Use of Position Specific Drills in Football

Find out how the importance of using of Position Specific Drills in Football and Implementing a Working Methodology for soccer players
Use of Position Specific Drills in Football: Implementing a working methodology

 Written By: Norbert Banoocy MSc,CSCS, S&C Coach & Sport Scientist

BANGKOK THAILAND JULY 12-2022:Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag during the Bangkok Century Cup match between Manchester United against Liverpool at Rajamangala national stadium.

Implementing a specific training methodology can enable coaches to provide clarity to their players whilst also creating a learning environment for the longer period across a range of levels in the game. Recent data collection in elite and sub-elite sport has grown exponentially, as an increase in the use of technology in sport, and the professionalisation of sport science in soccer.

Irrespective of the seasonal phase (pre-season; in-season; end of season), understanding how to maximise performance is fundamental, but the planning and execution process is key to maximising the outcomes.

As highlighted in the recent literature by Allen et al., (2023) the demand for modern football continues to rise. In addition, the ever-increasing congested fixture schedule results in few opportunities to train players. Hence, it is becoming more and more important for applied practitioners to find ways in which they can better prepare players to withstand these demands.

In a recent review article by Hostrup & Bangsbo (2022), the authors explored various ‘intensified conditioning modalities’ to enhance performance amongst elite footballers. The weekly microcyle can be highly variable depending on when the matches are scheduled.

It is the job of the coaching staff to find opportunities within the microcycle to expose players to these intensified conditioning modalities to keep them fit throughout the season.

Hostrup & Bangsbo (2022) refer to these intensified training (a form of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT) as Speed Endurance Maintenance or Production (i.e., SEM or SEP) type training.

The distinction between these two types of training is based on the work:rest ratio and the intensity in which they are conducted in. The SEP type training is geared towards enhancement of repeated high-intensity training, while SEM is aimed at tolerance and sustainment of fatigue during training.

Both of these methods have high applicability in elite footballing context.

Type Intensity (%Max Speed) Duration (sec) W:R Sets Reps
SEP 70-100% 15-40 1:5-1:8 1-3 4-12
SEM – Long Intervals 50-80% 15-90 1:1-1:3 1-2 6-12
SEM – Short Intervals 60-100% 5-15 1:2-1:8 1-2 10-25

*Adapted from Hostrup & Bangsbo (2022)

Leipzig, Germany - March 20, 2020: Head coach Julian Nagelsmann of Leipzig during the match Leipzig vs Tottenham at Leipzig Arena before

While the context of the team and match schedule and the resources available dictates what type of training can be done in-season, utilizing SEM and SEP training can be very beneficial in improving players’ fitness as well as keeping their fitness throughout a long competitive season.

By identifying the style of play in relation to the Game Model, practitioners can better understand the running demands that are required of their players. As an example, Bradley & Ade (2018) identified physical activities with tactical purposes such as, recovery runs, breaking into the box, over/underlapping, pushing up the pitch, and running in behind, just to name a few. These categories provide the basis of looking at the game in relation to an integrated approach of all 4 dimensions of the game model (i.e., physical, technical, tactical, psychological).

Once these movements are identified, practitioners can then design specific drills that will have high utility in the following contexts:

  • Late Stage Return-to-Play for players coming back from injury
  • Top Up Runs – As a complimentary/supplementary approach in relation to the load requirements of various days within the microcycle
  • Position Specific Runs – Providing technical and tactical context to what each position may be required to do in different scenarios based on high intensity movement profile of the team
  • Adapted to fit different game formats – SSG and Transition games
  • Keeping substitutes fit in-season – compensation training for players not playing a lot of minutes on a regular basis
  • Youth Development – specifically players that are in transition to 1st team environment.

Examples of drills to fit requirements of different position(s):

Example 1

Drill to combine multiple players – Best fitted for a MD+1/+2 Compensation session for substitutes.

