Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 27 – Heart Rate Monitors

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about monitoring of game performance.  Measuring players’ heart rates during games is an effective tool for determining the intensity of the game.  As a general rule, the higher the heart rate, the higher the intensity.  The most accurate way to measure heart rates in by using heart rate monitors, typically comprising a chest strap (which records the number of times an athlete’s heart beats through sensors that touch the skin) and some other electronic device (wrist watch, base station, computer, etc..) that records and tracks this information over the course of the game.  In my work as a soccer fitness coach I have used several different brands of heart rate monitors, including Suunto, Activio, and Polar.  All of these systems come with robust software programs that help to generate very specific and detailed reports about players’ heart rates, both live (during) and after training and games.

In general, if they are playing in intense, meaningful games, players’ average heart rates should be between 165-175 beats per minute (bpm) for females, and between 170-180 bpm for males.  Heart rate averages that are significantly below these standards are common signs that: a) players are not working hard/running very much in the game; b) specific playing positions are not running very much – example: centre backs; or c) the team has made tactical changes that have lowered the intensity of the game – example: defending deep and not pushing players forward.  Use of a high quality system of heart rate monitors that includes hardware and software can be expensive, but it is a worthwhile investment for elite youth and adult college and professional soccer teams competing at a high level.  I have been able to collect a lot of valuable data and generated reports that have been very helpful to the coaching staff for the higher level environments in which I have worked.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

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Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 26 – Speed Tests

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about assessment of running speed.  In modern soccer, running speed is a key determinant of a players’ ability to make the types of plays – outrunning defenders to score goals, or conversely, outrunning attacking players to prevent scoring opportunities, for example – that lead to success in the sport.  About six years ago, I was part of a group led by Paolo Pacione (present fitness coach with Montreal Impact in MLS) and Robert Rupf (sports scientist with the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario) which was tasked with designing a soccer-specific fitness assessment protocol for all of the Ontario Provincial and National Training Centre players, comprising elite level boys and girls ranging in age from U14 to U17.  When determining which fitness assessments to select for these elite level soccer players, we decided to do some research into what types of assessments were considered the best predictors of performance in soccer, and also which tests were the most applicable to high level youth players.  We had a general idea of what physical abilities needed to be tested (speed and endurance in particular) but we wanted to determine which specific types of tests of these abilities were best suited to our environment and players.

For speed tests, we looked into the specific way that speed is used in soccer.  In a study done by Di Salvo et. al. (2009), it was found that the average distance of a sprint in elite professional (men’s) soccer was 20 metres.  Furthermore, the same study reported that the shortest sprints in professional soccer are between 5 and 10 metres, and the longest sprints are between 30-40 metres.  Armed with this data, our group decided to use a speed test protocol that includes a 10 metre sprint (to measure initial acceleration); a 20 metre sprint (to measure the speed of the average sprint distance in soccer); and a 35 metre sprint (to measure the speed of the maximum sprint distance in soccer).   I have since adopted this speed testing protocol and am still using it today to assess all the players I work with, including the UOIT Women’s varsity team.  Other fitness coaches working with soccer players should also consider these speed tests, as I have found them to be the best way to determine players’ soccer-specific running speed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 25 – Fast Food

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about eating healthy on the road.  In university soccer, road games typically occur on weekends, with long (3-plus hours) drives in addition to some over-night stays in cities around Ontario.  Typically, teams must stop for food during the drives and/or the over-night stays, and the spending money distributed to the players for food may not be more than $5-10 per day.  With this type of budget, many teams have no choice but to stop at fast food restaurants to eat while on the road.

