How Far Do You Run During a Soccer Game?

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As a young player, I once asked how far a soccer player ran during a game.

This guy from “the old country” said 10 miles. So I divided 10 miles by 90 minutes. To cover 10 miles would require a constant running pace of almost seven miles per hour and I knew intuitively that 10 miles couldn’t be correct.

Knowing how, and how far, a player runs is important in designing training programs and determining how far a player runs is very difficult.

First you have to videotape a game with a camera that doesn’t follow the ball. Then play it back while you focus on one player, recording every movement they make while estimating the pace and distance they run. Then rewind and do it all over again for the next player. Labor and time intensive is an understatement for these projects.

The first time-motion study over a full season was done on Everton FC (Liverpool, England) in the mid 1970s and the estimated distance covered was just under 8,800 meters per game.

Movement speeds were walking, jogging, cruising (‘running with manifest purpose and effort’), sprinting and backing.

About 2/3 of the distance was covered at the low intensities of walking and jogging and around 800 meters sprinting in numerous short 10-40 meter bursts.

A player was in control of the ball for an average of 200 meters for a whopping total of 90 seconds (that means you spend 88.5 minutes trying to get or keep someone from getting the ball).

Recording every change of speed and direction showed that there was some change in activity every 5-6 seconds. Subsequent work and maturation of the game has pushed this total distance up to around 10,000 meters for a men’s professional European game with the South American game being contested at a little less total running distance.

Midfielders run the most, central strikers and defenders the least. Don’t brag too much about the running volume–10,000 meters (six miles) in 90 minutes is four miles per hour, something a good power walker can do.

The physiological intensity of the game can be estimated one of those heart monitors you see joggers and cyclists wearing. The average heart rate for the full 90 minutes ranges between 150-170 beats per minute with very high values while sprinting and more moderate values when less involved in the game.

I remember charting one women’s national team member who averaged 185-190 beats per minute for the whole game.

One interesting observation that doesn’t take an “A” license to figure out: the most physically intense part of the game is while in control of the ball.

Your pulse rate goes up and lactic acid production (that heavy feeling in your legs you perceive after sprinting) increases. This is a primary reason why coaches sets up lots of small sided games that force players to be ‘on the ball’ far more often than during 11 v 11.

Generally, the women’s game is a little less running and at a slower pace (about 75 percent of the women’s game is at a walk/jog), but when conditions demand it, the women can cover just as much distance as the men.

And, realize that women have a smaller capacity, so when they cover the same distance as men playing the same game on the same field for the same time as men, they are working harder.

Now that we know some details about the game, the focus of training begins to become clearer. The other pieces in the training puzzle are game tactics.  Read more

Conditioning For Soccer

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, with a growing number of soccer enthusiasts and players world-wide. Here’s a closer look at the components of fitness and suggestions to organize your high-performance training.

Soccer (also known as “football”) is widely accepted as one of the most popular sports in the world, with a growing number of soccer enthusiasts and players worldwide.

Despite this fact, strength and conditioning programs for soccer are often neglected or outdated. Except at the professional level, many athletes and coaches still focus only on skill development and endurance training (i.e.- running), and ignore the other important elements of fitness such as:
•Strength and strength endurance training
•Speed and power
•Flexibility, warming up and cooling down
•Agility training

Athletes of other popular sports such as hockey or American football typically understand the importance of a complementary strength and conditioning program (especially off-season) to improve their performance, but it seems that some soccer players don’t believe that elements such as strength or power development are necessary for their sport. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In this article I will take a closer look at the different components of fitness involved in this sport, and then suggest a simple way to organize your high performance training program. I will not be discussing skill development in this article.

Endurance In Soccer

A soccer fitness program should be built around developing a good aerobic base. Several studies into the physiological demands of soccer have shown that outfield players can travel up to 13 km or 8 miles during a 90-minute game.

Outfield Players Can Travel Up To 13 km Or 8 Miles During A 90-Minute Game.

This places a significant demand on the athlete’s cardiovascular system and muscular endurance. Having said that, I believe this is one aspect of training that is already over-emphasized in this sport.

It’s not uncommon to hear of soccer players running for at least an hour at a time several days per week in an attempt to improve their performance on the field. However, if you start to analyze the ‘sport-specific’ requirements of the athletes, you will realize that they are actually engaging in varying intensities of activity for different durations while playing, including:
•And in various directions.

Incorporating interval training into your program, that involves high and low intensities of activity, will provide better results than long duration, low intensity jogging alone.

Strength In Soccer

Strength is an important component of fitness that can benefit athletes in any sport, although it is often viewed as of little importance in soccer. However, strength forms the basis for power and speed. Soccer players also need strength to hold off challenges from opponents. Other benefits of strength training include:
•Injury resistance
•Leaner body composition
•Faster metabolism
•More energy
•Greater explosiveness
•Improved balance, stability, and agility
•Faster recovery

High level soccer players don’t need to have the same absolute strength as American football players or rugby players, but a properly designed ‘off-field’ strength training program will definitely elicit improvements in performance! Relative strength is more important in soccer than absolute strength. Relative strength is simply your absolute strength in relation to your body weight.

Your strength training program should focus on compound, functional exercises (such as lunges, squats, step ups, pushups, dips, chin-ups), and take into account balancing the strength of opposing muscle groups (i.e.- quadriceps vs. hamstrings).

