Training the Anaerobic Glycolytic System

The two energy systems that are quite often trained during field training are the aerobic and anaerobic alactic systems. Although these two systems are dominant in match play, the anaerobic glycolytic system does play a small role when we look closer into the match. For this reason, some training should be devoted to developing this system as well as the anaerobic alactic and aerobic systems.

According to Figure 1, ~80% of the match is spent standing, walking, and jogging. While this represents a majority of the game, the other ~20% of varied intensity sprints is generally when a majority of the goals are scored. Think of it as the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) – 20% of movement on field yields 80% of the goals (although, it is likely to be a larger differential than 80/20, but you get the idea). Having the ability to perform these high intensity runs through match completion is important to capitalize on every scoring opportunity.


Figure 1

So where does the anaerobic lactate system fit in?

There is a short five minute bout in games when peak high intensity running occurs. This bout will generally call upon the players to work at a rate that is equivalent to or above their lactate threshold. Figure 2 shows the five minute peak of high-intensity runs, the subsequent five minutes, and the mean high-intensity runs in 5 minute periods over the course of a match.

Bangsbo five minute high intensity chart

Figure 2

This five minute peak in top-class players (shown in black) is nearly double than that of the five minute mean high-intensity distance covered over the course of the match. As high-intensity sprints correlate highly with scoring chances, this five minute bout is crucial for the athletes to be able to maintain the speeds needed to create (and prevent) goals. In this  five minutes of heightened intensities, you can conclude that fatigue accumulates as the subsequent five minute bout shown falls below the mean high-intensity distance covered.

Addressing this specific type of fitness can be beneficial to increase buffering capacity of hydrogen ions (H+) that can accumulate during  brief bouts of repeated sprints. This can easily be included in training through small-sided games, tempo runs, or other varying modes.


Mohr, Magni; Krustrup, Peter; Bangsbo, Jens. Match Performance of high-standard soccer players with special reference to development of fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2003. 21. 519-528

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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.