Monday, September 21, 2009


For serious skiers conditioning is an essential part of an overall ski training program. Not only will it allow athletes to perform at a superior level, it's an important preventative measure to protect joints and connective tissue from injury.

From a sporting perspective (as opposed to a leisure activity), skiing events can be broadly grouped into one of five categories:

•Cross country skiing

•Downhill or alpine skiing

•Freestyle skiing

•Nordic combined

•Ski jumping

Snowboarding, while obviously not skiing, is now an Olympic sport and is covered in this section of the website.

Each discipline places their own unique and specific demands on the body; elite freestyle skiers typically having a very different physiological profile compared to cross country skiers for example.

Cross Country Skiing

Elite cross country skiiers rank amongst the top endurance athletes in the world for aerobic power (VO2max). Aerobic capacity as well as onset of blood lactate accumulation can be used to predict success in this group of skiers.

Traditionally, endurance athletes and their coaches have opted for lower intensity and higher volume programs throughout the training year, with as little as 10% of training above the lactate threshold. However, it may be that a reduction in volume and an increase in high quality work can boost performance even in elite-level skiers. Even maximal strength training can improve work economy and overall performance if converted to muscular endurance.

Alpine Skiing

The fitness profiles of alpine skiers differs significantly to their cross country counterparts. A great reliance is placed on anaerobic metabolism - power, power endurance and muscular strength. Even though moderate to high values for aerobic power are recorded in elite downhill skiers, this may be due to their training rather than a direct result of competing. Alpine skiers must be able to react quickly to changes in terrain and the course outline requiring agility, balance and co-ordination.

Downhill skiing forces the athlete into a crouched position placing significant strain on the knees. Not surprisingly, elite skiers have strong legs when measured during isometric and isokinetic leg extensions. Leg strength is also a predictor in downhill and giant slalom events.

Altitude Training

Unquestionably, acclimatization to altitude improves performance at high levels but can altitude training improve an athlete's performance at sea-level?

The research is inconclusive. In theory, some adaptations that take place during prolonged exposure to the hypoxic conditions at 1500 m (4921 ft) or more above sea-level, should improve VO2 max and endurance performance at sea-level. Recall from the acclimatization to altitude article, that staying for a period of time at altitude increases the blood's oxygen carrying capacity.

However, maximal cardiac output is also decreased with exposure to altitude. Along with dehydration and a loss of lean muscle mass these detrimental effects may explain why living and training at altitude does not improve VO2 max or endurance performance on a return to sea-level.

Those few studies that have shown altitude training to have an ergogenic effect on sea-level performance are easy to criticize. Subjects have not usually reached a training peak so it becomes difficult to determine whether increases in aerobic power and / or endurance performance are the result of the adaptations to altitude or intensive training.

The major problem athletes living at altitude face is a significant reduction in training intensity. At 4000 m (13,122 ft) athletes can only exercise at 40% of their sea-level VO2 max compared to 80% at sea-level for example. Breathing hypoxic gases significantly reduces power output and this could lead to substantial detraining negating any of the ergogenic effects associated with acclimatization.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Hi Alex,

Anaerobic Endurance Training

Anaerobic endurance training will help players to recover more quickly from successive bursts of high intensity exercise. It is not uncommon for a player to have to sprint 20-30yards in order to defend an attack only, to turn and sprint in the opposite direction when counter-attacking. Soccer can be classed as high-intensity, intermittent exercise.

Successive sprints or high intensity work bouts, with little rest in between, quickly leads to an accumulation of lactic acid. When the muscles and blood become acidic, their function is severely hampered. The player must slow down to recover and the last thing they want in this scenario is to receive the ball!

With anaerobic endurance training, the ability to tolerate lactic acid is increased. In other words, it takes longer for lactic acid to accumulate in the blood and muscles and when it does, it can be cleared more rapidly allowing recovery to be that much quicker.

Sample ANaerobic Endurance Drill

Set out 5 cones 10 meters/yard apart. Starting on cone 1, jog to cone 4 then immediately sprint to cone 5. Turn and jog to cone 3 and then sprint to cone 1. Turn and jog to cone 2 and sprint to cone 5. Finally, turn immediately and sprint to cone 1. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. This is one set. Complete 2-3 sets.

Soccer Endurance Training For Junior Players

Players that have not yet reached, or who are in the early stages of puberty should only complete aerobic endurance training. Intense, anaerobic drills are too demanding on young players, who have a limited capacity to produce and tolerate lactic acid.