Just because you eat at a fast food restaurant, however, does not mean you cannot eat healthy.  In general, athletes should try to get the following out of each meal on the road:

  • 2-4 servings of complex carbohydrates
  • 1 serving of complete protein
  • 1-2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables
  • (maybe) 1 serving of dairy
  • total number of calories: between 300 and 700 per meal

Below are some examples of healthy meals that can be eaten at popular fast food restaurants, which will allow players to get all or most of the required nutrients listed above:

  1. McDonalds: grilled classic chicken sandwich (no mayonnaise), fruit and walnut salad.  Total calories: 630
  2. Burger King: Jr. Whopper, tender-gill chicken salad.  Total calories: 510
  3. Subway: 6-inch grilled turkey sub, honey oat bread, 2-3 vegetable toppings, medium salad with Italian dressing.  Total calories: 365
  4. Tim Horton’s: toasted chicken club sandwich, whole wheat bread.  Medium fruit/yogurt.  Total calories: 420

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 24 – Recovery Skins

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about recovery during road trips.  One unique aspect to the interuniversity season, as well as to other higher levels in soccer, is the amount of time spent traveling.  Typically, university soccer will involve at least one long road trip, where players can be sitting on a bus for 6-7 hours.  Sedentary activity (the type that occurs during long road trips) in athletes is a problem because blood can pool in the lower legs, which can lead to fatigue, soreness and a loss of strength and power.  For optimal athletic performance, blood should not be allowed to pool in the lower legs, but rather should be circulated throughout the body as efficiently as possible.

One useful strategy I picked up from my friend and colleague, Paolo Pacione, who works as Fitness Coach with the Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer, is to use Recovery Skins, a type of compression pant, during travel.  Compression pants apply light compression to the legs, which in turn promotes contraction of the smooth muscle in veins, pumping blood upwards and towards the heart.  The heart can then redistribute the newly oxygenated blood throughout the body, including back through the leg muscles.  This process, called venous return, has been proven to reduce metabolic by-products of exercise, and also to reduce perceived muscle soreness, in athletes.  In any situation where athletes are traveling and will be in a seated position for more than 2-3 hours (including long drives and flights), lower limb compression through the use of Recovery Skins or other compression clothing is a great way to alleviate some of the negative effects that can occur.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 23 – External Rotators

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about functional movement of the hip.  In soccer, the movements at the hip are unique because they involve not only running and jumping (which happen in all sports), but also specific movements with the ball such as cutting, dribbling, passing, and shooting.  The hip joint, including the surrounding muscles and tendons, can get overused due to all the twisting and turning movements that take place.  In particular, many soccer players will have a problem with valgus knee alignment (knees pointing inwards) that can result from overuse of the hip joint and weakness of some of the surrounding muscles.

One specific muscle, the glute medius, located on the outside of the hip joint, is of particular importance, as it is the main muscle involved in external rotation of the hip (turning the hip outwards).  External rotation is very important for soccer players because it moves the knees from a valgus alignment (knees pointing inwards, which predisposes the knee to cartilage and ligament injuries) to a more straight alignment.  Weakness of the glute medius (and the corresponding lack of hip external rotation) can also lead to groin injuries, as the inside of the thigh muscles (groin or adductors)can end up compensating for the muscle weakness on the outside of the hip.

Strengthening of the glute medius to bring the hip into a more externally rotated position is a very effective strategy for soccer players, both as a means of preventing hip and knee injuries, as well as rehabilitating them.  Below is a link to a video of a simple and effective glute medius exercise, that requires only a small thera-band to perform.  I have used these exercises to great effect in several of the high performance environments in which I have worked.  Over time, athletes will see a decreased risk of injury in combination with better running and jumping performance.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 22 – Thoracic Spine

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about mobility of the trunk and spine.  Soccer is a sport that involves frequent twists and turns, performed at high speeds while kicking, jumping and running.  Over time, the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine or “T-spine” (middle of the back, below the cervical spine and above the lumbar spine, with vertebrae’s # T-1 to T-12) can get very tight.  This muscle tightness can, in turn, limit mobility of the spine and trunk, which can effect negatively performance in a variety of ways.  Limited T-spine range of motion and muscle tightness can decrease power, strength, and also lead to hip and lower back injuries.  It can also affect the respiratory muscles, making it more difficult to breathe when tired.

Simple mobility exercises done during warm-ups can significantly improve T-spine mobility.  One of my favorite exercises to use with soccer players is the T-spine rotation, which can be done anywhere including on a soccer field, with no equipment required.  Below is a video of the exercise.  Following a 5-10 minute warm-up, have players perform 6-8 repetitions of the T-spine rotations with each side, holding each repetition for 10 seconds.  This exercise is now a standard part of the pre-training and pre-game warm-ups I use with all of my athletes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.