What are the variables for maximising football games to improve fitness?

24 January 2017 Ben Cartwright football, fitness, pitch, size, coaching, players, training, soccer


As previously discussed in the blog don't put bombs on a jet fighter its vital that football practice is maximised to develop true football specific fitness and that all other training must be supplementary to this. The integration of performance influencing elements in the design process of a football teams training programme is crucial in order to directly influence performance over time. Research conducted into the training methods of teams competing at the elite level has suggested that football specific performance development is achieved when practices recreates the competitive demands (of match play) from a technical, tactical and physical perspective. Being able to replicate the competing demands using football games allows coaches to maximise available time with players within the small window of a clubs training environment. In order for coaches to effectively use games as a training intervention it is important that they know the different variables and the potential impact they can have.



The primary way to manipulate games to target specific fitness adaptations. For example small sided games (1v1, 2v2, 3v3) have been found to improve a players aerobic metabolism and anaerobic energy system , with the added benefit of also re-creating the intermittent nature of match play. Those games with a larger number of players (8v8, 9v9, 10v10) targets aerobic capacity and forces players to perform more high speed running.


Pitch Size:

Smaller pitch sizes can increase the intensity of small sided games and force players to work harder for more prolonged periods of time due to higher involvement with play and increased contact with the ball. Large sided games with increased pitch dimensions reduces a players contact with the ball and involvement in play. This means that actions are explosive and shorter in time in comparison. This training format also forces players to reach top speeds in order to create and exploite space so that they can receive the ball.



Imposing rules or technical restrictions can have an influence on areas such total distance covered, number of high speed runs/sprints made and the number of 1v1 situations a player will face. For example a one touch restriction will increase a players movement demands and the numbers of sprint they have to make. As the number of touches decreases so does the number of 1v1 situations.



When playing small sided games it is important to consider the length of time each game lasts. Players need at least 1 minute to elevate their heart rates enough to to reach the high intensity training zone. Playing times of 4 minutes and less will allow a high intensity level to be achieved and maintained whilst reducing the risk of fatigue induced injuries.



The style and standard of coach can have an influence on the quality of the game and the intensity at which it's played at. Effective coaching will increase the fluidity of the games and quality of actions/tempo, resulting in augmented physiological responses. Coach encouragement and motivation can lead to increased player effort and performance (subsequently raising the level of intensity).


In closing its necessary for coaches to have a clear understanding of each variable and how to use them appropriately in order to get the most from both training and players. The more control you have of these practices the more you will see the levels of performance develop and increase.


Football Fitness Federation

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