Photo: Flickr/Hector Garcia
Two Norwegian researchers have developed a training system that improves the sprint, jump and endurance of elite soccer players, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine.The study involved 21 male elite football players (that competed in the UEFA Champions’ League the previous year) going through an hour-long morning session twice a week for 8 weeks during the preseason.
The training consisted of combining aerobic interval training at 90-95 per cent of maximal heart rate and half-squats strength training with maximum loads in 4 sets of 4 repetitions with a three minute rest in between.
The results show that after the program the players experienced an average 8.6 per cent increase in their oxygen intake, were able to jump 3 centimeters higher and improved their sprint time by 0.06 seconds without any reported negative secondary effects during the two months of intense training.
The creators of the program, Jan Hoff and Jan Helgerud, describe its benefits as “Mister Oxygen” because the improvement in the combined fitness of players is the equivalent to having a 12th member on the pitch.
The study notes that during a top-level match a player covers about 5-7.5 miles at an average intensity of 80–90 per cent of maximal heart rate. Increasing maximal oxygen intake increases the distance covered during a match and has also been linked to a corresponding 25 per cent increase in ball involvements and a 100 per cent increase in number of sprints performed.
The Norwegian club Rosenborg BK was the first elite team to reap the benefits of the regimen when it began working with the professors in 1991. The club proceeded to win the Norwegian Premier League 13 times in a row from 1992 to 2004 and set a record (which has since been broken by Manchester United) with eight consecutive Champion League berths from 1995-2002.
The program has since been adapted by several elite clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.
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