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Aerobic capacity of elite soccer players related to player positions

Researchers have linked the fitness of elite soccer players to the positions they hold.

The ability to do this assessment can help coaches regulate individual training loads based on player position, according to recent research.

The study found that all positions on a football pitch, with the exception of centre-backs, showed a strong association between aerobic power training and high-intensity performance.

“Perhaps this is not surprising because centre-backs cover less distance and perform fewer power events than other positions on the pitch,” said Matteo Masucci, PhD candidate in kinesiology and life sciences. health at the University of Waterloo. “Central defenders face the pitch and are in control. They have a slower pace and play more of a mental or tactical game. Midfielders analyze everything in front and behind them and need to react in both directions. Forwards need to express maximum effort to get a hit at the right time.”

Researchers worked with data from 62 Italian Serie A soccer players over a full season between 2014-15 and 2018-19 and tested whether targeted treadmill training and lactate blood samples from earlobes of players correctly rated aerobic fitness – the overall amount of energy required to perform a high-powered event like acceleration or deceleration.

“When combined with videos of on-pitch performance, our analysis showed that the association between aerobic fitness and high-intensity repetitive streaks in a game varied depending on the position played by a football competitor,” said Masucci, who is also a soccer coach.

It has been found that during a 90-minute match, an elite football player can make up to 1,400 activity changes and up to 200 high-intensity multi-directional short efforts, requiring physical conditioning not only in terms of speed, but also in terms of changing movement patterns.

Previous studies have investigated the association between aerobic fitness and soccer, but only in the speed category. Masucci said that due to the acceleration and deceleration elite football players have to expend, as well as the time it takes to recover from high intensity streaks, it’s also important to study the high power events that are not speed related.

“These results mean that coaches can use lactated blood samples and progressive treadmill assessments to provide valuable information about football players,” Masucci said. “Players who have a high metabolic power distance threshold equal to or greater than 1,450m for centre-backs, 1,990m for full-backs, 2,170m for midfielders and 1,670m for forwards could be considered to have higher aerobic capacity. Therefore, when planning training and game strategy, coaches must consider these individual differences in physiological and physical performance.”

The study, Relationship between Aerobic Fitness and Metabolic Power Parameters in Elite Male Soccer Players, was led by Vincenzo Manzi (Università Telematica Pegaso) and co-authored by Masucci, Giuseppe Annino, Cristian Savoia, Giuseppe Caminiti, Elvira Padua, Rosario D’Onofrio and Ferdinando Iellamo. It was published in the journal Sports biology.

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Materials provided by University of Waterloo. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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