Unlike aerobic exercise, where the body uses oxygen to tap into its energy reserves, anaerobic exercise does not require oxygen. Sound confusing? Anaerobic training is about power and bursts of speed. But let’s dig a bit deeper into exactly what anaerobic soccer training is all about.
Well, to explain, you first need to understand that anaerobic training is used to increase strength and power through intense muscular activity. Your muscles generate energy by converting glucose into lactic acid. But because of the strenuous nature of the activity and the fact that oxygen is not needed, this sort of exercise can only be maintained for short periods of time. Oxygen only comes into play after the exercise, when it is needed for recovery and metabolism of glucose to supply more energy. This is why resting time is crucial to maintain a successful session of anaerobic training.
The most popular form of anaerobic training among soccer players is interval training (or “fartlek” among Swedes). This is basically sessions of high-speed/high-intensity exercise followed by periods of rest or low activity. The idea is to develop strength through short bursts of speed in a variety of actions such as stopping, turning, and directional changes. Actually, you could think of a soccer game as one long bout of interval training!
TIP: Interval training can help you avoid injuries associated with the repetitive movements of endurance training. Also, it allows you to increase your intensity without burning yourself out.
Picture it this way. You’re running down the soccer field chasing the ball at near maximum speed, and then suddenly you slow down once you reach the ball. Now, you’re dribbling the ball, constantly weaving between defenders — sometimes picking up speed, slowing down, and changing directions — until suddenly you stop and shoot for a goal. If you score, you celebrate by jumping up and down, but if not, you resume your normal play. There are a lot of sudden movements here, from fast to slow to sudden stops. Your body needs to be ready for this, so you need to train beforehand.
It’s easy to do interval training, though. For example, try “walk-back sprinting.” All you do is sprint backwards for 30-250 feet, stop, turn around, and then walk back to your start point. Do multiple sets. Or, you can do shuttle runs, which are basically the same as walk-back sprinting but require forward running in both directions.
You can vary your sprints, too. For example, sprint back and forth for 60 yards in each direction (a total of 120 yards) but break up each sprint into five intervals of 12 yards. In other words, you will sprint 12 yards, stop, sprint another 12 yards, stop, and so on. Then, you can do additional sets, maybe two or three, but this depends on how you’re feeling and what your goals are.
The important thing to remember with any kind of interval training is to allow your body enough time to recover properly before taking on bursts of speed again. Although this type of exercise doesn’t involve the type of stress that accompanies endurance training, you can just as easily tear or pull a muscle from a misplaced foot or through over-exertion. Be watchful and be careful!
Learn more: Plyometric Drills
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