Evidence-based strength and conditioning in soccer

Sam Orange, Andy Smith


Background. Competitive soccer is complex and acyclical in nature. In addition to the necessary technical and tactical skills, a number of well-developed physiological characteristics are required to perform successfully. Soccer is not a science, but evidence-based practice based on scientific literature can improve performance. Strength and conditioning (S&C) practitioners are now emerging as essential members of a multidisciplinary coaching team.

Purpose. To review the physiological demands of soccer and provide S&C coaches with evidence-based training recommendations for elite male soccer players.

Methods. To gather information on soccer match-play and effective training prescriptions, a narrative review of literature was conducted using Ovid/Medline, Pub-Med and Google Scholar data-bases. This was supplemented by a review of relevant reference lists.

Results. During a 90 minute match, elite soccer players cover 10-12 km mostly by walking or jogging. High-intensity actions occur during important periods of play and are critical to the result of the match. The elite soccer player is required to complete almost 3000 actions during a match, including sprinting, jumping, turning, and decelerating. These activities are dynamic and occur in an unpredictable pattern.

Conclusion. Wherever possible, S&C in soccer must replicate match-play so that specific movement patterns can be developed. Small-sided games should be manipulated to improve aerobic endurance, repeated sprint ability, and agility, while also promoting a direct transfer to the competitive environment. Strength and power sessions must prescribe varying loads to develop the full strength-power continuum. Coaches should consider the scientific evidence when implementing S&C programs in soccer. 


Fitness; Sports Science; Applied Practice; Specificity

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ISSN: 19206216