Soccer Specific Aerobic Endurance Training

Kristine Lilly puts her whole body into a strong run against Finland.
i Andy Lyons/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Aerobic endurance is important for you, as it is for the members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. This type of endurance enables you to simply run and run and run your way to potential victory. Retired soccer star Kristine Lilly, a model for dedicated endurance training, provides encouragement: She vowed that, while other players might shoot or pass better, “I’ll never let an opponent outrun me.”


During the season, you get excellent aerobic endurance from the games themselves. Aerobic conditioning occurs in matches as you jog and run, relying on oxygen for energy; anaerobic conditioning occurs during sprints, which rely on stored glycogen in the muscles. Practices involving small-sided games -- anywhere from 1v1 to 6v6 -- can further hone endurance. In the offseason, you can run for 30 minutes three times a week, advises Debra LaPrath, soccer coach and author of "Coaching Girls' Soccer Successfully." Add offseason cross-training with other sports, such as swimming, cycling, basketball or other team sports as well.


Testing helps you track progress over time. Good scores may indicate suitability as a midfielder or winger, positions with especially high demands for aerobic endurance. The best field test is the Cooper 12-minute run-walk test, which measures how much distance -- after warming up carefully -- you can cover in 12 minutes. For women younger than 30, 1 ¼ miles is average, 1 ½ miles is good and 1 ¾ miles or more is an excellent result. If you are trying to lose fat, don’t be too tough on yourself for obtaining a low result; staying with soccer will over time make you fitter.

Sprints and Games

Your training can include Fartleks, which involve intervals of jogging, running and sprinting. You can do this in your neighborhood, running to one telephone pole and jogging or strolling to the next, or on the soccer field, running across the width or length of the field and jogging back three or four times. You can also perform the 300-yard shuttle, by sprinting out and back to a cone on the 25-yard line of a sports field, with six repetitions and a full recovery before additional sets. Or play a 2v2+1 game, a two-versus game with a fifth player who wears a bright training vest and stays on offense with whichever team has possession. Switch out the fifth player frequently so everyone gets a chance to improve.

Endurance and Skills

You can also combine skills drills with endurance training. In the dribble and shoot drill, you dribble from the end line to the midfield, touch the ball to a teammate, and sprint back toward your starting point. Your teammate serves the ball to you where you can take a shot in goal. Continue for four repetitions and three sets, coach Greg Gatz recommends. Or play 1v1 games for maximum aerobic training and skills work.

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