In-season training load quantification of one-, two- and three-game week schedules in a top European professional soccer team
Abstract Top European soccer teams that play in UEFA competitions often participate in one, two- or three-games per week. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure optimal match-day performance and full recovery. The aim of this study was to quantify internal and external training load (TL) within five microcycles: M1 and M2 – one-game weeks; M3 and M4 – two-game weeks; M5 – three-game week). Thirteen elite soccer players participated in this study. A global positioning system (GPS) was used to measure the total distance covered and distances of different exercise training zones (1–5), the session ratings of perceived exertion (s-RPE) scores and the amount of creatine kinase (CK) created during daily training sessions for the 2015–2016 in-season period. The data were analysed with respect to the number of days prior to a given match. The main results indicate that there was a significant difference in training intensity for zone 1 between M2 and M4 (4010.2 ± 103.5 and 4507.6 ± 133.0 m, respectively); a significant difference in training intensity for zone 3 between M1 and M5 (686.1 ± 42.8 and 801.2 ± 61.2 m, respectively); a significant difference in the duration of the training sessions and matches between M2 and M5 (69.2 ± 2.1 and 79.6 ± 2.3) and M3 and M5 (69.7 ± 1.0 and 79.6 ± 2.3); and finally, there was a significant difference in CK between M3 and M2 (325.5 ± 155.0 and 194.4 ± 48.9). Moreover, there was a significant decrease in TL in the last day prior to a match, for all microcycles and all variables. There was no significant difference with respect to s-RPE. This study provides the first report of daily external and internal TLs and weekly accumulated load (training sessions and match demands) during one, two, and three-game week schedules in a group of elite soccer players. Expected significant differences are found in daily and accumulated loads for within- and between-game schedules. A similar pattern is exhibited for one- and two-game week microcycles regarding the day before the match, which exhibits a decrease in all variables. Despite the different number of games played per week, TL remain similar between microcycles for zone 2 and 5, plus s-RPE.