Fundamental Youth Soccer

Why Do Professionals Train?

by Conditioning Coach Tom Phillips

A player wrote:
My name is Ann-Marie and I am 16 years old and I am studying sports science. I was wondering if you could help me as I need to find some information on why professioinals train, what effects it has and some examples of training methods they use. I would be extremely grateful if you could help me.
Yours Sincerely, Ann-Marie Jackson

The effects various training protocols have on athletes is a partial description of the college course called “exercise physiology”. It even has reached the level of a stand-alone major at some institutions. At the cell level, scientists call adaptations to a stress that are taking place as a result of training. One of the reasons we mammals are the dominant life form on the planet is our ability to adapt to our environment. Everything you do causes an adaptation. If you study, you get smart. If you overeat, you get fat. When you do physical training your body adapts in very specific ways depending on the nature of the training. This could turn into a very long discussion, but let me outline a few adaptations, and give you some suggested reading if you are still hungry for knowledge.

Training methods can be thought of as being part of two general groups, aerobic and anaerobic. The central dogma linking both is the overload principle. If your training is too easy, it will not have a training effect, and the desired adaptations will not occur. Training must be difficult, but not so difficult as to cause injury. Here are the characteristic adaptations of each:

AEROBIC – You are exercising aerobically when you are below an intensity level that many sports scientists call the anaerobic threshold. The anaerobic threshold, (AT), simply put, is the exercise intensity that is too high for your aerobic energy system to meet your energy needs, and causes you to dip into your anaerobic energy reserves. The adaptations aerobic training causes are:

  • Increased red blood cell concentration
  • Increased numbers of mitochondria in the exercised muscles
  • Increased numbers of capillaries in the exercised muscles
  • Anaerobic threshold, expressed as a percent of the maximum rate of oxygen delivery
  • Lower resting heart rate, this is because the heart improves its pumping capacity, therefore not needing to pump as fast under non-stressful conditions
  • Increased myoglobin content in skeletal muscles.
  • It increases the ability to use fat for fuel.
  • Muscle fibers change to suit the demands of endurance exercise.
  • Total blood volume increases – it increased maximum cardiac output and the ability to extract oxygen from the bloodstream

ANAEROBIC – Anaerobic exercise occurs when someone is working too hard for the aerobic system to supply the body¹s needs. The anaerobic system supplies the difference between what the aerobic system can deliver, and the need, but at a price. Whereas the supply of energy from the aerobic system is basically limitless for the purposes of a soccer player, the anaerobic system has definite limits to its ability to supply energy. Also, used continuously, the anaerobic system produces a byproduct, lactic acid, that will eventually make you slow down to a recovery pace. The adaptations anaerobic training causes are

  • Increased levels of anaerobic enzymes
  • Muscle hypertrophy (your muscles get bigger)
  • Increased neural recruitment of muscle fibers (individual muscle cells learn to work together to produce more force)
  • Increased ability to tolerate high levels of blood lactic acid
  • Increased level of energy substrates
  • Muscle fibers change to suit the demands of strength & power exercise