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Barcelona is revolutionising the training theory of professional soccer. At FC Barcelona, running is absolutely off the agenda. Three minutes is the longest time that the players will run in the whole year, while carrying out speed training in the preparation phase. The players do run sprints without the ball during the season, but this makes up no more than 5% of their training. Without a single endurance running training session, and without a single hour of training in the power training gym, FC Barcelona’s players have become the most celebrated team of their era. Over and over again, the world switches on the television and fidgets with anticipation of the enchanting soccer which these eleven players are going to show them.
Bewitched by their elegance, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Barça are also one of the strongest teams physically. Neither Juventus Turin nor Bayern Munich manages to take the ball from their opponents quite so often. Nobody applies pressure more intensively. There are many ways to reach the goal, so the claim that Barça’s training methods are the only ‘right’ ones is incorrect. But at a time when modern coaches’ new ideas are attracting attention, soccer trainers should pay attention to the fact that the hottest team of the moment is taking a far more radical approach to speed training.
Barça’s fitness training is absolutely the opposite of the received wisdom of the world of soccer, as well as that of other trainers, who send their teams up mountains and drum fitness into them. Because fitness training is integrated so well into ball training sessions, Barça’s players don’t even notice that they are doing it. Soccer is generally considered to be an endurance sport: because the players have to run for 90 minutes, it’s considered to be a sprinting sport. But the players never run for longer than a few seconds at a time. Soccer is about stepping in, slowing down, dodging, turning abruptly, all with the ball at your feet. And that’s exactly what needs to be trained.
Teams which move their training programmes away from classical running and power training will only be able to keep the pace with Barça for 25 minutes in the first half, and 15 in the second. Time for a rethink…