What Are the Best Interval Running Workouts for Enhancing Speed in Pro Soccer Players?

April 8, 2024

Soccer, also known as football in other parts of the world, is a high intensity sport that requires excellent physical fitness. The game demands endurance, speed, strength, and aerobic capacity from its players. High performance in soccer is not just about technical skill and strategy, but also about physical prowess. One of the crucial components of this physical aspect is speed. Speed allows players to outrun their opponents, sprint towards the ball faster, and evade defensive setups. One of the proven methods to enhance speed and overall fitness in soccer players is through interval running workouts.

Incorporating Interval Running Workouts into Soccer Training

Interval running workouts involve short bursts of high-intensity running interspersed with periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. These workouts are designed to increase your speed, endurance, and aerobic capacity, making them perfect for pro soccer players.

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Unlike steady-state cardio, interval running workouts push your body to its limits in short, intense bursts. This not only challenges your muscles and cardiovascular system but also stimulates your body’s natural repair processes, leading to improved strength and endurance over time.

The idea is to progressively increase the intensity and duration of the high-intensity periods, while also decreasing the recovery time. This gradually pushes your body to its limits, forcing it to adapt and improve.

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High-Intensity Interval Running

High-intensity interval running is a more rigorous form of interval running that involves short, intense bursts of running at near-maximum effort, followed by brief, low-intensity periods of recovery.

The combination of high-intensity bursts and short recovery periods helps to increase your heart rate, push your aerobic capacity, and stimulate your muscles for growth and repair. Over time, this leads to improved speed, endurance, and overall fitness.

One example of a high-intensity interval running workout is the 30 second sprint, 30 seconds rest routine. This involves sprinting at maximum effort for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of slow jogging or walking. Repeat this cycle 10-15 times for a complete workout.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek training is a form of interval running that combines continuous running with speed play. Originating from Sweden, the word Fartlek translates to "speed play."

Unlike traditional interval running workouts, Fartlek training is unstructured and varies in intensity and duration. You may sprint for 200 meters, then jog for 500 meters, then sprint again for a kilometer.

The key to Fartlek training is to mix it up and keep your body guessing. This unpredictability is similar to the conditions of a soccer game, where players must adapt to varying intensities and situations. Fartlek training can improve both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, enhancing your speed, endurance, and overall game performance.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs, also known as threshold runs, involve running at a "comfortably hard" pace for a set duration. The aim is to increase your anaerobic threshold, which is the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in your muscles. By increasing this threshold, you can run faster and longer before fatigue sets in.

Tempo runs usually last for 20-40 minutes and are performed at a pace that you could maintain for about an hour in a race. They should be challenging, but not so hard that you can’t sustain the pace.

Incorporating tempo runs into your training can help to improve your speed and endurance, as well as your body’s ability to clear lactic acid. This can lead to improved performance on the soccer field, especially during prolonged periods of high-intensity play.

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints are a form of high-intensity interval running workout that involves sprinting up a hill or incline, then jogging or walking back down for recovery.

The incline adds an extra challenge to the workout, forcing your muscles to work harder and pushing your cardiovascular system. This can lead to improved strength, power, and speed over time.

Hill sprints are particularly effective for soccer players, as they mimic the explosive bursts of speed and power required in the game. They can also help to improve your running form and efficiency, which can translate to better performance on the field.

Keep in mind that while interval running workouts can significantly improve your speed, they are just one aspect of soccer training. It’s important to also focus on other areas of fitness, such as strength, flexibility, and technical skill, in order to become a well-rounded player.

Remember, the key to effective training is consistency, progression, and recovery. Always listen to your body and give it adequate time to rest and recover between workouts. This not only prevents injury but also ensures that your body has time to adapt and improve.

Importance of Strength Conditioning in Interval Running Workouts

Apart from high intensity, interval running workouts for soccer players, it is crucial to also focus on strength conditioning. Strength conditioning is a training method designed to increase one’s power, speed and endurance, which are directly relevant to soccer performance.

In football players, strength conditioning mainly focuses on the lower body and core muscles, since these are the primary areas engaged in running, kicking, and maintaining balance. Exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, planks, and box jumps can be included in the strength conditioning routine.

Furthermore, strength conditioning can also enhance speed endurance. Speed endurance is the ability to maintain high-speed running over prolonged periods. When combined with interval running, it can significantly improve a soccer player’s performance on the field.

Strength conditioning, combined with interval training, can lead to overall improvements in acceleration, sprint speed, and agility. It is essential to note that strength conditioning should be tailored to an individual’s fitness level and goals, ensuring it complements the high-intensity interval running workouts.

Lastly, strength conditioning should not be overlooked as it contributes to injury prevention. Strengthening the muscles and connective tissues leads to enhanced stability and better body mechanics, reducing the risk of injury during games and training sessions.


To conclude, interval running workouts – including high-intensity interval running, Fartlek training, tempo runs and hill sprints – are highly effective in enhancing speed in pro soccer players. They increase heart rate, push aerobic capacity, and stimulate muscular growth and repair.

Inclusion of strength conditioning is also crucial as it complements interval training, enriching speed endurance, power, and injury prevention. However, remember that these types of training should be adjusted to the individual abilities and goals of each athlete, making them both challenging and manageable.

Training intensity and duration should be increased progressively, with adequate recovery periods, to push the body safely to its limits. A well-structured and consistent training regime, complemented with strength conditioning and interval running workouts, can lead to substantial improvements in soccer performance.

Always remember that proper training and recovery not only enhance performance but also prevent injury. Hence, it is important to listen to your body, giving it ample time to rest and recover after workouts. Regular monitoring of performance, adjustments to training routines, and a focus on nutrition can all contribute to the creation of a well-rounded and superior soccer player.

The findings mentioned in this article were cross-referenced with data from reliable sources such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and Sports Med. Research continues to evolve and it is recommended to stay updated for the most effective training methods.