Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do small-sided games improve repeated-sprint ability?

English Premier League official site (January 7th, 2012)
Repeated-sprint ability (RSA) is defined as the players ability to perform maximal or near maximal short-duration sprints (<10 sec) interspersed with short recovery periods (less than 60 sec).  Studies using traditional generic (running) training show an improvement in RSA ranging between 1.5 and 9% after 4-10 weeks in team sport athletes. This large variation in performance gains could be due to differences in training, such as sprint distance, interval time and number of repetitions.

Regarding the effect of training with small-sided games on RSA, it seems that little information is available in the literature. In the study of Hill-Haas and colleagues (2009) young football players trained with small-sided games or running drills for 7 weeks. Small-sided games training consisted of 2-6 repetitions of 6-13 min games separated by 1-3 min of rest.

To summarize their results:
  1. RSA was similarly improved with the two training methods.
  2. This improvement was not significant compared with the pre-training values.
  3. Yo-Yo performance was improved with both training modes. This is important since Yo-Yo test result is associated with football-specific performance.

Take home messages
  1. We know little on the effect of small-sided games in RSA in football players. Questions to be answered are: what is the optimal combination of field dimension, number of players, drill duration, recovery time and number of repetitions?
  2. Small-sided games may be an alternative to generic training for RSA improvement.
  3. Could the combination of small-sided games with generic RS training be more effective?

For further reading
Bishop et al (2011). Repeated sprint ability-Part II. Recommendations for training. Sports Medicine 41(9):741-756.
Hill-Haas et al (2009). Generic versus small-sided games training in soccer. International Journal of Sports Medicine 30:636-642.

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