It is a hot August evening in the north Hessian village landscape and I am, as so often, on the road with my mountain bike. River, hills and the one or other place sign are passed, in the middle of the dusk, you can hear loud screaming.
step I get closer to this shouting, knowing that it must come from the nearby
sports field. C – Youth, 13 – 14 years old, it is summer preparation and the
sun hits the heads of the young footballers with all its energy. The exhaustion
can be seen on their faces, their gaze is agonizing and sweat is pouring over
their strained bodies. Accurately placed on the pitch are hats, coordination
ladder, cones and medicine balls. A round of running with the most diverse
20min, then you have done it. Go ahead. These are the important grains that
will bring us to the championship,” is the echo of the crowd. That this
sport is actually called football can only be guessed at best.
ball, which does not necessarily weigh 3Kg, can only be seen at the edge,
wrapped in a ball sack. The children seem very strained, 16 in number, and
become noticeably more tired and slower. The only fun seems to be the long,
lanky boy, who runs round and round and laps over.
I keep standing at the barrier and wait anxiously for the next training exercises. “You see here the passing exercise, which is to be performed at the highest possible speed! Breaks are not allowed, absolute will and concentration, boys. This has to be done on an assembly line. Station A passes first to B, then back to A, who passes to D, who claps at B, while C runs behind, etc…”
Here I had
to get off, too complicated to follow attentively, mind you, without a
25-minute endurance run with obstacles and medicine balls. The exercise does
not go as desired, the coach has to intervene and rebuke several times, the
concentration has dropped to a minimum, the fun, if any, probably too.
A fictional story, which however is still a hard reality on many sports fields in the Federal Republic of Germany. Sometimes more or sometimes less extreme as the one described above. Even while writing, I gradually lost more and more the desire for football, just by the thought to be driven through such an ordeal. Half-knowledge passed on training routines or even false role models are the templates of such training units.
has changed since the 80s, even the DFB promotes this through training
articles, for example in the section “Training online”. Several
foreign coaches who have worked in the Bundesliga in the last few years have
shown that it can be done differently. Pep Guardiola, Peter Bosz etc. are just
a few examples who used different approaches to get their team in shape, but
never lost focus on the essentials, namely the game and the associated
In the further course of the article, I will talk about different possibilities of “fitness training” in football and at the end, I will also show forms of games, which can be used to train different aspects of fitness in football by playing football. In the centre of attention will always be the game itself.
fitness through playing football
Verheijen is one of the world’s most famous coaches in the field of football
fitness and has shown remarkable success with the South Korean and Russian
national teams during various World Cup and European Championship tournaments.
His successes were so extraordinary, especially because his teams ran very much
and especially very often, very fast, that there were often rumours of doping
in his former teams.
represents a holistic, match-oriented approach to fitness training in football
and distinguishes between four performance factors: communication – tactics –
technique – football fitness.
“Everything has to be football-related”. Raymond Verheijen
performance factors are inseparably linked to the game of football and must be
trained holistically. In order to understand and grasp the complexity of
football, it is necessary to look at the fitness requirements of a player
during a match, preferably position-specific.
Roughly speaking, a footballer runs at the top level in a normal game between 10 and 12Km, of which he sprints about 800m to 1200m, accelerates 40 to 60 times and changes the running direction every 5 seconds.
In addition, there are strong requirements for shooting, passing and especially in duels. For these actions the body logically needs energy, but this is only available in the body in a limited way.
cf. training control by Marco Henseling (read carefully!)
want to give a complete repetition of the energy metabolism here, but at least
summarize the essentials.
In order to set yourself in motion, you need muscle contractions. The energy required for this is supplied by ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and KP (creatine phosphate). The ATP – KP system provides energy for short and high-intensity exercise for up to 15 seconds. If exercise lasts longer than 15 seconds, other energy sources are required, including carbohydrates and fats.
mentioned before, soccer actions are mostly intermittent and acyclic, which
brings other challenges than running cyclically for 10 minutes. Most actions
are rather short and explosive, requiring ATP and KP. Creatine phosphate is
replenished without oxygen, but oxygen is needed to replenish the ATP storage.
Thus the oxygen system plays a particularly important role in the recovery
phase between peak loads.
comparison between top-level football and amateur football, it is striking that
the pure running performance does not show any major differences, however, the
occurrence of intensive action in football at top level (Premier League etc.)
is significantly increased, but the duration and distance of intensive action
at top level is lower, this is explained by improved tactical training.
respect, it still seems logical that the training of condition, technique and
tactics cannot and must not be considered in isolation from each other.
