The absolute best way to get more conditioned for soccer (or any sport) is to simply play more. Why would you recreate a drill or exercise to mimic a match when you could simply play one instead?
Unfortunately this is not always possible.. When we are forced to train alone or in small groups, it is important to then pick exercises that will provide the most benefit for you within the game. Always ask yourself: “Why am I doing this exercise?”, “How will it help me in the game?”.
For example, one thing you will never see in a competitive game is a player running at a consistent pace for the full match. Now, with respect to fitness, why would we then run at the same speed the whole time? Interval training can be an excellent way to get more fit for sport while training yourself to be fast at the same time!
Interval Training is the best fitness related activity to help most athletes to get in match shape. (www.unm.edu) Interval training is a specific type of training that requires the athlete to alternate between different levels of intensity during their work time. Alternating between different degrees of your max output level will allow you to put your body through the range of demand that will be required come game time. Training your body to be able to withstand repeated sprints, cuts, turns, & jumps can be an integral part in adequately training for game fitness. One of my favorite training exercises is a basic 50-80-100 interval run (which I will elaborate on later).
Train Fast to be Fast While going on a four or five mile run, you are training your body to be able to complete a basic run at the consistent pace. For a cross-country runner, a long distance track athlete, cyclist etc., it may be beneficial to improve your ability to move at a CONSISTENT speed over a set period of time. The problem is... while you may be able to make subtle changes to the speed in which you are training, you will never be able to run for five miles at a 100% sprint. In sport we are constantly switching between a slow moderate jog, a faster jog, and a full sprint based on the ever-changing game environment. Knowing this will be the demands of the game, doesn’t it make sense to make our training suit that demand?
50/80/100 Interval Runs: For the 50-80-100 interval runs, you will run between a set distance of cones switching between a 50% jog, 80% faster run, and 100% sprint at each cone. You will continue on this trend for the set time and repetitions. It is crucial to have a differentiation between your three speeds. Genuinely use the 50% time for a rest, 80% for a fast jog, and the 100% for an all out sprint.
Track run: For those who enjoy running on a track, it is important to include some sort of change of pace. My personal favorite is sprinting the two straightaways and jogging the bends of the track. As you get “more fit” you can increase your “rest” speed, but it is again crucial to maintain a 100% sprint on the straightaways.
17 35’s: For this exercise you will need 120 yards of space or a full-size soccer field. You will time yourself and run 17 seconds to the far end of the field and will then have 35 seconds to return to the start line. Once the 35 seconds is up, your next “rep” starts.
In one sentence The trick for field sport athletes is being able to withstand powerful explosive movements for the entirety of a match. Your “conditioning" must reflect this workload, and over time, you will find the demands of the match will become easier to complete.
Works Cited: Grgić, Jozo. “Muscle Fiber Types and Training.” Elitefts, www.elitefts.com/education/musclefiber-types-and-training/. HIIT vs. Continuous Cardiovascular Exercise, www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/ HIITvsCardio.html.