Sunday, August 28, 2011

Small-sided games: is it the proper means of training for all teams?

This question was addressed in a recent paper by Dellal and colleagues (2011) who examined heart rate (HR), blood lactate ([La]), subjective perception of effort (rating of perceived exertion [RPE]), physical and technical performance of amateurs, and professional level players during various small-sided games (SSGs, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, and 4 vs. 4).

Their results showed that across the various SSGs, amateurs completed a lower percent of successful passes, recorded higher RPE and [La] values, lost a greater amount of ball possessions, and covered less total distance with respect to sprinting and high-intensity running. The HR responses, however, were similar when expressed as %HRmax.

This study shows that SSGs stress different aspects of fitness and technical performance in amateurs and elite players. Based on these findings, it seems that amateurs should supplement their fitness training with generic training as well.   

Dellal, A, Hill-Haas, S, Lago-Penas, C, and Chamari, K. Small-sided games in soccer: Amateur vs. professional players' physiological responses, physical, and technical activities J Strength Cond Res 25(9): 2371-2381, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Often players who get injured become disappointed. It is not uncommon for a player to come back after an injury with lower physical fitness and, most importantly, diminished confidence.

To my opinion, injury period could be an opportunity for the player to become better. For instance, a player with a leg’s injury could do more work on upper body strength. He could even work more on the uninjured leg.

Indeed, studies show an increase in strength within the untrained limb following unilateral strength training in the opposite. This phenomenon is called cross education and it could be due to neuromuscular adaptations.

Injured player could also work more on his skills. Indeed, recent data provided the first evidence for certain brain’s area plasticity with cross-education (Hortobágyi  et al., 2011). Thus, it is speculated that cross-education could also be applied in motor skills development and this might have applications in sports.

For more reading

  1. Lee and Carroll. Cross education: possible mechanisms for the contralateral effects of unilateral resistance training. Sports Med 37(1):1-14, 2007
  2. Fimland et al. Neural adaptations underlying cross-education after unilateral strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol 107(6):723-30, 2009
  3. Gabriel et al. Neural adaptations to resistive exercise: mechanisms and recommendations for training practices. Sports Med 36(2):133-49, 2006
  4. Hortobágyi et al. Interhemispheric plasticity in humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 43(7):1188-99, 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011


No doubt that muscle injuries prevention is a multi-component approach. Various intrinsic and extrinsic factors count to athlete’s injury risk. For more information you can read the following posts in this blog and a number of good papers in the literature.

From the mathematical point of view, there are various models to calculate injuries risk in athletes in the literature. In real life, sport scientists and coach are interested in the factors that count the most and they should spend more time in training.

Which is the single most important factor?
To my knowledge and my experience with athletes EVERYTHING MATTERS for injury prevention. As a general rule, I think we should consider as many factors as possible and try to develop our own model based on the players we work with.

To help with this I have summarized some basic points that I always take into consideration
  1. At the start and at regular intervals it is good to evaluate as many factors as possible.
  2. Clearly define strengths and weaknesses for each player.
  3. Set the priorities after careful evaluation of the situation (player’s characteristics, environment, time schedule etc).
  4. Be sure you do not forget the basics! For instance, core stabilization exercises are important to injuries prevention.
  5. Keep the balance between exercises and muscle groups trained.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I borrowed the phrase from Anthony Robbins’ nice book Unlimited Power to describe the situation we might face in teams and in life as well. If one stops working hard there is no improvement. In accordance, players who work at the comfort zone do not improve.

For instance, small sided games take most of training time in modern football. Although this is of benefits there are also disadvantages associated with this kind of training. One of these is that some players choose to work in the comfort zone.

To my opinion, there are at least 3 things one can do 1) supplement training with individual training, 2) record heart rates during training, 3) persuade players to work beyond their comfort zone.

To my experience, motivation is very important for the EFFECTIVE APPLICATION OF TRAINING. Players with diminished motivation make even perfectly planned sessions ineffective.

To help you on how to motivate your players here are some key points
  • TELL THEM THE TRUTH. Clearly define where the player is (his current level of performance) and where he has to go.
  • CLEARLY DEFINE SHORT TERM GOALS suitable to the player.
  • FIND WORDS or phrases that stimulate each player. What works with one player might not work with the other.
  • Last weapon, tell him that he will either climb or slid.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Hoff test: a football-specific test to evaluate aerobic fitness

The Hoff test was introduced by Chamari and colleagues (2005) to evaluate aerobic fitness of football players. This test is performed in the field where the players move while dribbling the ball. Several movements that closely resemble the soccer movement pattern, such as jumping, backward running with the ball, are included in the test.

During the test, players dribble the ball in a 30 X 55 m area covering a distance of 290 m per tour. In this route, they perform various movements such as forward run with the ball, backward dribbling, and jumping. Hoff test has been shown to correlate with VO2max (r= 0.68, P< 0.01) in young soccer players (Chamari et al., 2005) and with the VO2max predicted from the 20-m shuttle run in adult players (Nassis et al., 2010). Finally, the coefficient of variation was reported to be 4.8% in soccer players.

Can we use it with young players?
Yes. The test was initially developed for young players.

Advantages and disadvantages
Main advantages
  • Football-specific using the ball
  • No particular skills are required from the tester
Main disadvantages
  • Time-consuming
  • No prediction of maximum oxygen uptake is provided

To view the test diagram please visit

For more reading
  • . Chamari et al. Endurance training and testing with the ball in young elite soccer players. Br J Sports Med 39: 24-28, 2005.
  • . Nassis et al. Relationship between the 20-m multistage shuttle run test and two soccer specific field tests for the assessment of aerobic fitness in adult semi-professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res, 24(10):2693-7, 2010.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Youth development-Lessons from elite football academies

Youth development is a key issue in modern football. What is the best academy's organizational structure? How much training is required? Following the link below you can read an interesting article on best practise in elite level clubs. You can also learn about their philosophy and much more. I hope you enjoy it!