Before beginning on why I back Jurgen Klinsmann’s plan of one week of fitness before hitting the pitch, I must say that there are plenty of points on both sides of the discussion. For comparison to my side, take a look at Jimmy Conrad’s latest video, which is dissected by American Touchline. It is true that during last year’s five game tournament the players looked worn down so the fitness concept may not have been the best approach. However, this is a January camp made up of players that have not been competing in over a month in most cases. January is a good time for fitness week.
Fitness week included a variety of work outs including pilates. There was most likely a few empty stomach runs that I do not necessarily agree with given that a few carbohydrates in the morning before a work out can provide more energy. The work outs have increased in intensity over the week and also included a variety of tests. I understand we are talking about some of the fittest athletes in the world, but I am not opposed to waking them up. Some say it can take up to four weeksto get back to the shape you were in if you take two weeks off.
With a roster of people that have had ample time to rest in the last month, the testing and fitness is key. It activates muscles that may have been subject to passive rest, which is a fancy way to say sleeping or watching television. We know pilates is a way to engage the core. The core is important in keeping the spine in line while avoiding lower back pain and helping transfer power from the legs. If players have been resting the core needs to be alive for a grueling 90 minute match. I’m sure not all of these players have been sitting around since the Major League Soccer season ended.
Learning great nutritional facts translates to a healthy lifestyle all over. I am someone that lost over 50 pounds and I attribute much of it to changing my intake. Obviously the players in this camp have a different goal then I did, but nutrition can make every aspect of your life better. It is hard to understate that idea.
Even the slightest rest can create a new normal for your body. Think about taking a two week break from going to the gym and how your body feels after the first night back. Imagine that multiplied since these athletes probably work harder than we can understand. Soccer players need to reprogram after they recover and plyometrics are one way to do this. Plyo helps to train muscles for maximum exertion in short spurts, a vital need for soccer players.
According to Reilly in Science and Soccer, the average player covers five to seven-and-a-half miles each match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball. Also, according to Bangsbo, soccer players posses excellent endurance with VO2max reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers. An untrained male comes in around 35 as a reference. Being a professional is demanding to say the least.
That is part of why I feel it is good to have this extra week to allow Klinsmann and staff to work on fitness and nutrition. The testing gives the staff a look at how players continue to train when they are off, thus seeing who may be the best to fit in during a busy 2013. Better performance on a VO2max test can be part of the evaluation when putting together a team. Seeing a player progress through a week of training also allows for a great view into their overall athleticism. The emergence of smart soccer puts more emphasis on numbers related to player fitness.
Please take note of the title. I agree with the approach in January. The five game tournament was not the place for it, but for right now these players are looking at one match. Right now the USMNT is made up of current fringe players and fitness week gives them a glimpse of what is expected. The mainstay players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley know what they are doing. Right now, the staff has the time so utilize it. The roster spots on the World Cup qualifying team are limited. I am all for utilizing every bit of information to evaluate who makes it. Fitness needs to be a part of a larger evaluation of the player.
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