Impellizzeri FM1, Marcora SM2, Castagna C3, Reilly T4, Sassi A1, Iaia FM1, Rampinini E1

1, Human Performance Lab, S. S. MAPEI, Castellanza, Varese, Italy; 2 School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences, University of Wales-Bangor, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom;3, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy;4,  Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom

The aim of this study was to compare the effects of specific (small-sided games) vs. generic (running) aerobic interval training on physical fitness and objective measures of match performance in soccer. Forty junior players were randomly assigned to either generic (n=20) or specific (n=20) interval training consisting of 4 bouts of 4 min at 90-95 % of maximum heart rate with 3 min active rest periods, completed twice a week. The following outcomes were measured at baseline (Pre), after 4 weeks of pre-season training (Mid), and after a further 8 weeks of training during the regular season (Post): maximum oxygen uptake, lactate threshold (Tlac), running economy at Tlac, a soccer-specific endurance test (Ekblom’s circuit), and indices of physical performance during soccer matches (total distance and time spent standing, walking, and at low- and high-intensity running speed). Training load, as quantified by heart rate and rating of perceived exertion, was recorded during all training sessions and was similar between groups. There were significant improvements in aerobic fitness and match performance in both groups of soccer players, especially in response to the first 4 weeks of pre-season training. However, no significant differences between specific and generic aerobic interval training were found in any of the measured variables including soccer specific tests. The results of this study showed that both small-sided games and running are equally effective modes of aerobic interval training in junior soccer players.

Int J Sports Med. 2006 Jun;27(6):483-92.