Periodization of Small-Sided Games and it’s Effect on Performance

Small-sided games (SSG) have countless configurations, which make them an invaluable tool to develop  technical, tactical, and physical skills concurrently. Configurations can be developed to target various training intensities, volumes, and densities by altering lengths and widths of the field, player v. player combinations, work to rest ratios, etc.

The research below looked at the effect of periodizing SSGs over the course of four weeks. The study used a 3 vs. 3 plus goalkeepers player combination while increasing three minute sets from 5 to 11 over the course of 4 weeks. In the four week period, there was an increase in volume while intensities, assuming individual player effort was constant, remained relatively unchanged. Research indicates that a periodized SSG program can enhance performance in repeat sprint ability, running economy, and reduced heart rate at submaximal speeds among other qualities.

J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct 26

Effects of a periodized small-sided game training intervention on physical performance in elite professionalsoccer.

Owen AL, Wong del P, Paul D, Dellal A.


Sports Science Department, Rangers Football Club, Glasgow, Scotland.


The present study examined the effects of periodized small-sided game (SSG) training intervention during a 4-week in-season break on the physical performance changes (i.e., speed, aerobic performance, and repeated sprint ability) within elite European soccer players. Fifteen, elite, male, professional players (age: 24.5 ± 3.45 years; height: 181.1 ± 5.78 cm; body mass: 78.7 ± 7.67 kg; VO2max: 54.88 ± 5.25 ml·kg(-1)·min(-1)) from a Scottish Premier League team participated in 7 separate SSG sessions (3 vs. 3 plus goalkeepers) of which games lasted for a 3-minute duration for the selected number of games (ranged from 5 to 11) increasing over the intervention period. To examine the effects of the SSG intervention on physical performance changes, pre- and post-testing sessions took place over a 2-day period (day 1: anthropometry and repeated sprint ability [RSA] assessments; day 2: running economy [RE] and blood lactate assessments). Results show that the 4-week SSG training intervention induced significant improvement in RSA as indicated by faster 10-m sprint time (p < 0.05, smalleffect), total sprint time (p < 0.05, medium effect), and smaller percentage decrement score (p < 0.05, medium effect). Furthermore, the SSGs also led to an improvement in RE as indicated through significantly reduced VO2 and heart rate at running speed 9, 11, and 14 km·h(-1) (all p’s < 0.05, large effects). In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that implementing a periodized SSG training intervention during the 4-week in-season break is capable of improving elite-level soccer players’ physical fitness characteristics. Being able to develop physical characteristics in conjunction to technical and tactical elements of the game, within a relatively short period, makes SSGs an appealing proposition for fitness coaches, players, and technical coaches alike.

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John Grace is a coach at Athletic Lab Sports Performance Training Center in Cary, NC - USA. John has his CSCS, USAW Level 1 certification, USATF Level 1 certification and has worked as an assistant fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.