Use of Position Specific Drills in Football 3
Kyiv, UKRAINE - November 23, 2021: Alphonso Davies Player during the UEFA Champions League match between FC Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) vs FC Bayern Munich (Germany), Ukraine

Example 2

Full Back – Top-Up Position Specific Run – MD-3/-4 Or Late-Stage Rehab

Use of Position Specific Drills in Football 5

Example 3

Small Sided Game

Use of Position Specific Drills in Football 6

Planning Considerations

When planning your coaching content, it is imperative that a number of variables are considered which informs the volume, intensity and density of your coaching content over the course of the week and on the given training day.

Use of Position Specific Drills in Football 7

Taken from ISSPF online football science courses: Physical Training & Soccer Methodology, training taper or tapering has many definitions & understandings but if you look into the concept in detail and apply it to both individual or team sports, you will see not only the sense of it from an academic perspective, but also through performance & results.

Reading the short article here, you can appreciate continued need to educate yourself in all aspects of the game. The game never stops progressing, developing and professionalising, and ISSPF values the need to educate individuals within the context of the game.

As a result of this, high-level football performance education and the constant training or upgrading of coaches, medical, technical and performance staff and even administrative staff, is a proven fundamental building block in the modern footballing strategy.

Developing the training content across the microcycle or training week highlights the need to influence the key outcome variables that include, but are not limited to the messaged below:

1. The Overall Aims of the Plan

  • Begin with the end in mind, what is the overall aim of the training process, the weekly objective and consequently the daily training content.
  • Knowing such aims and objectives serves as a reference for performance and provides a level of objectivity to determine the level of overall success of the plan.

2. The Coaching Philosophy of those Involved

  • In order to clearly and effectively deliver the coaching content of the training process, it is imperative that each coaches philosophy is considered.
  • This helps maintain a level of consistency in the delivery of training and facilitates strong communication of the overall aims and objectives of the training process.

3. The Athlete’s Ability to Perform

  • When planning the content of the training process, the athletes ability should be the cornerstone for which all training methods are considered.
  • It is important that the coach understands the capacity of the athlete on a given day i.e. – their current physiological & psychological level of performance and also their capabilities i.e. – their ceiling of performance.
  • Knowing the athlete’s capacities and capabilities on a given day facilitates the training process to work towards the overall aims and objectives.

4. Training Session Variables

  • Training variables are what are manipulated during the planning process on an ongoing basis in order to adapt to the considerations mentioned above with the overall goal of achieving the given standards of performance.

Kyiv, UKRAINE - November 23, 2021: Thomas Müller Player during the UEFA Champions League match between FC Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) vs FC Bayern Munich (Germany), Ukraine

What Next?

The demand for training load management experts, performance & coaching specialists in football & team sports is growing year upon year. Thousands of students & coaches are leaving university with a sport science degree, however many of them asking the key question – What now? How do I get a job in football? What’s the next step? Which area of sport science or football science do I want to specialise in?

This is certainly an interesting question as progressing from completing a sport science degree to then working in professional football & trying to understanding all the key components, and soft skills that come with jobs in football or careers within sport.

The bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Elite Faculty members are a way of further exposing sport science students, individuals working within the game, coaches, physiotherapists, doctors, sport therapists & other football science enthusiasts with a thirst to develop further in this area.


Join Our Physical Training & Soccer Methodology Course….

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 & Soccer Methodology Sports Science Course

How This Course Will Improve You

  • 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

Course Outline

Outline of the Physical Training & Football 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


Allen, T., Taberner, M., Zhilkin, M., & Rhodes, D. (2023). Running more than before? the evolution of running load demands in the English premier league. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 174795412311645.

Bradley, P. S., & Ade, J. D. (2018). Are current physical match performance metrics in elite soccer fit for purpose or is the adoption of an integrated approach needed? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(5), 656–664.

Hostrup, M., & Bangsbo, J. (2022). Performance adaptations to intensified training in top-level football. Sports Medicine, 53(3), 577–594.

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