Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 29 – Plyometrics

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 fitness training during the post-season.  In university soccer the competitive season is relatively short (16 games spread over only about 8 weeks or 2 months).  By the time the post-season starts, players will likely be very tired from the stress and load associated with playing an average of 2, and sometime up to 4, 90-minute games per week.  For these reasons, fitness coaches need to be extra careful about the training loads administered to players during the post-season.

One method of training I have found to be particularly useful is low-intensity plyometric training.  Plyometrics comprise jumping exercises, aimed at activating the stretch-shortening cycle in the major leg muscles.  The stretch-shortening cycle is a mechanism that functions based on the following simple principle – the quicker a muscle or group of muscles is stretched, the more powerful the resulting muscular contraction will be.  When applied to plyometric training, the stretch-shortening cycle is best activated by having athletes perform a series of repeated jumps, focusing on minimizing the time that the feet are in contact with the ground (thus speeding up the “stretch” phase of the stretch-shortening cycle).  This type of training is effective during post-season because it focuses on the neuromuscular system – helping players to speed up their feet for sprinting and jumping – without a very high training load.

Of course, if the plyometric exercises are too intense, the training load may still be too high.  The intensity of plyometric exercises can be controlled by controlling the number of jumps, and also by watching the distance or heigh of the jumps and landings.  As a general rule, a lower number of jumps and/or shorter jump and landing distances will result in less intensity and less total training load.  For the university post-season, I like to focus on very small and quick jumps, with work periods of 10-15 seconds followed by rest periods of 30-60 seconds.  Below is a video example of this type of ‘quick feet’ plyometric exercises:

And a simple workout protocol that can be used following warm-up, in the first 10-15 minutes of a post-season training session:

  • 1 x 15 seconds 2-feet forward/backward hops
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 x 15 seconds 2-feet side/side hops
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 x 10 seconds each foot of 1-foot forward/backwards hops
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 1 x 10 seconds each of 1-foot side/side hops
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 1 x 15 seconds 2-feet forward/backward hops
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 x 15 seconds 2-feet side/side hops

Coaches and fitness coaches of elite level soccer players should consider low-intensity plyometric workouts such as these for use during pre-season, or other periods of the season where neuromuscular training with a low training load is warranted.  I have had great results with these workouts and you will also!

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 28 – Heart Rate vs. RPE

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 a continuation of 2 previous blogs that discussed monitoring of game performance.  Previously, I had discussed the use of Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and heart rate monitors, to measure and quantify the intensity of training and games.  Today I will be discussing how to use the two different measures of intensity together.  When players report their RPE, they are answering the question “how was your workout” based on a 0-10 scale of intensity (0 being the lowest score, and 10 being the highest score).  Typically, players who are fitter will report lower RPE’s for the same relative workload than players who are less fit.

Heart rate monitors provide the most accurate measure of how hard a player has worked during a training session or game.  When considering the example given above, using heart rate monitors can ensure that the relative workload (expressed as percentage of a player’s maximum heart rate) is the same during specific training sessions, and they can also be used to check to see what the workload was during games.  As a general rule, players who have improved their fitness will report a lower RPE for a workout (training or game) at any given percentage of their maximum heart rate than they did with the same workout/workload prior to the improvement in fitness.

I have seen first hand how several players I have worked with have gradually been able to handle a higher training intensity (measured using heart rate monitors) and still report the same and/or lower RPE’s in their perceived measure of intensity.  Fitness coaches working with elite level soccer players should consider the use of use both RPE and heart rate monitors, if possible, for the most accurate measurements of intensity of training sessions and games.

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