This process is very individual, but the
best results are typically seen after a recovery period of 7–14 days, which is not
possible in the calendar of professional soccer. In soccer, tapering strategies are
imposed in every microcycle for the days preceding a match and during the last
phase of preseason, just before the start of the season.

3. Detraining: The term “detraining” is used when a player’s performance level
drops. The detraining effect will appear, for example, a few weeks into the
off-season, when players’ fitness levels begin falling rapidly.

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FITNESS IN SOCCER
Training continuum 187

The reduction in aerobic endurance is significantly greater than for other motor
abilities, such as strength, power and flexibility. In a study conducted by Sal-
tin (1968), five people were kept in bed for 20 days. Their VO2max fell by 25%.
This drop can be mainly attributed to a decline in the heart’s performance that
occurs, in particular, during the first 12 days of detraining.

The physiological effects of 2–4 weeks detraining:
• VO2max: - 5–10%
• resting and submaximal exercise HR: + 5–10%
• blood volume: - 5–10%
• stroke volume: - 6–12%
• cardiac output: reduced
• flexibility (suppleness): reduced
• lactate threshold: reduced
• muscle glycogen stores: - 15–30%
• aerobic enzyme activity: reduced

Physiological adaptations lost over a particular period need more time to recover
than it takes to detrain them. Fourteen days of detraining is sufficient to induce a
significant decrease in VO2max, but it takes considerably longer than two weeks to
return to the same baseline levels. The mechanisms of physical deconditioning are
many, but it seems that hypovolemia (a decrease in volume of blood plasma), decre-
ases in the activity of oxidative enzymes, and lower muscle glycogen stores are the
first factors responsible for a decrement in performance (Oliviera et al., 2008).

11.2.1.1 Effects of training parameters
As highlighted above, detraining is a consequence of reduced frequency, intensity
and/or volume. An overview of the effects of a reduction in these three factors is
set out below:
1. Reduction in frequency: If training is reduced from six sessions to three ses-

sions, while the volume and intensity are maintained, there is no substantial
detraining effect.

2. Reduction in intensity: If the training intensity is reduced by 50%, performance
will be diminished significantly.

3. Reduction in volume: Even if the total volume is reduced by 50%, the detrai-
ning effect can be limited.

This shows that a reduction in intensity, in particular, induces a detraining effect.

Reference Days of inactivity Percentage

Houston, Bentzen, & Larsen, (1979) 15 −4 % VO2max
Martin et al. (1986) 40 −20 % VO2max
Houmard, Hortobagyl, & Johns (1992) 14 −5 % VO2max
Coyle et al. (1984) 21 −8 % Cardiac Output

Chi et al. (1983) 21 −64 % activity aerobic enzymes

Costill et al. (1985) 7 −20 % Glycogen store

Table 11.2: Overview of detraining effects

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FITNESS IN SOCCER
Microcycle: Week planning336

18.4.1 Effects of warming up
A thorough warm-up has the following effects:

• The muscle temperature increases (39°C).
• Depending on the intensity and duration of the warm up, short-term perfor-

mance is likely to be improved if the recovery interval allows phosphocreatine
(PCr) stores to be significantly restored (Bishop, 2003).

• The stroke volume of the heart, and the cardiac output increases.
• Local vasodilation redistributes blood from the viscera to the working mus-

cles. This redistribution of blood flow allows increased nutrient and oxygen
delivery and improves the efficiency of waste product removal.

• The rise in temperature triggers enzyme activity, which increases the meta-
bolism in the body, resulting in more energy being available for the muscles.

• The quantity of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles increases, improving the
metabolism in the muscles.

• A warm up longer than ten minutes can impair long-term performance by
decreasing muscle glycogen content (Gollnick et al., 1973) and/or decreasing
heat-storage capacity (Gregson et al., 2002).

• It is thought that the compliant muscle can be stretched further after warming
up (Safran et al., 1988).

• Nerve conduction velocity increases, with the impulses reaching the muscles,
tendons and ligaments faster.

• Improved coordination.
• Positive influence on the contraction and reflex times of the muscles.
• The range of movement of the joints increases.
• The muscles are better prepared for extreme movements with a high range of

motion.
• The risk of injury is reduced (Olsen et al., 2005). Grooms et al. (2013) inves-

tigated the effects of a soccer-specific warm-up program (F-MARC 11+) on
lower extremity injury incidence in male collegiate soccer players. They con-
cluded that the F-MARC 11+ program reduced overall risk and severity of
lower extremity injury when compared with controls in collegiate-aged male
soccer athletes.

• Higher rate of force development and therefore a decrease in time to peak
torque.

• Higher half-relaxation time.

However, a warm up can also have negative effects, such as:

• The glycogen reserves diminish:
The substrates (muscle glycogen, blood glucose) will be used during the warm
up. An excessively long warm up can therefore have a negative influence on
performance. A warm up of 15-20 minutes is sufficient (depending on the out-
side temperature).

• The body temperature could rise to dangerous levels (hyperthermia):
In hot weather conditions, the body temperature can rise too high and affect
performance. At a body temperature above the critical temperature of approxi-
mately 40°C, the body will limit performance in an attempt to prevent over-

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FITNESS IN SOCCER
Microcycle: Week planning 337

heating. Research has demonstrated that a hot and humid climate reduced
short-sprint performance (Maxwell et al., 1999) and sprint time in a 90-minute
soccer-specific protocol (Morris et al., 1998, 2000), as well as during an inter-
mittent-sprint protocol on a bike (Noakes et al., 2001).

• Muscular performance diminishes through extended static stretching. For
example, the 20m-sprint performance of rugby union players decreased after
static stretching (Fletcher and Jones, 2004).

18.4.2 Post-activation potentiation phenomenon
Another physiological mechanism that helps clarify the increase in performance
following a dynamic warm up is a phenomenon called post-activation potentia-
tion (PAP). Following a short bout of high-intensity exercise (preload stimulus),
the muscle is in both a fatigued and a potentiated state (referred to as post-activa-
tion potentiation). Consequently, subsequent muscle performance depends on the
balance between these two factors (Kilduff et al., 2007). PAP refers to an increased
power output following a specific stimulus (Robbings, 2005). For example, follo-
wing a bout of dynamic exercise, the muscles show a clear enhancement in the rate
of force development, such as jumping height. This period of improvement has
been demonstrated to last between 5 and 20 minutes (Chiu et al., 2003). It seems
that the majority of the enhancement is achieved in fast-twitch fibers (French et
al., 2003). Kilduff et al. (2007) concluded that muscle performance in rugby (e.g.,
power) can be enhanced following a bout of heavy exercise (preload stimulus)
in both the upper and the lower body in cases where adequate recovery (of 8–12
minutes) is given between the preload stimulus and performance. Till and Cooke
(2009) found no significant group PAP effect on sprint and jump performance after
both dynamic and isometric maximum voluntary contractions (MVCs) when com-
pared with a control warm-up protocol. However, the large variation in individual
responses (-7.1% to +8.2%) may suggest that PAP should be considered on an indi-
vidual basis.

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