In very young players (i.e. 6 – 10) endurance “drills” should be avoided altogether. Instead the conditioning effect should come from endurance-based games that can easily be incorporated into a coaching session.

Soccer Endurance Training For Youth Players

As young soccer players mature, they are naturally able to cope with more demanding training. Aerobic versus anaerobic conditioning should still be emphasized, however some more demanding interval training drills can be added into a players program.

Interval training simply refers to breaking a low intensity drill up into several shorter intervals. Because a rest period is allowed between each interval, the overall intensity can increase. When you think about it, this is a lot like the nature of a soccer game.

Soccer Endurance Training For Mature Players

When players mature physically (usually between ages 16 – 21), their soccer endurance plan should be tailored to meet the precise demands of the game. Players should be completing much more interval training than steady-paced continuous training. They should also incorporate lots of anaerobic endurance drills to help them tolerate the build up of lactic acid.

At this level, endurance training should also be periodized. That simply means that over the course of a season there will be specific periods where aerobic endurance conditioning is emphasized, specific periods when anaerobic endurance conditioning is emphasized and periods of structured rest and recovery.

That’s it for parts 1 and 2. Next part is coming, where we will look at strength training for soccer.

Best wishes,

Phil Davies.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Soccer is perhaps the most demanding of all sports.

In the modern game (at any level) soccer training and conditioning is essential.

Few sports are played on as large a playing field, lasting as long and without regular rest periods.

Players cover 8-12km during a match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball.

Soccer players posses excellent endurance with VO2max reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers. The game is played at an average intensity close to the lactate threshold - approximately 80-90% of maximum heart rate.

How important is the correct type of endurance training in soccer?

The greater a player's aerobic capacity, the more ground they cover during a typical game. Additionally, improved endurance also increases the number of sprints completed in a game. By improving the VO2max of youth soccer players by 11% over an 8 week period, a 20% increase in total distance covered during competitive match play was manifested, along with a 23% increase in involvements with the ball and a 100% increase in the number of sprints performed by each player.

What about other forms of conditioning?

Strength training now plays a major role in soccer. However, simply lifting weights with the traditional "3 sets of 10 repetitions" approach is not an efficient way to spend training time. Soccer requires a balance of explosive power and muscular endurance. Some players may benefit from increasing their lean mass but even they should focus on converting much of their strength into soccer-specific power.

Strength training for soccer also helps to correct muscle imbalances. Soccer players in particualr are prone to developing overly strong quadriceps in relation to their hamstrings and a well-formed strength plan can address this and prevent future injury.

Few players (and coaches) outside of the professional game fully appreciate the impact that proper conditioning can have on performance. The effect can be truly incredible. There is quite rightly a heavy emphasis on technique and skill development at every level of the game, but skill can only be applied within the limits of player's physical capacity.

We've all seen those players who lack good technique yet still prove to be deadly effective. Often their speed and power is enough to outshine opponents and team mates who posses significantly greater talent. There is no substitute for correct technique. But the greater a player's soccer-specific fitness, the higher the level they can apply what skill they do have.

In bite-size sections, this mini course covers the most important elements of fitness in the game of soccer. Starting today with endurance training, it progresses through strength, power and speed training as well as testing soccer fitness and proper nutrition.

Part 1 - Soccer Endurance Training

Elite soccer players posses excellent endurance. Typical values for VO2max (the technical term for an individual's aerobic power) range between 55 and 70ml/kg/min. To give these figures some context, young, inactive individuals will typical have a VO2max of 40-50ml/kg/min. How important is soccer endurance trainingr?

Studies have shown that the greater a player's aerobic capacity, the more ground they cover during a typical game. Additionally, improved endurance also increases the number of sprints completed in a game. In one study, by improving the VO2max of youth soccer players by 11% over an 8 week period, a 20% increase in total distance covered during competitive match play was seen, along with a 23% increase in involvement with the ball and a 100% increase in the number of sprints performed by each player!

Soccer endurance training falls into one of 2 categories:
AEROBIC endurance conditioning
ANAEROBIC endurance conditioning

Aerobic Endurance Training

Aerobic endurance training improves the body’s ability to deliver and use oxygen. It will allow players to sustain an overall higher rate of work during the ninety minutes. They will also recover more quickly after repeated sprints and high intensity periods of play.

Sample Aerobic Endurance Drill

This drill is based on fartlek training, which is more specific to soccer and less monotonous than running laps of a soccer pitch:

Warm up with a steady jog for 10 minutes
Run hard for 3 minutes, jog slowly for 1 minute
Repeat 6-8 times
Cool down at a steady pace for 10 minutes