The primary aim of a recent study by Dellal and colleagues (2012) was to examine the influence of the number of small-sided games (SSG) on the physiological and technical responses. However, for the needs of this post I would like to stay on the comparison of the responses between the different SSG and not to discuss the effect of number of games.
What was the study's design?
Study sample was 20 international adult soccer players from a national team who participated in the 2010 FIFA world cup. Data were collected during the preparation period for the world cup. Players performed 3 different types of SSG:
- 2 vs 2 (pitch size: 20 X 15m)
- 3 vs 3 (pitch size: 25 X 18m)
- 4 vs 4 (pitch size: 30 X 20m)
SSG were performed with 4 supporting players around the playing area and their duration was 2, 3 and 4min, respectively. Four sets of each SSG were performed at different training sessions with 3 min of passive recovery between each. One important point to notice is that pitch size per player was constant for all SSG (1.75 m2).
Table. Physiological and technical responses during various types small-sided games (average of 4 games for each type).
2 vs 2
3 vs 3
4 vs 4
Total distance covered (m)
Total distance covered in very high intensity (m)
Number of duels
Blood lactate (mmol/l)
% maximal heart rate
No statistically significant difference was found between SSG.
- Total distance covered tended to be greater in 4 vs 4 games.
- Players achieved almost the same % of maximum heart rate in all games. However, total distance covered in very high intensity running tended to be greater in the 4 vs 4 game.
- Number of duels tended to be greater in 2 vs 2 games.
- Finally, players reported similar level of fatigue after all 3 types of SSG.
Although the results refer to high-level adult players and no statistically significant difference was reported between the types of SSG, I think there are some messages to take that might apply to each one’s setting.
Dellal et al (2012). Variation of activity demands in small-sided soccer games. International Journal of Sports Medicine, in press.