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How to Balance Soccer-Specific Strength and Fitness Training – Fartlek and Strength Training
Condition is absolutely essential for overall fitness as well as game speed and efficiency in the final half. Fartlek is a very effective strategy for soccer athletes, male and female. Soccer, as is popular elsewhere, is one of the oldest team sports on the planet. It requires a person to run a little more than the length of an American football field (about 110 yards) in about 90 minutes. It also requires the ability, flexibility and presence of mind to focus on using the feet and legs as hands and arms. It’s no surprise that soccer is the most popular game in the world, and it’s also no surprise that strength and conditioning training for soccer is probably focused more than any other sport.
Soccer-specific strength and fitness training is essential for success at the highest level of the sport, youth or adult. Soccer players require a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness due to the nature of the game and the fact that there is continuous movement with short bursts of more intense activity.
Aerobic fitness is related to the use of oxygen and anaerobic fitness is related to work, strength and power. Football fitness is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness with further specialization for each person’s age and position. There is no one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-all program for soccer. When dealing with youth soccer athletes, it is often important to focus on mental preparation and motor skills, as conditioning and speed exercises are not easily linked or affected by those younger than teenagers, except in a very small and select group. “top” athletes. After puberty, strength and conditioning training can and should have a big impact, but the lessons should be focused and controlled based on the age and gender of the soccer player. Also remember that strength and conditioning sessions develop a better player but are no substitute for individual footwork, vision and teamwork. However, when training is done regularly for months, amazing results are possible.
One form of aerobic fitness training for soccer is called Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartlek is a form of conditioning that stresses the aerobic energy system by keeping the athlete moving without stopping for long periods of time. The difference between this and regular running and/or circuit training is in the changes in speed involved, changes that tax the body and cause the person to adapt to the intensity. Fartlek sessions last about 45 minutes and use everything from walking to sprinting. Fartlek deals with one of the most important things in soccer: the pace of the game. Soccer players are required to accelerate quickly, have a high maximum speed, react quickly, change direction and maintain their speed. Fartlek and plyometrics (exercises that allow the muscles to quickly reach maximum strength) provide an aerobic workout with amazing results in a relatively short training schedule.
Anaerobic training for soccer athletes focuses more on maintaining a lean body that is not overly muscular or flexible. Football athletes are required to have great speed and endurance, as well as the ability to take the physical pain and punishment that often comes with contact. Push-ups and squats make up a lot of the old-school approach to football strength training. Push-ups develop the shoulders and core muscles, creating a well-rounded athlete. Squats develop strength and speed for the legs. However, while great exercises, they alone are insufficient for the overall development of top caliber players.
Conditions for football differ not by gender but by age. This is incorrect and does not address the very specific needs and differences between men and women, boys and girls. The older a football player is, the more he will benefit from strength training and fitness. However, when properly administered, gender- and soccer-specific strength and fitness training can have a significant impact on the body and performance of youth soccer athletes. A proper conditioning program, combined with strength and fitness training, will keep a player strong and lean, increase their oxygen consumption and increase their speed of play. The right balance of aerobic training, such as fartlek, and strength training, such as circuit training, also provides greater body control and reduces the risk of injury. Sport-specific sex, strength and fitness training combined with aerobic training improves strength, endurance, confidence, speed of play and quality of play. Today’s top athletes, amateur or professional, must find and use a balanced fitness program to perform at their highest level.
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