Conditional training session


Do you notice that your players can not perform the deciding actions at the end of the match anymore? Or do you have to many goals against in the last fifteen minutes of the match? In this blog we will discuss how you can improve the fitness of your players with one conditional training session per week. Because of this, your players will still able to perform the decisive sprint at the end of the match.

Defining a conditional training session

Research has shown that in various European competitions the match load has increased by 30% in the last decade1. Therefore, the players have to increase their fitness levels to be able to cope with the physical demands of match play. Hence, for you as a coach it is becoming increasingly important to get your players as fit as possible. Sports Scientists of FC Barcelona have recently revealed that one of the components of the ‘Barca-method’ is that players are physically challenged to the highest level during one session a week. This all with the purpose to get the players as fit as possible for the match. The trainings effect that they are aiming for is that the body recovers above the level of before the training stimulus (also known as ‘supercompensation’)2. However, there are some requirements that need to be fulfilled for the effect to occur: the stimulus needs to more than a certain minimum amount of load and the timing should be right. In this blog, we will provide guidelines on how to fulfill these requirements.

What should be the load of the conditional training session?

If we look at the minimum amount of load needed for the supercompensation-effect to occur, there is one easy applicable guideline: the load of the conditional session should approach match load. This holds that the session load should at least be 80% of the match load. Let’s illustrate this with an example: suppose that your team on average makes 600 sprint meters (> 20km/h) in a match, this means that your conditional session should at least have 480 sprint meters. If we want to add an exercise to our training session to increase the number of sprint meters, a large sided game (9v9) on a large pitch (80x40m) can, among other things, be performed.

Planning the conditional training session

Besides the amount of load, the timing of the session is also important for supercompensation to occur. To maximize the effect of supercompensation and to keep the balance between exercise and rest, the conditional training should be planned 2-3 days after the match (and also at least 3 days before the next match). When there is another match during the week (e.g. on Wednesday), there will thus be no conditional training. In this case the match can be seen as the conditional stimulus. Because what is a better stimulus than match load itself?

Suppose that you want to plan the conditional training session on another day, what are the risks then? If you plan this training too early, then players haven’t fully recovered from the match. This means that a new conditional session will only increase fatigue levels of the players; this can lead to overtraining3 (see image). If you plan the session too late, then the effect of supercompensation will get lost. In addition, the training session will probably be planned too close to the next match (e.g. 2 days before the match), causing incomplete recovery of the players.

Were you not able to plan your training stimulus optimally or did not reach the minimum amount of load? Then the body has been triggered inadequately and will therefore not recover above the level of before the session. If you want to prepare your players for the constantly increasing load of matches, it is essential to plan your conditional training at the right time and with the right amount of load!

JOHAN’s tip of the week

For the monitoring of your conditional training, it is especially important to look at explosive actions. This means that 80% of the match load should be reached for the following parameters: sprint meters (>20 km/h and accelerations (>2m/s2).


  1. Martin-Garcia, A., Gomez Diaz, A., Bradley, P., Morera, F., Casamichana, D. (2018). Quantification of a professional football team’s external load using a microcycle structure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32(12), 3511-3518.
  2. Bompa T, Buzzichelli C. (2018) Periodization: Theorie en methodologie van training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 6.
  3. Budgett, R. (1998) Fatigue and underperformance in athletes: the overtraining syndrome. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32: 107-110.

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