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Get Match Fit: How to Build Endurance for Soccer Players

It’s no secret that soccer players are required to be able to run for extended periods. A soccer player spends most of the time on the pitch moving and not touching the ball. A soccer player needs to have endurance and stamina to be match fit.

Running the numbers

According to UEFA’s official Technical Report on the 2019/2020 Champions League competition, the player that ran the most was Petr Sevcik from Slavia Prague. Sevcik ran an average of 13.47 km (8.37 mi) per game. While these statistics are from elite professionals, they provide a good perspective on what it takes to become a professional soccer player.

The chart above only tells us an individual player’s statistics, and because each position demands different distances of running, it’s not enough information to give us the whole picture. The team averages of distance covered per match for the top 4 placed teams in the 2019/2020 Champions League campaign is in the chart below.

On average, in the Champions League, a player on a top team (including the goalie) must run 10.1 km (6.3 mi) per game. This statistic, however, doesn’t tell us the whole story because a soccer player also sprints and changes direction 700 times a game. However, this is a good baseline metric for field players’ match fitness. If you are not able to run the baseline distance, you are not match-fit.

Getting match fit

Being match fit is a combination of aerobic endurance, anaerobic explosiveness, recovery from high intensity running, change of direction, and more. This article covers the endurance aspect of match fitness.

Basic cardio

Being match fit is a combination of aerobic endurance, anaerobic explosiveness, recovery from high intensity running, change of direction, and more. This article covers the endurance aspect of match fitness.

Before starting any exercise, it is vital to do a proper warm-up. Click here to find out how to structure a proper soccer warm-up routine.

Simulating one half of soccer

In order to simulate the intensity of a full half of soccer, go on a 45-minute jog for 3 to 4 times a week (depending on your fitness levels and time for recovery). Instead of setting a distance goal, we want time to be our goal. The purpose of this exercise is to increase your distance (and pace) in a 45-minute jog.

Benefits of cardio to soccer players

As this article focuses more on the importance of endurance and good cardio in soccer, this is not a complete list and only summarizes the many benefits cardio provides.

  • Regulates weight
  • Increases the efficiency of metabolism
  • Increases lung capacity (VO₂ Max)
  • Increases blood flow
  • Improves recovery from intense sessions
  • Improves focus
  • Takeaway

The numbers don’t lie. Being a good soccer player at a high level requires the endurance to be running around 6 miles (10 km) per game in different combinations of jogging, sprinting, jumping, tackling, heading, and changes of direction and pace. Cardio and aerobic exercise benefits are undisputed, and you must work on your cardio to reap all benefits on and off the pitch. Finally, to play at any competitive level, be it amateur, youth, college, or professional, aerobic fitness is the minimum requirement to be effective over 90 minutes of soccer.

  1. https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40798-019-0223-y#:~:text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20soccer,90%20%C2%B0%20turns%20%5B8%5D
  2. https://www.opexfit.com/blog/how-cardio-aerobic-training-will-improve-a-strength-athletes-lifts
  3. How Cardio (Aerobic Training) Will Improve a Strength Athlete’s Lifts. www.opexfit.com/blog/how-cardio-aerobic-training-will-improve-a-strength-athletes-lifts.
  4. Agarwal, Shashi K. “Cardiovascular benefits of exercise.” International journal of general medicine vol. 5 (2012): 541-5. doi:10.2147/IJGM.S30113
  5. How fit are professional footballers?
  6. How Cardio (Aerobic Training) Will Improve a Strength Athlete’s Lifts
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