Interval training in football

Before we go into interval training protocols we would like to elaborate on that topic and give some thoughts about that “old-fashioned” training method.


From a coaches point of view interval training target the aerobic endurance of players “only”. In a classic interval training there is no benefit for technical and/or tactical skills of the players, as the training involves running only.


However, as we mentioned, interval training is one of the classic conditioning methods and known as an efficient methods to improve the aerobic endurance (1, 3-7 - see references below) of ALL players in a football team.


We have highlighted “ALL players” as scientific results from small-sided games suggests that fitter players are working harder and therefore will get greater benefit from that type of training (2). As a result, relatively unfit players might not work as hard (as their fit counterparts) and therefore do not benefit from SSG as much.


If coaches need to make sure that all players improve their aerobic endurance, then interval training should be the preferred choice, over small-sided games.


Other benefits utilizing interval training is that testing indicates the required speed (to run at speed of 90-95% max HR) and therefore the training is easy to plan and to monitor. Furthermore, the progression is easy to measure.


Training protocols

Interval protocols consisted of 4 × 4 minutes running at 90-95% maxHR with 3 minutes rest in between sets. The training frequency was set to 2-3 times per week pre- and/or in-season.




1. Bravo, D.F., Impellizzeri, F.M., Rampinini, E., Castagna, C., Bishop, D., and

Wisløff, U. Sprint vs. interval training in football. Int. J. Sports. Med. 29: 668-674, 2007.

2. Dellal, A., Hill-Haas, S., Lago-Penas, C., and Chamari, K. Small-sided

games in soccer: Amateur vs. professional players' physiological responses, physical, and technical activities. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 25: 2371-2381, 2011.


3. Helgerud, J., Engen, L.C., Wisloff, U., and Hoff, J. Aerobic endurance

training improves soccer performance. Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc. 33: 1925-1931, 2001.


4. Hoff, J. and Helgerud, J. Endurance and strength training for soccer

players: Physiological considerations. Sports. Med. 34: 165-180, 2004.


5. Impellizzeri, F.M., Marcora, S.M., Castagna, C., Reilly, T., Sassi, A., Iaia,

F.M., and Rampinini, E. Physiological and performance effects of generic versus specific aerobic training in soccer players. Int. J. Sports. Med. 27: 483-492, 2006.


6. Sporis, G., Ruzic, L., and Leko, G. The anaerobic endurance of elite soccer

players improved after a high-intensity training intervention in the 8-week conditioning program. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 22: 559-566, 2008.


7. Sporis, G., Ruzic, L., and Leko, G. Effects of a new experimental training

program on VO2max and running performance. J. Sports. Med. Phys. Fitness. 48: 158-165, 2008.

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