Influence of game format and number of players on heart rate responses and physical demands in small-sided soccer games

Julen Castellano, David Casamichana, Alexandre Dellal
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2013, 27 (5): 1295-303
The aim of the study was to examine the extent to which changing the game format (possession play vs. regulation goals and goalkeepers vs. small goals only) and the number of players (3 vs. 3, 5 vs. 5 and 7 vs. 7) influenced the physiological and physical demands of small-sided games (SSGs) in soccer in semiprofessional players. Fourteen semiprofessional male soccer players were monitored with global positioning system and heart rate devices. Heart rate, player load, distance covered, running speed, and the number of accelerations were recorded for 9 different SSGs. The results show that changes both in game format and the number of players affect the players' physiological and physical demands. Possession play places greater physiological and physical demands on players, although reducing the number of players only increases the physiological load. In the 7 vs. 7 games, changing the game format did not alter the heart rate responses. Finally, in the possession play format, changing the number of players did not produce significant differences in heart rate responses, although physical demands did decrease in line with a reduction in the number of players. These results should help coaches to understand how modifying different aspects of SSGs has a differential effect on the players' physiological and physical demands. Moreover, coaches in semiprofessional and amateur teams have now consistent information to design and optimize their training time in mixing the technical, tactical, and physical aspects.

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