Saturday, April 21, 2012

Circuit Training for Soccer

Circuit Training (see Wikipedia definition) is a fitness training method that uniquely combines strength and stamina building. Generally, 6 to 10 exercise are combined and done as sequential stations over a predetermined time to achieve fitness goals, and between each station is a short recovery run.

Studies at Baylor University and The Cooper Institute show that circuit training is the most time efficient way to enhance cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.
"It's the most scientifically proven exercise system. It's time efficient and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardio in the same workout." (The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX)

And, through the selection of exercises performed at each station, very specific muscle groups can be targeted successfully.

For training of youth athletes, 9 to 12 years old, it is a good "social" training method as they can be grouped together for the full circuit, or in smaller groups at each station. The challenge with training this age group is that they are not mature enough to continue to push themselves when they begin to fatigue or begin to experience "muscle burn", so it is important that they are cheered on by a coach and perceive this as a competitive "game". Our coaches have found that we often have to extend the duration of a specific station by a 10 second or 15 second penalty period when we spot an individual taking a break during the exercise, and the rest of the group generally has a chat with that person during the recovery run.

For our Speed and Strength program, we involve a soccer ball as much as possible in the exercises, and require the athletes to dribble a soccer ball as they travel between stations (the recovery run). The purpose of the dribbling between stations is:

  • provide an opportunity for specific muscles to recover but not allow the body to rest (heart rate remains elevated). during each exercise lactic acid will form in each targeted muscle group (the young athletes will report "my ?? muscle is burning") and the recovery run between stations will help clear this before the next station.
  • provide an opportunity for mental training so the athlete is concentrating on the ball when fatigued
Common errors made in designing circuits is not allowing recovery between stations OR allowing rest between stations ... both takes the aerobic component out of the training.  For a circuit to be specific to soccer, it must match the aerobic and anaerobic mix that occurs in a soccer game and each exercise must be specific to muscle groups used by soccer players.

Circuit training is a common approach taken by professional soccer teams for pre-season preparations.
Andres Iniesta training at Barcelona

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