Soccer players who are faster run faster (in games)

The study below provides support for the use of traditional speed training (full intensity AND recovery) with soccer players despite the fact that such rested scenarios are rarely if ever observed in a game. Basically, players will sprint in a game at a high percentage of their maximal speed…and if their maximal speed is higher, the speed with which they sprint in a game will likewise be higher. On the flip side, if a faster player was marking another player who had a slower maximal sprint ability, the faster player could operate at a lower percentage of their maximal which would improve their energy efficiency (sometimes this is referred to as a speed buffer).


J Strength Cond Res.?2011 Sep;25(9):2634-8.

Does on-field sprinting performance in young?soccer?players depend on how fast they can run or how fast they do run?


Physiology Unit, Sport Science Department, ASPIRE, Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar.


The aim of this study was to examine the impact of maximal sprinting speed (MSS) on the peak speed attained during?soccer?matches. Time-motion analysis of running activity was collected from 14 highly trained young male outfield footballers (8 wide midfielders [WM] and 6 central defenders [CD], 173.2 ? 0.06 m, 60.8 ? 8.1 kg, 16.7 ? 0.7 years) during 14 different friendly international club level matches. The 2 fastest players (a WM and a CD) were compared with the slower players who played in the same position. Each player’s MSS was determined using the fastest 10-m split time during an electronically timed 40-m sprint. Game speed was recorded via portable global positioning systems. Faster players reached higher absolute peak running speeds in games than did their slower counterparts regardless of the playing position, with large to very large effect sizes and qualitative indications of “almost certain” and “very likely” positive effects associated with being fast. None of the players reached their MSS during the matches; however, the fastest CD attained a lower percentage of his MSS compared to both, his slower CD counterparts and the fastest WM. Given the higher peak speeds reached in games by the fastest players, and the fact that all players (irrespective of their MSS) used a high percentage of their MSS, these preliminary results provide direct support to the hypothesis that MSS can impact on what a player can do in actual playing conditions. Our results also indicate that playing position has an important role in influencing the expression of MSS.

The following two tabs change content below.

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.