The physical requirements for women soccer players appear to be similar to those for men, with high levels of aerobic capacity, sprint speed and recovery being fundamental for success (Krustrup et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 37: 1242-1248, 2005). Specific interventions designed to improve training status in male soccer players have been assessed in several previous studies (e.g. Hoff et al. Br J Sports Med 36: 218-221, 2001). However, to our knowledge only one study has examined the responses to training interventions in female players (Polman et al. J Sports Sci 22: 191-203, 2004) and the most effective method remains to be determined.
PURPOSE: To examine the effects of three training interventions on the aerobic and anaerobic capacity of collegiate level female soccer players. METHODS: The aerobic and anaerobic capacities of 23 members of an NAIA division 1 soccer program were assessed pre- and post-training by a 20m multi-stage fitness test and a 5m multiple shuttle test (Boddington et al. J Sports Sci 19: 223-228, 2001). Participants were matched for aerobic capacity and assigned to one of three training groups, and trained twice per week for 4 weeks. One group participated in a novel high intensity interval training (HIIT) intervention consisting of a series of 30 s shuttle runs at speeds above the velocity at aerobic capacity, interspersed with 30 s periods of rest. The second group completed interval training (IT) consisting of 4 bouts of 4 min running at 90-95% maximum heart rate followed by a 3 min rest period. The final group completed continuous training (CT) involving a continuous 28 min run at 70-80% maximum heart rate. RESULTS: Aerobic capacity increased significantly in both the HIIT and IT groups (mean ± s.d: HIIT: 10.2 ± 4.5%; p < 0.001, IT: 6.1 ± 2.5%; p < 0.01) and increased by a small but non-significant amount in the CT group (3.8 ± 4.6%; p = 0.19) The distance covered during the anaerobic performance test increased in all groups, but only significantly in the HIIT group (HIIT: 31 ± 19 m; p < 0.01, IT: 14 ± 23 m; p = 0.26, CT: 13 ± 23 m; p = 0.34). CONCLUSION: The novel HIIT intervention results in significant increases in both aerobic and anaerobic capacity and therefore appears to be an effective method of fitness training for female soccer players.