Look at any in-season soccer fitness program and you’ll find the following repertoire:
– Mobility work
– Strength maintenance
– Stability work
– Balance/neuromuscular training
– Steady state cardio
– Cold water immersion
– Soft tissue work
There are so many ways to recover, refresh, and maintain the health of our players during the competitive season.
And for good reason. Most high level players practice 3-5x and play 1-2x a week. We must proceed with great care when it comes to in-season programming and do our best to keep everyone injury free.
However, with the growing demands of soccer and the game becoming more fast-paced, are we babying our athletes too much? Are their bodies ready to withstand the demands of the 90 minute game?
When it comes to speed work, I’d argue there has been a decline in its use during the season.
This begs the question: is it okay to do maximal sprint work during this time?
Now this doesn’t mean run full 20-30 yard sprints after every practice. Speed work, to that end, must be sprinkled in with strategy, purpose and common sense.
This allows our players to prepare for the higher intensities of competition, and reduce chance of injury. There’s something to be said about not doing any maximal sprint work in-season, and then boom. A player pulls a muscle during his first sprint in the game. Or. He is unable to break through the defensive lines to run onto a 20 yard diagonal ball because he has become slow.
All because the small-sided games in practice weren’t eliciting the physiological response we want when it comes to maximal running mechanics (hip flexion, hip extension, knee drive, aggressive arm action).
With that said, sprint work is important. We must keep our players fast on the pitch. After all, that is how the majority of goals are scored in soccer: running off the ball at full speed.
Will doing resisted sprints, maximal sprints, or prowler sprints hurt your players?
If you do 100 reps, yes.
But given you have a full training week Mon-Fri with a game on Sat or Sun, Wednesday may be your best chance to get in maximal speed work.
Other ways to go about this:
– do it in the dynamic warm up
– incorporate it into a drill (counterattack, 1v1, wide play)
– do it after a light technical session
– do it before an moderately intense practice (Tues or Wed)
Again, these are just some options. I don’t know your exact schedule, but it’s safe to say you’ll have some common sense when it comes to this.
Hope this helped.