High-Speed Running Training in Elite Professional Soccer & Maximising Performance

Modern football is a very demanding sport. Read this article about High-Speed Running Training in Elite Professional Soccer & Maximising Performance

Written By: Michalis Koukliampis (Assistant Coach / Performance Coach)

Modern football continually evolves into a very demanding sport in which many aspects such as physical conditioning, high competent technical actions & tactical understanding are required to push individuals towards the elite level.

As the game continues to place a high demand on the total distance covered of players (although it’s not really changed over 2 decades), the speed of the game and sprint capacity of the players over the same period has doubled.

The average total distance covered by an football athlete in a game at the elite level usually ranges from 9 to 13 km depending on the position in which the player competes and the minutes played.

The actual intensity of the game in men’s and women’s soccer has increased significantly in recent years as mentioned due to the high-speed running of football players (HSR, Zone 5, the distance covered at speeds between 19.8 km/h and 25.1 km/h) and represent 10-13% of the total distance of a football match (800m-900m).

If we consider that greater frequency of scoring is being observed in the last 10-15 minutes of the first and second half, where there are periods of exhaustion and tiredness, we must discuss and implement training content that enables players to deal with the fatigue periods – and this may include more positional specific HSR.

France's forward Mbappe runs from Croatian players. World Cup 2018 final match France vs Croatia. "Luzhniki" Stadium, 15th July 2018.

Before referring to the implementation of HSR in the training process by technical coaches, fitness and conditioning specialists, rehabilitation coaches or physios, it is important to analyze the HSR value within the training weekly microcycle.

Physical Training and Soccer Methodology Course

From a speed threshold perspective which is classed as an external load training monitoring category, the players/teams values ​​are obtained from accelerometers within the GPS (Global Positioning Systems).

When it comes to using GPS within training analysis, elite expert coaches are well versed with the monitoring of values inclusive of accelerations, decelerations, speed distance, total distance, and high metabolic load distance, in order to test, monitor and develop the physical capacity of the player specific to the game.

All these parameters are continuously studied with profiles for each football player and their positions being created. Player training profiles have been designed according to enable the continual match-play position specific physical requirements to be met as well as trying to reduce the risk of injury whilst maximizing their athletic performance.

As a coach, it is understood that the training and match values ​​are inextricably linked to the system or style of play, and the tactical approach taken by the head coach in the main phases of matches (i.e. Defending, Attacking, Transition to Attack, Transition to Defend, Pressing the Opponent etc).

Therefore, high-intensity activities are a vital component of modern soccer and should be monitored throughout competition and training phases from a performance and injury perspective.

Rio de Janeiro - Brazil, July 10, 2018, Brazilian women's soccer team against the women's team of Sweden in the Maracanã Stadium

When & How to Incorporate HSR Training into the Weekly Microcycle

All coaches know that the basis of a training process for the rehabilitation and development of football athletes is the management of training loads. When analyzing a competitive football microcycle it is vitally important that we understand the balance between work and recovery.

Post-match phase, MD+1/+2 the key focus is the recovery of the football players, whereas in the diagram below & under my methodology of work, the MD+3/-4 is called strength day where there is a focus around the implementation of small-sided games with a lot of acceleration and deceleration movements, combined with change of directions.

Under this way of working, the MD+4/-3 is called the speed endurance training phase with large sided games involved. MD+5/-2 in this way of working is known as the speed themed training sessions combined with medium sided games, and MD+6/-1 is the pre-match activation training. It is rightly observed, that the right day to work on high speed running is MD+4/-. Based on this training day the players can hit the values ​​we as coaches want to achieve to push the players on physically, which are similar to those values attained within competitive match-play.

For this reason, and under this way of working MD+4/-3 is considered as the day that the football players’ performance values from a physical point of view are approximately corresponding to higher proportions similar to those achieve in competitive matches.

Under my working methodology, these values from the high speed or sprint based data sets can also be used as a possible threshold to push the non-starters either after the match or on a MD+2/-5 to replenish the missed values or loads in more of a match-replacement session.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
45-50 min 75-80 min 85-90 min 65-70 min 45-60 min 90 min
Recovery Recovery Strength Speed Endurance Speed of Play Activation MATCH
Low Intensity Running Acceleration, Deceleration, Change of directions High Speed Running Short Accelerations Reaction Sprint

In order to correctly work the absolute and relative values ​​based on the GPS values for the HSR numbers, we need to collect information on physical parameters during the match through live monitoring and create personalized profiles for the football players.

