What does a high level of soccer fitness really involve?
What better way to find out than looking at the physical attributes of the game's top players?
In this article we'll look at some of the ways you can test your own level of soccer fitness...
Testing or setting a bench mark before you begin a training program is an important step to success.
You can test yourself before the start of pre-season, again at the the start of the in-season and midway through the in-season.
There is nothing more encouraging than seeing objectively how much your fitness levels have come on.
Several studies into the physiological demands of soccer have shown that outfield players can travel up to 13 km or 8 miles during a 90-minute game (see the chart below).
A soccer fitness program should be built around developing a good aerobic base.
Just as we gauge maximal strength with a one repetition maximum lift, there is also a measure for maximal aerobic power - or aerobic endurance...
It's called VO2max and is simply the most amount of oxygen you can consume per minute relative to your bodyweight.
Elite endurance athletes like cross-country skiers and Tour de France competitors have VO2max values as high as 85mL.kg.min. To give you a frame of reference, VO2max is about 40mL.kg.min in males and 30mL.kg.min in females for the average population.
How do soccer players fair? Have a look at the table below...
|Average VO2max for Pro & Semi-Pro Soccer Players (mL.kg.min)|
Compared to the average population then, soccer players unsurprisingly have excellent endurance capacity.
You can estimate your own VO2max with a simple soccer fitness test like a 12-minute run.
Strength forms the basis for power and speed. Soccer players also need strength to hold off challenges from opponents.
Professional soccer players don't tend to have the same absolute strength as American football players or rugby players for example. Too much bulk would hinder their agility and speed off the mark. Aerobic and strength endurance play a more substantial role in soccer than they do in American football.
The most common method for measuring absolute strength is to determine one repetition maximum. Usually the bench press is used for the upper body and leg press for the lower body.
Perhaps more important in soccer than absolute strength is relative strength...
Relative strength is simply your absolute or maximum strength adjusted according to your body weight. So a 140lb player who can leg press 280lbs is said to have greater relative strength than a player who can also press 280lbs but who weighs say, 165lbs.
If you can bench press your own body weight and leg press twice your body weight you have excellent relative strength.
Of course, this is a rough measure because 100lbs on one weights machine is often more difficult to lift than 100lbs on another machine.
Soccer players tend to have very well-developed quadriceps. The quads should be approximately twice the strength of the opposing hamstring muscle group, but in some players this difference can increase.
It's a good idea to spend time strengthening the hamstrings in relation to the quads if this is the case.
Another significant component of a soccer fitness program is speed and agility training. The speed of play in today's game is said to be quicker than ever. While elite soccer players are by no means Olympic sprinters, all other things being equal, faster players have a marked competitive edge.
A very simple speed test is a sprint over 30 yards from a standing start. You can do this easily if you have someone time you. Take the average time over 3-4 sprints (with plenty of rest between attempts).
Anytime under 5.0 seconds is good. Professional players average 4.0 seconds.
Perhaps more important than all-out speed is speed endurance...
|Sprint Fatigue Times for Professional Soccer Players|
|Time (seconds)||Best sprint time||Fatigue|
|Range||6.53 - 7.01||0.15 - 0.92|
Last and certainly not least is flexibility.
In most cases increasing your range of motion can be very beneficial - not only in the prevention if injury but to increase your speed, agility and power too.
Flexibility sessions should feature heavily in your soccer fitness regime.
Measuring flexibility is a simple procedure.
A test like the modified sit and reach, groin flexibility test or truck rotation test are all specific to soccer. You can also buy a large protractor called a goniometer to quickly measure the range of movement about a joint.
Be sure to read the other soccer fitness articles here at the site. You'll find plenty of programs and drills to improve your level of conditioning and of course, your game!