|By Patrick Beith
Soccer speed training is something that gets left out of most players overall training plan. Soccer is a mix of anaerobic and aerobic energy systems but most training plans for soccer athletes revolve around endurance training.
Distance running is needed but speed work can not be left out if you want to get the most out of your soccer athletes. Speed work consists of acceleration, maximum (top) velocity, and speed endurance development.
Acceleration development should be a major focal point in your training program and you should spend a lot of time working on proper acceleration mechanics. Being able to accelerate quickly and powerfully is probably the most important skill that needs to be improved in all athletes. Athletes in every sport need to be able to run as fast as possible as quickly as possible. Breaking away from your opponent, getting to the soccer ball first, or even chasing down a player, can make or break a game and even your season and all of these skills require short bursts of speed to be successful.
Acceleration takes place the first 0-30 meters or to about 3-4 seconds. Workouts to improve the acceleration of an athlete will follow in the same distance parameters as mentioned above.
Sample Acceleration Workout
6 X 25 meters each (500 meters total)
* Acceleration Mechanics Tip – Often in the acceleration phase, athletes are concerning themselves too much with trying to be quick with their legs. Instead of trying to drive out and be powerful, athletes are ‘spinning their wheels’ and not getting triple extension (ankle, knee, hip). We want the athletes to ‘feel their feet behind them’. If you are getting the sensation of your feet driving well behind your center of mass, then you know you are finishing off your leg drive.
After approximately 30 meters acceleration turns into maximum velocity and top speed is hit. Maximum velocity, or top speed, is another way of saying running at full speed.
Running at full speed, your body will be completely upright and your body will no longer be leaning at an angle as you were during acceleration. By continuing to try to run faster and faster throughout a run, as though you were still accelerating, you are actually going to have a breakdown in running mechanics. By continuing to try to accelerate while beginning to fatigue, you will only slow yourself down faster because you cannot continue to coordinate your movements with accuracy.
So in the upcoming maximum velocity workout, you want to have your athletes try and relax while they are running at top speed. This might seem odd at first for them, but once they get it, their speed will increase, they won’t get fatigued as quickly and it will feel effortless.
Sample Maximum Velocity Workout
Fly 20s, 30s and 40s:
Place a cone at the starting line, at 15y, at 35y and at 55y. Accelerate hard to the first cone (15y). Maintain the speed you have generated by running relaxed and following the maximum velocity cues from 15 – 35y. Once you hit 35y, slowly decelerate for the next 20y coming to a full stop at the last cone. This is a fly 20. Once you are comfortable holding that speed for 20y, you can move the second cone to 45y (fly 30s) and 55y (fly 40s). Total volume for these workouts should be between 250 – 350 yards.
Speed endurance is the ability to maintain speed in the presence of fatigue without decelerating. So, soccer athletes must train the ability to maintain high levels of speed, even when tired. As you can imagine, making improvements in speed endurance can have dramatic effects on the way your soccer athletes perform and finish the game. Think of your athletes when they are late in game and every athlete is tired and you know that this is where some of the most critical moves and decisions are made and games are won and lost.
As stated previously, speed endurance work is based around the idea of athletes competing in a state of physical fatigue, these workouts also have a useful mental component as well. When athletes get tired, they have a tendency to revert back to what is easy for them, which is usually poor form and technique. Therefore when performing this type of workout, it is important to focus on efficiency and form, even when it feels slower. Make the commitment to perfection in practice so that during competition you can focus solely on competing and performing your best. By improving the ability to stay mentally focused on a physically demanding and exhausting workout, athletes improve their ability to execute during the most important moments of their game or competition.
Sample Speed Endurance Workout
Run a longer distance (8 – 20 seconds, or 60 – 150 yards) at full or near full intensity (90% – 100%) with full or near full recovery (5 – 15 minutes) between each repetition.
By adding acceleration, maximum velocity and speed endurance to your soccer training programs, you will ensure that your athletes get faster and become a dominant force on the pitch.
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