Implementing High-speed Running and Sprinting Training in Professional Soccer


Soccer is characterized by repeated high-intensity actions performed throughout a match, interspersed with low-intensity recovery periods (Mohr et al., 2005). Players regularly cover total distances ranging between 10–13 km, with about 10% being travelled at high-speed running (HSR) and sprinting, (Mohr et al., 2005). Although HSR and sprinting together account for only a small percentage of the total distance covered during matches, these efforts are considered of fundamental importance for competition outcomes and soccer-specific fitness training (Di Salvo et al., 2009). Consistent increases in HSR and sprinting actions performed during matches have been observed over the past few years (Bush et al., 2015). The physiological responses and associated metabolic and mechanical adaptations induced by HSR and sprinting efforts may have a key role for the long-term physical development and overall athletic performance of soccer players (Buchheit and Laursen, 2013). Therefore, HSR and sprinting distances should not be considered exclusively as surrogate parameters of aerobic and anaerobic-related performance, but also as an adequate stimulus for positive neuromuscular adaptations (Malone et al., 2018).


This commentary aimed to summarize the current evidence regarding HSR and sprint training in soccer, elucidating aspects related to their applications in both research and practical settings.


After analyzing the literature regarding the implementation of HSR and sprinting training in professional soccer players, the authors reported that:

  1. Short sprinting distances (<30m) can be used to develop acceleration capabilities, but longer distances are needed to provide positive adaptations related to sprinting exposure (≥ 25 km.h-1).
  2. Medium and large small-sided game formats can be used to ensure HSR and sprinting exposure.
  3. Field-based drills and sprint training may be preferable alternative methods due to the reduced variability in player responses and the ease with which intensity can be controlled.
  4. Implementation of HSR and sprinting training should be based on starting status (e.g., starters and non-starters) and match position demands in order to optimize recovery and athletic performance.


Both HSR and sprinting training play important roles in the development of physical capabilities and sport-specific performance of soccer players. This commentary summarized the scientific rationale, monitoring evidence and practical recommendations for HSR and sprinting training in professional soccer.


  • HSR and sprinting training are of key importance to prepare players to cope well with the increasing demands of modern soccer.
  • A match per se already provides strong HSR and sprinting stimuli and should be accounted during the implementation of these training strategies.
  • High intensity interval and sprint training and small-sided games of medium and large formats are recommended to ensure adequate stimulus to improve both HSR and sprinting capacities.
  • The implementation of these strategies should take into account the players characteristics, season phase, and match schedule.

Buchheit, M., & Laursen, P. B. (2013). High-Intensity Interval Training, Solutions to the Programming Puzzle: Part II: Anaerobic Energy, Neuromuscular Load and Practical Applications. Sports Medicine, 43(10), 927.

Bush, M., Barnes, C., Archer, D. T., Hogg, B., & Bradley, P. S. (2015). Evolution of match performance parameters for various playing positions in the English Premier League. Human movement science, 39, 1-11.

Di Salvo, V., Gregson, W., Atkinson, G., Tordoff, P., & Drust, B. (2009). Analysis of high intensity activity in Premier League soccer. International journal of sports medicine, 30(3), 205-212.

Malone, S., Owen, A., Mendes, B., Hughes, B., Collins, K., & Gabbett, T. J. (2018). High-speed running and sprinting as an injury risk factor in soccer: Can well-developed physical qualities reduce the risk? Journal of science and medicine in sport, 21(3), 257-262.

Mohr, M., Krustrup, P., & Bangsbo, J. (2005). Fatigue in soccer: a brief review. Journal of sports sciences, 23(6), 593-599.