Strength & Conditioning Coach, Sport Scientist and Technologist
Football/Soccer Monitoring

Loading patterns and programming practices in elite football: insights from 100 elite practitioners

14 December 2021

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Loading patterns and programming practices in elite football: insights from 100 elite practitioners

Buchheit M, Sandua M, Berndsen J, Shelton A, Smith S, Norman D, McHugh D and Hader K. Loading patterns and programming practices in elite football: insights from 100 elite practitioners. Sports Performance & Science Reports, Nov, 2021, V1.

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In sport, programming physical training contents alongside technical and tactical sequences is supposed to be an easy practice, especially when you have been doing this for a long time. If you’re working with Olympic sports and preparing for some annual competition, there are a lot of resources in terms of training programming and periodization (Bompa & Haff, 2019), and much that can be done to develop athletes to reach their maximum potential. In team sports, competing for 6 to 10 months throughout the year however, the current practice and approach in terms of planning is dramatically different and can vary widely from team to team.

While there are some informative data now available on programming practices in soccer (Castillo et al., 2019; Chena et al., 2021; Clemente et al., 2019; Hannon et al, 2021; Los Arcos et al., 2017; Malone et al., 2015; Mateus et al., 2021; Martín-García et al., 2018; Nobari et al., 2021; Oliveira et al, 2019), these are generally representative of single club practices and only provide quantitative information (e.g., external load dynamic based on GPS). Unfortunately the reasoning behind the choice and the drivers for content selection are never reported in these descriptive studies. In fact, there is little consensus and very few comprehensive resources available about best programming practices and the elements to be considered when programming the microcycles in team sports (Kyprianou, 2019). We thought that the best way to start filling this gap was to start questioning what people were actually doing in practice. We designed a simple survey to help us uncover the main tendencies within football (soccer), and allow us to derive some programming practices and loading patterns guidelines on a more general level. Having clear objectives, processes and systems to automate the programming of various microcycles (i.e., in relation to match turnovers) is likely beneficial for both staff – less cognitive load and less time needed to program – and players – optimal contents should help to keep them fit, healthy and competitive (Buchheit, 2020).

The aim of the present manuscript is to provide for the first time the actual loading periodization and session contents programming practices of hundreds of elite practitioners collected using a large-scale online survey.

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