Football is characterized by long periods of low to moderate intensity activity interspersed with periods of high intensity, such as single and repeated sprints. In addition, explosive actions, such as acceleration, deceleration, rapid changes of direction and jumps, often occur at key moments in the match. Therefore, a player must be able to endure long periods of low to moderate intensity activity (ie aerobic endurance performance) while maintaining the ability to perform explosive actions during the match. To improve aerobic endurance, as well as the ability to perform explosive actions, the inclusion of HIIT in the physical preparation of the soccer player has been proposed.
The results of a meta-analysis have recently been published (Clemente et al, 2021; J Sports Sci 11-Jan; doi: 10.1080 / 02640414.2020.1863644) with the objective of assessing the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT) on functional aerobic capacity, repeated sprint ability (RSA), vertical jump height (VJH) and linear sprint time (ST), in football players.
For the analysis, 33 articles were selected, which included 11 individual experimental groups and 107 participants, and 78 participants in the 9 control groups. The included uncontrolled studies involved 39 groups and 400 participants.
The results showed significant improvements in HIIT compared to controls in VO2max and RSA. No effects were observed in ST. No improvements were observed in VHJ. There were also no differences between subgroups of analysis based on HIIT modality.
The authors concluded that HIIT is effective in improving VO2max and the ability to perform repeated sprits, regardless of the type of HIIT applied. No significant effects were observed for jump height or sprint speed.
JL. Chicharro (PhD) Opinion:
HIIT has different application modalities: 1) short interval HIIT (<45 s); 2) Aerobic or long interval HIIT (2-4 min); 3) Repeated sprint training (RST, maximum intensity sprint of ≤10 s, with short rest periods; 4) interval sprint training (SIT,> 20-30 s, with longer rest intervals (3 min); and 5) game-based interval training. Coaches can use different HIIT methods as part of their fitness structure throughout the season to encourage stimulus variability, but they should also be aware that there are some specificities to HIIT strategies in terms of adaptation.