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I've wondered, is 1 month of rest enough to recuperate from such a demanding league as the Premiership? Both mentally and physically...

“Insight” - The F A Coaches Association Journal 60 Off-Season Conditioning Barry Drust

The English football season runs from the

middle of August to the middle of May.

During this 10-month period successful

players can play in a large number of

competitive matches (between 50 and

60). Players will also be required to train

throughout the season in order to maintain

their match performance. Over the course

of a season these requirements will result

in players experiencing a high degree of

fatigue. Such fatigue will be particularly

evident at the end of the competitive

season. The fatigue experienced by players

at this time is not just physical in nature.

Repeated exposure to both competition

and training is accompanied by a high

degree of psychological stress that can lead

to mental fatigue. There is not yet a clear

explanation of the physiology underlying

this phenomenon. Such high levels of

fatigue must be addressed or players will be

unable to compete or train at the required

level resulting in reductions in the overall

performance of the team.

The months of May (following the

completion of the season), June and July

(prior to pre-season training) offer an

opportunity to provide players with the rest

they require to prevent staleness occurring.

This time period is traditionally known as

the “off-season”. A common approach

to the off-season period in football is to

encourage the player to rest completely. On

initial inspection such approaches seem to

provide the necessary conditions required

for both physiological and psychological

recovery as the stress of both competition

and training have been removed. There

are, however, a number of limitations to

such approaches. The sudden interruption

of training will lead to a large loss of fi tness.

This will result in players returning for preseason

training with a reduced capability

to perform. Evidence for such reductions

in fi tness come from research studies

completed on Danish players (Bangsbo,

1994). Figure 1 shows the reduction in

endurance capacity associated with a 3-

week period of inactivity.

Figure 1 Column C shows the players’

performance following a period of retraining

(4 weeks) completed after the

3-week rest. The players’ fi tness does

not return to the level attained during the

season, even following this intervention.

As a consequence of these reductions in

fi tness the fi rst few weeks of pre-season

will have to focus on returning the players

to their previous performance levels. Such

strategies are an ineffective use of the limited

time available to prepare players for the new

season. They are also counter-productive to

the long-term development of an individual

player’s fi tness. It is not unusual for other

athletic events to require a continuous

improvement in fi tness from year to year.

In such sports the off-season period is seen

as a transition or link between two annual

training plans rather than a period simply

for rest and regeneration. Such approaches

help to ensure the continued development

of a player’s physical attributes rather than a

repeating cycle of changes in fi tness.

associated changes in body composition. It

is also common for such periods of inactivity

to be linked with excessive alcohol intake.

Together these factors will further affect

both the physical and psychological ability

of players to complete the required efforts

on their return for pre-season training.

Alternative strategies from periods of

complete inactivity are, therefore, required

for the off-season period. The basis of such

strategies is the maintenance of physical

activity throughout the off-season period.

The use of “active” rest strategies during

this period will still permit players to have

suffi cient rest and regeneration. The

recovery processes will take place without

the decrease in fi tness that is associated

with complete rest. Psychological and

physiological recovery will, however, only

be achieved if the exercise is of a different

nature to that used during the regular

season and is of a suitable volume and

intensity to maintain fi tness.

Figure 1 Endurance capacity of a group of Danish football players during the season (Column A), after

3 weeks of complete rest (Column B) and after 4 weeks of re-training completed after the 3 week rest

(Column C). Values are expressed in relation to the level obtained during the season (100 %). Adapted

from Bangsbo (1994).

Strategies that encourage complete rest can

also lead to other changes in the habits of

players. Reductions in energy expenditure

are not always associated with reductions in

energy intake. Such nutritional strategies

can lead to unwanted gains in body mass and

Altering the nature of the exercise can be

done in many ways. Changes can be made

to the type of activity that is incorporated

into training (eg basketball or hockey instead

of football; cycling, rowing or swimming

instead of running), the environment used





Issue 1 - Volume 6 Winter 2002 61

for training sessions (eg indoors instead of

outdoors), the overall aim of the session (eg

fun instead of preparation for competition)

and the exercise pattern that dominates

(continuous activity rather than exercise

of an intermittent pattern). It may also

be advantageous for players to complete

their training either individually or in small

groups away from the club and at their own

discretion (instead of a formally organised

session). These changes will alter both

the daily routine of the competitive season

and the player’s perceptions of training,

thereby providing a stimulating yet relaxing

environment for those involved.

