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Off-Season Soccer Fitness Program

by Gene Coleman, Ed. D.

This program can be used in the off-season to develop aerobic endurance, during the pre-season to improve speed and speed-endurance and during in-season workouts to maintain speed-fitness for all athletes!

The following running program has been modified from that developed for professional and collegiate soccer players by Dean Brittenham, former strength and conditioning coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Vikings. The program can be used in the off-season to develop aerobic endurance, during the pre-season to improve speed and speed-endurance and during in-season workouts to maintain speed-fitness. Run at slower velocities for aerobic endurance and at faster velocities for speed and speed-endurance. Do the drill 2-3 times per week in the off-season and pre-season and 1-2 times per week during the season.

15-30-15 refers to the distances covered in yards in one repetition of running followed by a rest interval. Three running cycles are used each workout. The training distance is 15 yards in the first cycle, 30 yards in the second cycle and 15 yards in the third cycle. Cycles are performed consecutively. Start cycle one by running 15 yards. Stop, recover and run 15 yards. This is two reps. Do 24 reps at 15 yards and then increase the distance to 30 yards in cycle two. Do 18 reps at 30 yards and then reduce the distance to 15 yards in cycle three and do 24 reps.

The distances in the 15-30-15 yard run are specific to soccer and can be used to develop aerobic or anaerobic fitness by changing speed, distance or rest interval between runs. The constant starting and stopping improves the ability to accelerate and decelerate, develops leg strength and produces a conditioning effect superior to that developed with distance running.

You can also change running style to make the drill position-specific by changing the starting position. Run forward from a staggered stance in the first workout (one foot forward and one foot back). Move laterally using a crossover step in the second workout. Turn your back to the direction that you are going to run in the third workout and then start with a turn and run movement. For variety, change the starting position. Do 4 reps from a staggered start and run straight ahead. Then, start from a ready position, use a crossover step and break 4 times to the right and 4 times to the left. Next, stand with your back to the starting line, turn and break over the shoulder (turn and run) 4 times in each direction.

For aerobic fitness build to 24 reps at 15 yards in cycle one (24x15 yd); 18 reps at 30 yards (18x30 yd) and 24 reps at 15 yards in cycle three (24x15 yd). Train 2-3 times per week and run at 75-85% of max effort. Run 15 yards, decelerate for 5-10 yards, rest and run again. Start with 20-sec rest between reps and 2 minutes between sets. Reduce rest to 15 sec between reps and 1 minute between sets after 5-6 weeks. For variety, repeat the run on a slight hill (3-5%). Start by doing 14 reps in cycle one (14x15 yd), 10 in cycle two (10x30 yd) and 14 in cycle three (14x15 yd). Add two reps per week

For anaerobic fitness (speed and speed-endurance), increase speed to 85-95% of max. Start with fewer reps (12x15 yd; 9x30 yd and 12x15 yd) and longer rest (30-45 sec between reps and 2-3 min between sets) for the first 5-6 weeks. When you can run all reps at near max speed, increase the reps to 24x15 yd; 18x30 yd and 24x15 yd.

Give the program a try. If done as outlined, it will allow you to enter training camp in superior condition, start the season ready to play and maintain speed-fitness throughout the season.

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