You have to
train what the game demands on the weekend: I am prepared for every fast and
constantly changing game situation by variable training of decision
behaviour.” – Bernhard Peters, national team coach in hockey
addition, the question arises why waste time with separate technique training
at all, when this can be trained holistically. For a pass it first needs the
perception of a situation, this is immediately analyzed by the player and an
action plan is designed. A decision is now made and finally executed, whereupon
the reflection takes place.
The pure execution, that is the technique, is one of the last points in this chain. The tactical experience and guidelines accelerate decision making and finally lead to motor execution. The condition is responsible for ensuring that this process can be repeated as often and as well as possible in the long run. Thus, a match-oriented, holistic training seems to be an optimal symbiosis for the best possible training design.
necessity of breaks – in the game and training
footballer goes through phases of action and regeneration in a game again and
again. The fastest possible regeneration in a game between actions is crucial
for the quality of the execution. For example, it is not possible to perform
several maximum sprints within a few minutes, retrospective energy supply, but
the energy budget must be replenished as quickly as possible in order to be
able to perform the next intensive actions.
This should not only take place between maximum actions during a game in the best possible way, but the fast regeneration in the breaks is also of crucial importance in order to be able to perform maximum actions at the end of a game, which should at best be performed in still good quality.
If we take
this back to training, these demands of the game must also be reflected in
training. The size of the field, number of players, different rules, etc. can
be used to control the intensity and the conditional requirements quite well in
order to feel the different strains of the game or, finally, to train in order
to be prepared for the game in the best possible way.
To be able
to integrate this into the daily training routine, a suitable periodization is
needed to train all conditional requirements.
This was my own weekly schedule last year with my U16 team. The main stress day was on Thursday because this training was between the respective matches. The day after our game we had an active regeneration and then two days off to regenerate even more.
Here, too, the requirement was always that every player can achieve maximum performance in a training session or in the game without extreme fatigue, which would massively increase the risk of injury. This also applies to the season, for example, after a long, exhausting season you should take a break to regenerate.
After this break, however, you should not train with the same intensity as before, but slowly approach the old training intensity in order to get the body used to it again. So, there is a steady development of the intensity during a season or maintenance during the season, if you continue training with similar intensities during the course of the week, in order to be able to achieve best performances at the end of a season.
cf. training control – Marco Henseling
by Marco Henseling shows wonderfully how to train different fitness
requirements by playing in small groups. The more actions in a small space, the
higher the intensity. The larger the space to be played and the more players,
the fewer actions and the less intensity.
“For example, first you do a certain exercise on certain pitch size, and then you make the pitch size smaller and then smaller. The same exercise but less space, less time, increasing the demands, and that is how you improve players. “ Raymond Verheijen
back to Barca in their prime time, we see that this was also a team that was
almost perfectly capable of recovering through breaks in the game. These breaks
resulted from their incredibly high level of ball possession and the resulting
“rest”, or “active regeneration”.
Challenges of fitness training in small-sided games
There are some challenges faced by coaches who choose to do their fitness training almost exclusively in small-sided games. Above all, one has to reflect well on oneself whether one is able to drive the players permanently, to give them incentives to keep the intensity high enough to have a positive effect. There is definitely a danger that there will always be players who rest from time to time, and therefore the use of this method is not optimal.
“You need 20 absolutely willing professionals (players) for this and you also need to coach them well from the outside to encourage the players to be constantly on the move. And that’s where the difference between theory and practice quickly becomes apparent”. Raymond Verheijen
it requires a high level of expertise on the part of the coach to be able to
coach the players correctly in the intensive, fast games, it is also about the
right moments when coaching is appropriate.
reluctantly interrupt the flow of a drill but prefer to let them play and coach
them during the breaks or to give them the opportunity to coach themselves. To
create an incentive from the beginning, it is always about winning, it is
always about achieving goals.
A game is
played in order to make it victorious in the end, the way should be reflected
by the reproduction of our common strategy, by the implementation of our game
principles. This is done by defining the shape of the field or rules and the
possibilities to score points.
As in most cases, far away from the professional field, there is no possibility to control the fatigue of the players, special attention has to be paid to how long the players can keep up the intensity of the small-sided game. If the quality of the actions and therefore the speed of the game decreases rapidly, it is certainly necessary to take a break before the game to give the players the opportunity to recover.
Furthermore, too low quality of the game could cause problems. If the technical quality in connection with the quality to make adequate decisions is so low that the ball stays in the game only for a very short time, no intensity can be built up and the specific fitness training by playing forms would only be possible to a very small extent. Furthermore, there are certainly few clubs in the amateur sector that have the luxury of one or even more co-trainers.
Here you can divide tasks and above all divide a large group into 2 groups. Otherwise, you would have to leave one group to its own devices or train only in large game forms, which do not train essential parts of the fitness requirements of the game.
