Purpose: This study compared the effects of heavy resisted sprint training (RST) versus unresisted sprint training (UST) on sprint performance among adolescent soccer players.
Methods: Twenty-four male soccer players (age: 15.7 [0.5] y; body height: 175.7 [9.4] cm; body mass: 62.5 [9.2] kg) were randomly assigned to the RST group (n = 8), the UST group (n = 10), or the control group (n = 6). The UST group performed 8 × 20 m unresisted sprints twice weekly for 4 weeks, whereas the RST group performed 5 × 20-m heavy resisted sprints with a resistance set to maximize the horizontal power output. The control group performed only ordinary soccer training and match play. Magnitude-based decision and linear regression were used to analyze the data.
Results: The RST group improved sprint performances with moderate to large effect sizes (0.76–1.41) across all distances, both within and between groups (>92% beneficial effect likelihood). Conversely, there were no clear improvements in the UST and control groups. The RST evoked the largest improvements over short distances (6%–8%) and was strongly associated with increased maximum horizontal force capacities (r = .9). Players with a preintervention deficit in force capacity appeared to benefit the most from RST.
Conclusions: Four weeks of heavy RST led to superior improvements in short-sprint performance compared with UST among adolescent soccer players. Heavy RST, using a load individually selected to maximize horizontal power, is therefore highly recommended as a method to improve sprint acceleration in youth athletes.