Workload Monitoring in Top-level Soccer Players During Congested Fixture Periods


During a soccer match, “starters” typically cover distances between 10 − 13 km (Anderson et al., 2016). Players who do not start matches (i.e., non-starters) need to compensate for this lack of workload (WL) with additional training sessions, which can be planned at the end of the match or during following workouts. This will help players to maintain an adequate fitness level throughout the season. However, proposing higher WL, in particular high-speed running, could be complicated during congested fixture periods due to uncertainty regarding player selection and availability. Accordingly, sports scientists need to manage the WL with the dual purpose of training and ensuring players are available for selection. To date, information related to in-season internal and external WL in professional top-level soccer players during congested fixture periods is very limited.


To assess the internal and external WL of professional Italian Serie A starters and non-starters during congested fixture periods in-season.


After analyzing external and internal WL data during two mesocycles of 21 days (MC1 and MC2), each with six matches, the authors revealed that: 

  • Contrary to previously published data about a season-long analysis (Anderson et al., 2016), starters produced higher total exposure and total distance.
  • Non-significant between-groups differences were found for distance > 20 km.h-1in MC2 and distance > 25 km.h-1 in both MCs.
  • When distance > 80% of maximum velocity was analyzed, the differences between the two groups were moderate to large in MC1 and MC2, respectively.
  • Large to very large and significant differences were noticed for total exposure and internal training load between starters and non-starters.
  • In general, when comparing both groups, starters presented higher internal and external match loads, while non-starters experienced higher internal and external training loads.


This study reported that starters and non-starters were exposed to significantly different volumes of internal and external load during congested fixture periods. Data obtained through the monitoring of external and internal WL may be used to manage training sessions and to plan compensation drills between starters and non-starters.


  • Players’ individualized thresholds, especially for high-speed running distances, might be more sensitive to quantify external loads of soccer players.
  • More tailored training strategies should be implemented for non-starter players in order to better compensate the lower WL experienced in comparison to starters.
  • Special attention should be paid to training strategies capable of promoting greater demands in terms of high-intensity activities.
  • The main challenge for practitioners is to implement compensatory WL during congested fixtures in elite level soccer teams.

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Anderson, L., Orme, P., Di Michele, R., Close, G. L., Milsom, J., Morgans, R., … & Morton, J. P. (2016). Quantification of seasonal-long physical load in soccer players with different starting status from the English Premier League: implications for maintaining squad physical fitness. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(8), 1038-1046.