“Some coaches propagate that endurance training in football should be done with a ball. In fact, several studies have examined the effects of HIIT with the ball on endurance performance (19, 45, 51, 67). Training with a ball is just as demanding on the cardiovascular system and metabolism as interval training without the ball (47). An increase in oxygen uptake of 7-9% after 10-12 weeks can also be expected from endurance training with a ball (51, 67). (…) Ultimately, the intensity of forms of play with the ball depends on the target position, the number of players, size of the playing field and the support of the coaching staff. Sperlich B, Hoppe MW, Haegele
small-sided games for fitness training
2 vs. 2
interval method – anaerobic endurance
field size: approx. 12m x 24m
0,5min to 2min
3 to 5
many duels, many short kicks, many ball contacts, many dribblings
especially depth staggering – mutual protection – always generate pressure
against the ball – keep mini-goals in the shadow
3 vs. 3 + 1
– play into the depth
à extensive interval method – aerobic/anaerobic endurance – speed endurance
field size: 3 zones each 15m x 25m
3vs.3 +1 in the middle zone – 5 passes, after that you can play in one of the
end zones – lines serve as offside line – play in the end zones only by passing
– 2 attackers and 2 defenders can follow – fast continuation of the game by the
coach with new balls
2min to 4min
2 to 3
length: 1min to 1.5min
freewheel behaviour becomes more important – short sprints into the deep –
narrow space = many duels
Off à Formation of triangles/rhombuses – quick offering to the ball – depth
runs/ communication between pass giver and pass receiver
Def à Use of the cover shadow – Pressure the ball carrier – Compact organisation close to the ball
5 vs. 5 +
(2(2)) – ball holding vs. switching
endurance method – aerobic endurance
field size: 25m x 35m in the zone – when switching the field opens up to the
goal and in the width up to 16
One team plays on possession of the ball with the 4 neutrals (green and pink)
with 10 contacts each =1P – If the other team wins the ball, they play with the
pink outer players on the big goal. Green defends with the team that was
previously in possession of the ball. After the counterattack, the game begins
with possession of the ball with the team that had previously counterattacked.
2 to 3
Quiet ball circulation alternates with switching torque. This results in a
rhythm change between short, fast movements and long maximum sprints.
Ball possession team – Formation of triangles/rhombuses – own superior number
close to the ball – game shifts – passes into the foot – immediate
counter-pressing after ball loss – compact organization close to the ball
Defensive team organize compactly close to the ball – isolate opponents – use cover shadows – generate pressure against the ball à offer vertical options after winning the ball (depth runs) – find development players in-depth or anchor players in width to develop counterattacks
8 vs. 8 + 3
Holding the ball vs. goal finish
endurance method -aerobic endurance (recovery between actions)
field size: 50m x 55m
A team plays 10 contacts =1P on possession of the ball. If the team chasing the
ball wins the ball, they have 5 seconds to score a goal, after the 5 seconds of
15min to 20min
1 to 2
Large playing field with many players, therefore less action. Intensive actions
alternate with “pauses”, which means that regeneration during the
game takes place between the actions of the players, this is very close to the
Ball possession team à involvement of the goalkeepers in the ball possession
game – formation of triangles/rhombuses – diagonal play stations – fanning out
in ball possession
team à organize compactly close to the ball – isolate opponents – use cover
shadow – generate pressure against the ball – quick orientation to the goal –
zone change after winning the ball – alternatively on possession of the ball
long football was dominated by the scientific foundation of other sports. For
too long, players ran round and round with no apparent purpose for the weekend
game. The sport of football is so complex that there has long been a need to
gather our own scientific knowledge about the sport.
Swimmers do not usually train for long runs but spend most of their time in the pool, so the footballer should not waste his time in training by stupid running, but should always have the centre of the game, the ball, in the centre of a training session. Technique, tactics, athletics and psyche are all factors that have every action of a game in common and therefore should be trained holistically.
down a football action into individual components and, for example, to let the
pass be trained only in its technical execution would leave out too many
important aspects and, above all, would not do justice to the athletic
requirements of the game at all. Especially in the younger age groups, there
are motivational reasons to rely more on forms of play.
training through game forms does not even have to be clearly stated as a goal
in front of the players. The coach’s expertise ensures that the fitness of the
players is improved by using game forms in training. Furthermore, it is still
possible to increase the intensity during the game form through more emotional
coaching. Basically, few football players would object to running less and devote
more time to the game.
“P.S.: Stop letting your children run laps. Stop telling them to “stand closer to the man”, “cover opponents”. Let them play football instead. Keep it up. Always.”Eduard Schmidt