Blog Series: Concepts About Soccer Conditioning – By Pablo Toledo

Pablo Toledo is the Coach Development Department Leader. He holds multiple coaching licenses as well a Ms. In Sports Training, specializing in Soccer & Futsal Conditioning. 


I remember taking my first couple of coaching courses in the USA and thinking “How am I supposed to organize a preseason based on this?”. To the date, I still think we do a poor job in teaching physical education to our coaches. Realistically, this is non-existent until you reach your C license, in which you’re only requested to watch a 1 hour webinar on periodization.

That means to me that most coaches run years of sessions and conditioning periods not knowing at all what they’re doing, and that’s a problem, especially because many have what I call “The Rocky Balboa Syndrome” and believe that conditioning is about destroying the players for three hours, sending them home devastated and calling them to practice the following day to train even harder, while they see them show up almost limping, and maybe even feeling proud because a couple parents love the idea that “the coach is tough”, until the inevitable happens…


You know who the slowest player on a field is?

The one that’s injured.


This is why, starting today, I’ll be posting a series of conditioning related posts, and I really hope these posts stick, because it will help many players and avoid many injuries.


Let’s start from the very beginning. 

The first thing that a coach must understand is that there are 5 principles that any and every conditioning school validates as truth, that are:

  1. Adaptability / Overcompensation: This is the capacity of our bodies to adapt, through the right stimulus, to a physical demand. This is why your biceps muscle get bigger and stronger if you do curls every day. Training (curls in this case) is the new / more demanding stimulus that your biceps progressively adapt to in order to perform the action more efficiently.
  2. Overload: Overload means that a stimulus has to represent an overload of the current capacity to generate new adaptations. Imagine that you run marathons frequently. Now let’s suppose that you go on a 2 minutes slow run. That’s not an overload, as your body is already capable of doing that very efficiently (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it for other purposes, it only means is not an overload). Now, here comes something extremely important to understand: new overloads have to be increased in 5 – 10% of the current capacity. More than that increases the risk of injury exponentially. Example: imagine that you’re not in good shape and decide to start lifting weights at the gym after 15 years of sedentary lifestyle. Would you start by going to the gym for 4 hours and trying to lift 500 pounds on your first day? No, because you would hurt yourself, or be out for excessive fatigue and pain for a month before returning to the gym. That would be a horrible training plan, right?. Then, why do we try to do that to our players? They come back after the off season, sometimes out of shape, and our best idea is to have them train like harder than ever on the first day like we need to break them. What’s the benefit of that? None.
  3. Specificity: The word says it all. If you want to be a soccer player, you have to train soccer specific movements and capacities. Soccer professionals sometimes we do weird things. We see players sent to train cross country in the mountain and a very sophisticated coach proudly preaching that “well it’s hard training, and they increase their VO2 max by it”. Interesting, because I’ve never seen a cross country professional train for the Olympics playing soccer, nor a swimmer do it boxing. If you want to perform as a soccer player, you have to perform overloads of soccer specific movements, as your body will adapt to them specifically as well. Careful, that doesn’t mean this is all you should do. Other disciplines can be useful for cross training, for example, but make sure you understand what the core of your preparation needs to be, and this last means you need to understand in depth what the physical demands of the sport are! (I’ll explain this in further detail on a second post).
  4. Individuality: This principle means that you and I and the guy next to us we are different and therefore we have different capacities, and we also might be (most likely) starting from different baselines. Imagine coach says “Let’s run 3 miles in 30 minutes” or “let’s do 4 series of 20 push ups with 1 minute rest periods”, is that appropriate for the player in the best shape? Is it creating the right overload? Maybe that’s too much, or maybe that’s too little. And what about the player that’s in the worst shape? Are you sure that’s not over the 10% overload recommended and you’re not risking a player getting injured?. I know you’re thinking “ok, but how do you want me to calculate the right overload for my 25 players when I’m the only one coaching?” How to do this is one of greatest secrets of conditioning that we’ll learn through this program.
  5. Reversible: This means that “if you don’t use it, you lose it!”. Reversible means that if the physical demand is discontinued, your body also readjusts to the lower levels. That’s why, when you stop going to the gym you get skinny again over time.


Let’s stop here for now. First checkpoint and let’s make sure we understand this well.

In the next couple of posts we are going to cover:


  • Soccer Specific Physical Demands & How To Train Them
  • How To Calculate Loads Based On An Individual Optimization Model
  • What’s Periodization And How To Apply it?
  • Injury Prevention Fundamentals, Protocols, and How To Apply them?
  • Warm Up & Stretching Principles & Applications.
  • Recovery Therapies
  • Nutritional Tips
  • How To Design a Pre Season For Soccer!


Thanks for tuning in, coach!