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Blog / 2015 / January / Using Heart Rate Monitoring In Soccer: Part Two
January 20, 2015

Using Heart Rate Monitoring In Soccer: Part Two

In Part One of this post, we explored the physical demands of soccer & how that relates to heart rate demand during gameplay. 

There are numerous ways to train to improve aerobic capacity for soccer athletes. Aerobic capacity is determined by measuring ones maximum oxygen consumption, commonly referred to as VO2max. Training methods can vary based on the season as well as based on player's position. Having feedback from heart rate monitoring can also be extremely valuable for athletes during the off-season. How do we get our athletes to arrive more fit and ready for pre-season? What training programs should we be suggesting during off-season? Let's examine how a heart rate monitoring system will aid in responding to these questions.

There are two broad categories for endurance exercise training among soccer athletes. These include interval-training done at a high intensity (> 80%HRmax) with recovery intervals, or long, slow, distance training done at a moderate intensity (60 to 80% HRmax). Because soccer is a sport played continuously, athletes experience periods of both high and low intensity. More specifically, athletes may cover up to anywhere from 8 to 10 km per game but how they cover this distance varies based on position. For example, analysis of first division Brazilian players showed that midfielders and outside defenders covered greater distances than forwards and central defenders.5 Because these distances range across varying intensities and that a soccer players heart rate averages 80-90% HRmax, interval training is often is regarded as a preferred method of improving aerobic fitness.

Training Method Protocol
Long slow distance running 70% HRmax for 45 minutes4
80% HRmax for 40 minutes7
Lactate threshold running 85% HRmax4
15/15 interval running 15-s at 90-95% HRmax, 15-s at 70% HRmax4
4 x 4-min interval running 4-min at 90-95% HRmax, 3 min recovery at 70% HRmax4
30-s x 4-min interval running 30-s all out sprint, 4-min recovery until HR reaches 60% HRmax4
Hoff Test 8-min course done with soccer ball6
Small sided games 3v38

While there are multiple ways to perform aerobic training for soccer, numerous methods have been shown to have successful results in a range of athletes of varying ability levels. We found that training using intervals (five 30-s sprints, 4.5-min of recovery versus long slow distance for 40 minutes at 80% of HRmax method) provides similar results. Our results were supported by other research3 that also found no differences in fitness levels among those athletes who trained HIIT or those who trained LSD. One major difference is that long slow distance training in our study was performed at 80% HRmax which is 10% higher than the 70% HRmax used in the protocols by Helgerud et al.

By using recovery tracking and implementing a four-week off-season program of soccer players performing either long slow distance or high intensity interval training, our athletes improved measures of aerobic performance. Feedback from the Team2 was used to ensure compliance and consistency of training intensities. This was captured by allowing athletes to use the heart rate monitors in an off season training mode. You can see from the one curve that a player was running for approximately 40 minutes at 80% HRmax. The second curve shows the sprinting bouts and the player's ability to recover during the sprints. Athletes also wore watches to receive immediate individual feedback to ensure running was at 80% HRmax or for the other group, athletes could better gauge their recovery by seeing their heart rate.

Figure 8. Heart rate tracking for player performing long slow distance training

Figure 9. Heart rate tracking for player performing high-intensity interval training

Recently, we have begun implementing more soccer specific training as a method to increase aerobic performance through the use of a field test developed by Jan Hoff.6 We have been able to elicit 80-100% HRmax responses in the course of an 8-minute test with a soccer ball dribbled around this designed course (see Figure 10). Through use of the Team2 system, and constant HR monitoring, please see two examples of both a fit and un-fit athlete as they completed the 8-minute phase of the Hoff test. Heart rate values were in a range similar to what is seen on the soccer field. Besides the time course of each athlete increasing heart rate throughout the Hoff test, you can also see a difference in the drop in heart rate following the conclusion of the Hoff test by comparing Figure 11 and 12.

Figure 10. Hoff Test diagram. Backwards running takes place between cones A and B.

Figure 11. Heart rate curve for a fit player during the Hoff Test

Figure 12. Heart rate curve for an unfit player during the Hoff Test

In conclusion, there are multiple training methods to increase aerobic capacity. We hope that by presenting these methods and providing examples of the data that is possible with the Team2 system is both informative and helpful in developing and assessing the fitness of your athletes.

Kimberly Kostelis is an associate professor and department chair in the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance at Central Connecticut State University. Kim teaches graduate and undergraduate courses including Research Methods and Measurement and Evaluation in Exercise Science. Kim received her undergraduate degree from McDaniel College, Westminster, MD and completed both her masters and doctorate at Springfield College, Springfield, MA.


Jason Melnyk is an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Education and Human Performance at Central Connecticut State University. Jason teaches graduate and undergraduate courses including Advanced Exercise Physiology, Theories of Strength & Conditioning, and Training for Sports Performance. Jason received his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology from the University of Delaware and completed his masters at the University of Maryland. He holds a doctorate in muscle physiology from Virginia Tech. Jason is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist with 10 years of personal training experience.

1. Krustrup, P., Zebis, M., Jensen, J. M. & Mohr, M. Game-Induced Fatigue Patterns in Elite Female Soccer. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24, 437-441 (2010).

2. Alexandre, D. et al. Heart Rate Monitoring in Soccer. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 26, 2890-2906 (2012).

3. Rowan, A. E., Kueffner, T. E., & Tavrianes, S. Short Duration High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Aerobic Conditioning of Female College Soccer Players. International Journal of Exercise Science 5(3), 232-238. (2012).

4. Helgerud, J., Hoydal, K., Wang, E., Karlse, T., Berg, P., Bjerkaas, M., Simonsens, T., Helgesen, C., Hjorth, N, Bach, R., Hoff, J. Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2max More Than Moderate Training. Med Sci Sports Exersc 39(4), 665-671 (2007).

5. Barros, R.M.L., Misuta, M.S., Menezes, R.P, Figueroa P.J., Moura, F.A., Cunha, S.A., Anido, R., Leite, N.J. Analysis of the Distances Covered by First Division Brazilian Soccer Players Obtained with an Automatic Tracking Method. J Sports Sci Med 6(2): 233-242 (2007).

6. Hoff J., Wisløff U., Engen, L. C., Kemi, O. J., & Helgerud, J. Soccer specific aerobic endurance training. Br J Sports Med. Jun;36(3):218-21 (2002).

7. Melnyk J. A., Kostelis, K. Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Long Duration Training on Performance in College Soccer Players. Med Sci Sports Exersc 46(5S), 956. (2014)

8. Ngo, J.K., Tsui, M., Smith, A. W., Carling, C. Chan, G., & Wong, D. P. The effects of man-marking on work intensity in small-sided soccer games. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 11, 109-114. (2012).

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