Strength and in particular power are important fitness components in modern football. This is because short sprints averaging 2-4 seconds might be decisive of the match result. Looking at the match analysis data, a 2-4 sec sprint occurs every 90 sec. In addition, more than 95% of sprints are shorter than 30 m and almost half of them are shorter than 10 m. It seems therefore that velocity attained in less than 10 m run and even velocity during the first step are very important fitness components.
To maximize these abilities players need to improve power. This can be done with conventional strength training, plyometric exercises and a combination of both. Let me remind you that plyometric exercises involve stretching the muscle immediately before making a rapid concentric contraction. Indeed, some studies have shown an improvement in sprint time and jumping in football players after 7-8 weeks of plyometric training.
In a recent study, Chelly and colleagues (2010) examined if plyometric training would enhance performance in young experienced players. 19 years old players were divided into the experimental and the control group. The experimental group supplemented its regular football training with plyometric exercises, 2 times per week for 8 weeks in-season.
Weekly plyometric training consisted of
-40 to 60-cm hurdle jumps X10 reps X 5-10 sets in the first 4 weeks
-40-cm drop jumpsX10 reps X 5-10 sets in the following 4 weeks
-velocity during the first step improved by 18% with plyometric training and only 9% with regular football training
-velocity in the first 5-m of sprint improved by 10% with plyometric training and only 3% with regular training
-Maximum sprinting velocity improved by 9% with plyometric training and only 2,5% with regular training
-vertical jump improved by 2,5 % with plyometric training, no change with regular training
CONCLUSION AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
In-season hurdle and drop jumps performed 2 times a week for 8 weeks can improve first step speed and enhance sprinting to a greater extent than regular football training in young, experienced players.