The physical profiles are based on the players positions in the match, and their physical condition in order to create the AHSR (Average High-Speed ​​running/per position).

Position Total Distance High Speed Runnings Sprint Distance Movements
Centre Back 8,957 589 145 Straight-line sprinting, jumping
Full Back 10,251 1,123 305 High distance sprints
Centre Midfielder 11, 475 898 128 Lots of COD
Wide Midfielder 11,562 1,195 345 Curved sprints
Attacker 10,309 1,029 298 Diagonal and curved sprints

Table: Average match demands in elite professional soccer.

Session Design?

As a coach in elite football, here are 3 methods I prefer to use when designing the HSR training theme on a MD-3.

  • Through large, sided games (LSG) where there are larger spaces (30m-40m) sufficient enough to achieve the required high speed or sprint distances.
  • Through specific runs out-of possession, but personalized for each player’s positional demands faced in the games (developed through HIIT conditioning drills).
  • Combining specific runs in & out of possession – maybe through implementing a specific technical drill or positional drill with some specified movements.

It would be also helpful to have a specific range of exercises for HSR training so that they can be checked periodically over time and suit both the profile of the team and the profile of its player.

Close up of a football / soccer magnetic coach board with game plan (on a bench at the soccer field)

Listed below are some soccer drills specific to HSR training

image 1: HIIT with straight-line and curved runs depending on the position of the player
image 1: HIIT with straight-line and curved runs depending on the position of the player
Image 2: Position specific training HSR for Full Back
Image 2: Position specific training HSR for Full Back
Image 3: Possession game 8 VS 8 with attacking transition
Image 3: Possession game 8 VS 8 with attacking transition

What Next?

The bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Faculty members are a way of further exposing sport science students, coaching individuals working within the game & other soccer science & performance coaching enthusiasts with a thirst to develop further.

The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF University endorsed, quality assured & accredited Physical Training & Soccer Methodology online sport science course.

This course has been described as one of the best online courses for further developing & adding to football coaching qualifications, where you will be exposed to football coaching research and practical examples used within the game by high level professionals.

Physical Training and Soccer Methodology Course

Why Is This Course Important?

  • Provides most efficient training methods and detailed insights into developing player fitness alongside tactical strategies & developing a training methodology
  • Gain a better understanding how to maximise development & preparation of players in a more efficient & contemporary game model approach
  • Learn how to balance key training elements from a technical, tactical & physical preparation in order to attain peak performance
  • Practitioners & coaches can only benefit themselves & their players further by a more in-depth knowledge of physical training & soccer methodology
  • Help maximise your decision-making through a better understanding & appreciation of tapering & soccer periodisation

Who Is This Course For?

  • Coaches, trainers, and other serious individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation, rehabilitation & coaching aspects of both individual athletes or team sports.
  • Individuals with an interest in developing knowledge in the preparation, training & development of footballers or soccer players.

What Does This Course Cover?

Outline of the Physical Training & Soccer Methodology course:

Module 1: The appliance of science – tapering & periodisation in team sports
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen

Module 2: Soccer specific monitoring: Weekly microcycle, planning and performance
Lecturer: Dr. Dawid Golinski

Module 3: Game model building & development: Reinterpreting Tactical Periodisation
Lecturer: Dr. Alejandro Romero-Caballero (La Liga)

Module 4: Individualised Periodization in a Soccer Team: A working model
Lecturer: Jarred Marsh

Module 5: An integrated approach to soccer training: Developing a working model
Lecturer: Efthymios Kyprianou

Module 6: Carbohydrate requirements of soccer players: Implications for periodisation
Lecturer: Dr. Liam Anderson

Module 7: Integrating Physical & Tactical Periodisation in Soccer: Senior & Youth levels
Lecturer: Hamish Munro

Module 8: Maximal intensity conditioning periods in soccer: Physical vs. Tactical strategies
Lecturer: Dr. Miguel Angel Campos Vazquez (La Liga)

Module 9: Preparing the modern soccer player: Training session design
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen

Module 10: Competitive soccer training microcycle: Structure & justification
Lecturer: Dr. Manuel Segovia


  • How can we improve speed in soccer?
  • How can we improve soccer player fitness?
  • What is the best football training?
  • What is a game model in soccer?
  • What type of physical fitness is soccer?
  • What type of training do soccer players do?
  • What education do you need to be a soccer coach?
  • What are the physical demands of soccer?

All these frequently asked questions will be answered & further information provided within our ISSPF online physical training & soccer methodology courses – we look forward to seeing you there!

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