The volume and intensity of training should

be carefully planned throughout the offseason

period. During the fi rst week

both the volume and intensity of training

should be progressively reduced from that

undertaken during the season. This gradual

reduction in training helps to prevent the

physiological disruptions (such as loss of

sleep, motivation and appetite) that can

accompany abrupt changes in training load.

Following this initial decrease the intensity

and volume of training should be elevated

slightly in order to maintain the player’s

level of fi tness. As pre-season approaches

these training parameters can be increased

further in order to ensure that all players are

fully prepared for the work to be completed

in pre-season. Table 1 provides some

guidelines for the prescription of training

during the off-season period.

The aerobic energy pathway should be the

dominant energy system that is targeted

for all training sessions included in the

off-season period. Anaerobic exercise

requires high levels of both physiological

and psychological effort. Such efforts

may only serve to limit the recovery and

regeneration processes that are needed.

Careful consideration of the exercise : rest

ratios (if the activity is intermittent in nature)

incorporated in the sessions, in conjunction

with an evaluation of the activity performed

by players will ensure that the appropriate

intensity is not exceeded.

The off-season can also provide an

opportunity for strength training to be reintroduced

into a players training schedule.

This will allow players the opportunity to

become familiarised with the technical and

physiological requirements of such training

prior to pre-season when intensive strength

work is carried out. It may also afford an

opportunity for dedicated strength training

programmes to be implemented with

players who have recognised strength

related weaknesses. The principles used to

regulate strength training in the off-season

are similar to those for aerobic training. Little

if any strength work should be incorporated

into sessions in the weeks immediately

following the competitive season. Both

the volume and intensity should then be

systematically increased throughout the

remainder of the off-season period.

Bangsbo, J (1994) Fitness training in

football: A scientifi c approach. Bagsvaerd:

HO and Storm.

Dr Barry Drust is a Senior Lecturer in Applied

Sports Science at Liverpool John Moores

University. He previously spent three years

working as an Exercise Physiologist at a

Premier League Football Club.

Start of

off-season period

Middle of



End of

off-season period

Frequency of sessions

(per week) 1 - 3 2 - 3 3 - 4

Intensity of sessions

(% of max. heart rate


65 80 80


(min) 20 - 60 20 - 60 20 – 90

Table 1 Guidelines for the prescription of training in the off-season period

Traditional approaches to the off-season

that advocate complete rest are not suitable

for the modern football player. Off-season

periods should be viewed as a “bridge”

between two competitive seasons thereby

ensuring a continuation of the physical

development of players. The off-season

should be characterised by maintenance

of activity in which rest and regeneration is

encouraged by a change in the nature and

the volume and intensity of activity.

Further Reading

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I've wondered, is 1 month of rest enough to recuperate from such a demanding league as the Premiership? Both mentally and physically...

Most people (lucky enough to have a job) have to WORK 40 hours a week 52 weeks a year.

Where's the problem with PLAYING football or warming the bench for 90 minutes once a week. (maybe twice a week) for 10 months of the year.

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I was at that game. Was only about 13 at the time, but I remember Xavi and Overmars being the best players on the pitch.

I remember Nathan Blake being the best player on show!

I was hoping that Barca might put a sneaky bid in!

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Anyone remember MGP's shocking miss last time we played Huddersfield?

I was there that day and it was a quite simply incredible miss. If I remember correctly, the ball came accross the face of goal to Pedersen who was completely unmarked at the back stick, but with the goal at his mercy, he flicked the ball up before driving it wide. Incredible.

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Rover Down Under

Premier League


Members Posts: 350


23-February 07 Twitter:That's the missus job Location:Adelaide, Australia Posted 23 May 2010 - 16:44 PM

Was getting worried as pre-season games were being planned by Rovers in July when this tourny is supposed to be on. Anyway I've heard there should be an official announcement by the end of this week, proposed dates are 25th, 28th and 31st July and the NSW State Govt are the ones holding it all up...

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