Don’t waste your time training solely on machines, and avoid useless, non-functional exercises such as leg extensions. The majority of your exercises should be ground-based, using bodyweight or free weights as resistance, and should involve movement of your full body.

Train all the major muscle groups, with emphasis on lower body and core.

Speed & Agility In Soccer

Another significant component of a soccer fitness program is speed and agility training. The speed of play in today’s game is quicker than ever. While endurance and strength are very important to improving your performance, faster players have a definite competitive edge. You may have better endurance than the next guy, but if he makes it to the ball first it won’t matter that you can run marathons!

A simple speed test is a sprint more than 30 yards from a standing start. You can try this yourself and have someone else time you. A sprint time under 5.0 seconds is good. Professional players average around 4.0 seconds.

Power is the combination of strength and speed. A more powerful player is a more formidable player. To improve your speed and explosiveness you should include power movements in your program, such as jump squats, high pulls, power cleans, and push presses, as well as plyometric drills .

Because it is important to have speed endurance, I recommend incorporating these exercises into a circuit training program with high intensity intervals. A typical workout would alternate between power movements for lower body and upper body, with plyometric exercises as intervals. You can conclude your training session with sprint drills and agility work (such as the ‘ladder drill’).

Flexibility In Soccer

Another important aspect of fitness to discuss is flexibility. Maintaining a healthy range of motion can be beneficial, however, few people understand the most effective methods of stretching or when to use them. Many athletes still do passive stretching before their workout or practice, when actually this can diminish performance and increase risk of injury!  Read more


Sports injuries are often a result of insufficient preparation to get the body’s joints and muscles warm and loose. The warm-up is one of the most important components of injury prevention. In fact, and contrary to popular belief, warming-up is just as important as drinking water or playing the actual, physical game of soccer. You wouldn’t ride a bike without gears, right?

It’s very important that no player ever participates in any exercises or games without warming up properly. It is also extremely important that no player ever stretches before they warm up; this is a common practice and can result in a number of injuries. Check out the current warm-up and stretching routine that many high school and collegiate teams use every day before practices and games!

Warm-Up Routine

Light Cardio
•Laps! Generally, try to have teams jogging at a decent pace for a few minutes. It won’t do any good to run for just 30 seconds, you’ve got to prepare your lungs for the struggles of an incoming 90 minute game. A good rule of thumb is to finish just after you’ve broken a sweat — then your body is good and warm for whatever comes next.

Cone Exercises

Set up a cone 10-12 yards away from the players and have them do the following activities to the cone and back:
•Side shuffle with arm crosses
•Inch worms
•High knees + butt kicks
•Walking lunge + alternating side lunge
•High kicks

Often, these type of stretches are referred to as a dynamic warm-up. These are important because they allow to body to loose up slowly and easily without being launched right into being forceful activity. Stretching cold, tightened muscles without a dynamic warm-up can lead to many avoidable injuries. Once you’re warmed up, try these stretches:

Stretch Routine
•Toe Touches — right, left, middle
•Lunges — right, left
•Lunge with opposite foot pointed — upright, left
•On-The-Ground Toe Touches — right, left, middle
•Butterfly Stretch — count to ten and try to go down as far as possible without pain. Then flap your legs out for about thirty seconds before repeating. Be sure you’re bringing your body down and not bending your neck.
•Thigh Stretch — right foot to right hand, left foot to left hand, right foot to left hand, left foot to right hand
•Ankle Rotations — right foot-clockwise, counter clockwise, left foot-clockwise, counter-clockwise
•Trunk Twists
•Small Arm Rotations — medium pace, forwards then backwards
•Large Arm Rotations — medium pace, forwards then backwards
•Neck Rotations — clockwise, counter clockwise

Huddle Up

You may want to critique each stretch based on your desires and particular needs — but following this routine has been proven to work. Stick to this and your team will be ready and rearing for game time! Make sure you take extra time to take care of yourself, as well! If you’re tight in an area, spend a moment to focus on it. Stretching and warming-up will help you win the battle against preventing injuries. Don’t cut corners, because you definitely can’t on the trainer’s table!

Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field. Expand your game by checking out the rest of our Soccer Training Center.  Read more

Soccer Flexibility

Flexibility is conforming; it increases with a regular program of stretching exercises and it decreases with inactivity. Stretching increases the length of your muscles and tendons, which leads to an increase in your range of motion or movement. With increased range of motion your limbs and joints can move farther, limiting the chance of injuries such as muscle tears. The safest and most effective type of stretching technique is static stretching. With static stretching, each muscle is gradually stretched and held from 10 to 30 seconds.

Stretching exercises for soccer should focus on the muscles that surround the hip and lower back, knee, and ankle, and should include 2 to 3 exercises for each joint. The stretching exercises below can help to improve flexibility for soccer play. Click on each stretch for a detailed description or CLICK here for a downloadable PDF sheet.

Stretch safely, regularly, and timely, and remember to stretch when your muscles are warm. Do gentle warm-up exercises, such as easy jogging or calisthenics, before doing a preexercise stretching routine. Stretch to the point of mild discomfort and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat, trying to stretch a bit farther, but do not force the muscle to do more than it is ready for. Remember, stretching should never be painful. While stretching, relax and breathe to relax your muscles. Don’t forget to perform the exercises on both sides of your body. Keep in mind that there are individual differences in joint flexibility, so don’t feel you have to compete with others during a stretching routine. Read more

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