Integrating High-Speed Running (HSR) into Soccer Training: Practical Solutions

In previous posts, we talked a lot about the importance of the weekly distribution of HSR on match performance, injury prevention, and return-to-play (RTP) protocols in football. In case you missed it, I strongly recommend you take a look HERE and HERE. Today we’re going to dig deeper into the world of football coaching and show some of our ideas and solutions.

Although the vast majority of our HSR volume stems from game-oriented drills, I would like to highlight a few methods that are an integral part of the usual training process:

1. Large-sided games (LSG) – They usually involve a large playing area in numerical ratios from 8v8 to 10v10. The use of a large area per player (APP) in two-goal-oriented games provides specific HSR exposures due to positional differences. Given that this method is the most similar to real game conditions, it automatically allows a certain degree of individualization. Players who achieve the highest distances and number of efforts at the set velocities on Match Day (eg. full backs and wingers) will also achieve the highest absolute values ​​in these drills. By using relative values ​(%MatchAVG or %MatchMAX), we will notice that players achieve similar values. However, it is necessary to understand that the football game is chaotic and as such, it is impossible to control. With that in mind, live monitoring can help us understand if the drill is going as planned and help us make informed decisions on duration, game rules, pitch size (APP), etc. By repeating certain drills and profiling them, we will be able to predict the outcome with a certain degree of error. Given that the largest number of coaches periodically repeat specific drills, creating a base of drills helps a lot in planning the volume (total duration) in the upcoming weeks.

Designing a drill (and all its parameters) must also ensure that the coach successfully improves all desired game aspects in that particular session. In this example, we were at our MD-3, reserved for LSG with the idea to reach position-specific HSR. Total volume is controlled with total distances and No. of efforts in different velocity zones, and our drill intensity (PL/min & DIS/min) is compared to match averages and WCS with live tracking. At the same time, the Head coach & assistants work on many game aspects, including: Build up phase, attack development phase, finishing with numerical superiority (in possession), and zonal marking in block (4-4 or 4-3-1, and later 4-2) and defending against numerical inferiority, clearing crosses (out of possession).

The drill starts with 10v8 on 2/3 pitch length. Numerical superiority will let us practice new principles in the build-up phase and easily develop attacks further. After 6 passes, the team in possession can develop the attack in the final third, with 4 players getting into the area playing 4v3. The team out of possession will practice defending with 8 (4+4 block). As soon as the ball reaches the final third, a new ball is introduced for the blue team to organize a fast attack against the 4-2 block (8v6). Rotating players and teams will allow us to reach our tactical and fitness goals (HSR exposure). Be aware that great communication between performance and football staff will play a crucial part in the organization of such a complex process.

10vs8 split into 4v3 and 8v6

When trying to replicate our worst-case scenarios (WCS) we sometimes combine small-sided games (SSG) or small-sided possessions (SSP) along with a quick change of the point of attack. By analyzing the matches, we conclude that the most difficult periods of the game often involve playing in a small area in a certain part of the field, after which the game takes place in the direction of a positive or negative transition. Based on that, we created the following high-intensity small-sided drills (games and possessions), followed by high-speed runs.

4v4 with counter-attack
Rondos 4v2 with Counter-attack

2. Shadow method – The use of this method implies the activity of a certain number of players without an opponent (or in a significant numerical superiority). Certain finishing drills are a good way to develop high velocities, while simultaneously working on tactical and technical principles. Unlike the game, it is characterized by a greater degree of control, which allows the S&C coach to plan the workload more easily. A large number of repetitions of certain game situations enables better learning of technical and tactical requirements. For this reason, this way of working is an excellent solution for increasing the volume of HSR. As an excellent example of this method, we can take the usual finishing drills, and then, using different distances and demands, relatively accurately measure the amount of total work. The competitive character (scoring goals) ensures great motivation for the players during the entire drill duration.

“Hungarian lady” – 3v0 Finishing drill

Although simple additional runs have a place in our training (and we like them a lot!), in the following example we introduced something more complex. This one happened on our MD+1, as a compensatory session for non-starters. Reflecting on our style of play, we have created content that is sport-, position-, and individual-specific. The main focus was on catching up on high-intensity actions (in an interval manner), before jumping into our 5v5 game.

The drill starts with 5 players (4+1) (central defender, full back, central midfielder, winger, and striker), with each of them having different positional requirements (see the animation below).

Single rep lasts for approx 15″, after which we used 45″ rest (1:3 ratio). Drill could be organized down both flanks simultaneously (2 groups of 5 players), competing (who will score more goals from 3 shots). In this way, practice can easily be organized with 20 players (2 teams of 10). Competitive character provides a high degree of motivation and focus. 2 sets of 6-8 reps will mosy probably get the job done. After GPS profiling the drill several times and modifying a few details, we were able to compensate the majority of high-intensity runs (HSR) for each position, missed by not playing in yesterday’s game.

HSR Position-specific conditioning

3. Individual drills – Usually included in our re-conditioning work, as a part of the rehab process. Return to play (RTP) is always a hot topic in professional football. End-stage should focus on exposing the player to the worst-case scenario (WCS). Once the rehab process is completed (although there is no clear line), we tend to focus on sport-specific conditioning.

In order to prepare player for match demands, we take into consideration his playing position and pre-injury WCS, along with injury history, rehab duration, etc. Based on that we have created several drills for each playing position. Intensity and total volume could be highly personalized based on individual needs, and this is where RTP and GPS tracking fall in love again.

Here’s a simple football-specific late-stage rehab drill for one of our fullbacks who suffered from HSI last season, with the main focus on exposing players to high velocities. The main part of the session consisted of 8 sets (2 reps per set) with 1-2′ rest between sets.

Full back HSR compensation

4. Additional runs – This type of work could be a good way to expose players to high-intensity runs. It is characterized by the highest degree of control and can significantly save time. We periodically use it to top up at the end of the session, usually on MD-4/MD-3 or as a part of our MD+1 compensation session. Depending on the session goals, playing positions, and individual needs, work can include different types of running (straight-line or curvilinear), number of turns (usually 0 to 2), and distances. This very broad topic is beyond the scope of this post, so I strongly recommend Martin Buchheit’s work if you are interested in planning and periodizing HIIT in team sports.

In the following example, you can see short animation on how we complement SSG with HSR work at the end of the session, considering both individual and positional differences. Adding some more specific types of runs and turns for different positions in the team, but also mixing different types within the same set. On this specific occasion, we did 1×6′ @105% VIFT30-15, 10” work w/ 20” passive rest on MD-3.

Positional HSR compensation

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the content my team and I prepared for you, and that the above examples can help you bring your ideas to life and create adequate content according to the abilities and needs of your players.

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