Training players' aerobic endurance

Due to the fact that this is an (maybe “the” most) important physical component in football (1, 15 - see references below) and therefore section on our site, we would like to take a very practical approach in the following paragraphs.

As a result, we will reduce this section to training options that are proven to benefit the players' aerobic endurance. Therefore, impractical training options, such as game simulations (on a treadmill (6)) and speed/agility that a) can hardly be utilized within a “normal” team setting and/or b) most likely will not have an effect on the players' aerobic endurance, will not be discussed.


Having stated that, we would like to discuss some general guidelines that should be meet to ensure that aerobic endurance training is effective.


General (sport science) guidelines for all training options

Intensity of football training

Usually, the intensity is given in percentage (%) of maximal heart rate (maxHR - which should have been obtained from testing). In order to have any impact on the cardiovascular system of players the intensity must be above ~50% of maxHR. Otherwise the stimulus will not be sufficient enough to enforce adaptation. Usually training stimulus should be between 80-95% (8) of maxHR, maybe even 90-95% (7, 9).


Training frequency per week

The review of the references showed that (at least) two (2, 5, 7, 9) training sessions per week are needed to improve players' aerobic endurance.


It seems from the literature that aerobic endurance improved from pre-season (3, 12, 13) (which might also suggest that the players were not fit at the beginning of the season), remained constant to mid-season (10) and throughout the season (4, 13). However, it was also observed that improvements (11, 14), but also decrements (4 - depending on the variables measured) were seen towards the end of a season. As a conclusion (and depending on your optimistic/pessimistic view), it seems that regular football training might (not) be enough to maintain the aerobic endurance of players. We speculate (and from our experience with teams) that one training session with an aerobic endurance focus, is enough to maintain the aerobic endurance throughout the season.


Therefore, it is also important to distinguish between the level of play, as players at a higher level can tolerate more trianing compared to lower/amateur players and the time of the season in this context.


Total duration of the training intervention

The purpose to improve the aerobic endurance of players need to be included into training at least for a total duration 4 weeks (9). However, changes were observed in 5- (16), 6- (5), 7- (2), 8- (7, 9, 17) weeks of training.  Again, the duration is also dependent on the level of play. Absolute beginners (of any kind of training) will see faster results compared to Olympic athletes who are training for month to improve a small bit.


Progression of football training

In order to have an efficient training, which could be defined as  learning/adaptation to training, progression needs to occur (especially during pre-season). Progression in training can be ensured utilizing monitoring (Monitoring was explained in more depth in our section "Special topics" --> "Training load"). 


Generally, the players should be accustomized to an increasing load until certain criteria/threshold/benchmark is met. From this point onwards, training load per session (such as the total load, or specific load such as duration, or distances etc.) and the frequency per week can be reduced to maintain the fitness level.




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