How we train Repeat Sprint Ability

Here’s a response I wrote for an interview I did over at SpeedEndurance.com as part of their “Friday Five” Series. To read the entire interview please click here and be sure to share and like on facebook and twitter.

Q: Repeat Sprint Ability is a good indicator of preparation in soccer but not the only option in developing that quality. How would one test it and how would one develop the ability to sprint without doing excessive running? Any insight here with your athletics background?

A: We do strikingly little run volume to increase repeat sprint ability. We do, however, address it fairly frequently (~2x / week) and what we do is of very high quality. I try to address what research indicates as the limiters of repeat sprint ability (12). On one extreme of that continuum, I do traditional acceleration / speed development runs of 10-40m in length with nearly complete recovery. This is used to enhance neuromuscular coordination, power, and acceleration mechanics. On the other extreme of the continuum, I develop the aerobic engine, which, contrary to what many believe, is the back bone for sustained and repeated sprint bouts when the rest period is incomplete and the efforts are repeated. This is accomplished through occasional low-intensity steady state runs and the aerobic stimulus of a continuous movement two hour technical / tactical practice session. Finally, to specifically address an athlete’s repeat sprint ability, I will try to incorporate at least one repeat sprint training session a week. I will most often incorporate some changes of direction in these sessions to better simulate what is required in games and design the workouts around specific work:rest ratios. The average rest period between hard efforts for a very fit professional soccer player is around 30-40 seconds, depending on their position, so I try to use this as a general guideline for designing the workouts. For anaerobic-glycolytic development, we really only do about one session per week. With the training stimulus from games and small-sided game simulation in practice, combined with the fact that the game is rarely played in a state of high lactate values, I don’t think there’s a need for more.

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.