Training for football (soccer) fitness?

Hi all, first time on this forum. This is a bit of a weird question and I’m not sure if this is the right forum to ask it: I love soccer and typically play (recreationally) around 2-3 times a week (along with some other team sports, more occasionally). I saw a couple people here either currently play or formerly played.

However, with football seasons cancelled this year (and with me moving to a place with a proper winter), I got into cycling a few months ago with TR. I love cycling training so far and it’s nice seeing my FTP go up, but I’m also interested in training as a way to keep (or better yet, improve on) my fitness for playing football and other sports. I’m curious (a) will this even work, or are the two sports totally orthogonal? I see a lot of professional players using Zwift/TR/etc in the offseason/during recovery so I’m hopeful it will. (b) Are there specific plans/disciplines I should target or avoid?

No expert here and its my n=1 answer. I could see it doing the following.

Build base fitness and improve on that with little joint impact, so that’s zone 2 riding covered.

Improve recovery time from over tempo efforts, sprinting, going to improve you ability to recover from those all out efforts in football, so you’re not going to fatigue as fast. that’s top zones covered.

All other zones I guess would be adding to your general fitness.

I’ve no idea what the professionals use it for, would see it more for them for base fitness without adding lots of additional stress to the body.

I can only see it as a positive for your football, and can’t see anything I would avoid in the plans.

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Former college football (soccer) player here, now full-time cyclist. For my N=1, I wouldn’t recommend it, but I don’t know of any specific studies to demonstrate it. All of the critical small muscles in and around your knees, hips, ankles, and core, in addition to the ligaments and tendons themselves won’t be strengthened much (and likely will be weakened) by cycling training. Not to mention the big muscles being used in a radically different way (any full-time cyclist out there ever try side-lunges and 100 x box jumps in a day? Talk about DOMS :-/)

That time is likely better spent on agility, plyometrics, strength, and base running fitness training. Then there is the technique side, which is a whole different ball of wax.

Just my 2 cents :slight_smile:

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My N=1 is that you’ll get very little benefit other than that of general aerobic fitness and weight control. I played football and rugby as a kid, then throughout adult life my main training has been predominantly athletic/endurance sports - rowing, triathlon, cycling. Whenever I turn out for a game of football or touch rugby (not for a while but did this somewhat regularly in my 20s and 30s) the fitness demands are completely different. Different muscle groups - even triathlon training wasn’t all that much help because the muscles you use for a steady run in a straight line are pretty different to the muscles you use for accelerating, sprinting and changing direction. And different energy systems - very stop start, you don’t spend much time in steady state. I was fitter than people who were otherwise pretty inactive, but nowhere near as fit for that kind of activity as people who did it regularly, or who did similar sports involving more explosive accelerations and direction changes like tennis or even cross fit. And the DOMS the next day and the day after were horrific! About my only real area of strength was that if we were playing a full 80 or 90 minute game then my endurance enabled me to keep going well until the end when others were flagging, but since these were typically fairly short after work or pub league games then even that didn’t come into play very often!

I think a bit of cycling for aerobic training as part of a broader fitness regime would be fine. But I’d second the advice above about incorporating some much more specific training like plyometrics, shuttle runs, agility, etc.

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My opinion from playing sports is nothing will get you into shape like that sport. Soccer would be playing soccer. Basketball is playing basketball. Cycling works on keeping the motor going but its not going to keep the balance muscles in the foot and knee healthy.

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Thanks to everyone who answered so far it’s been super helpful! Seems like I’ll need to supplement with some plyo/agility training at the least. Regarding start/stops vs steady-state, one friend suggested doing a crit plan on TR since they tend to be the “surgiest” (I’m totally clueless about racing in general). Is that a reasonable suggestion?

Check out this, “VO2max”-type interval training improves endurance and seems to improve the football play performance as well.
Endurance and strength training for soccer players: physiological considerations

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Yeah crit plan would be like soccer, sprint, jog fall on ground and roll around. That happens in a crit also

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Wow thank you for the reference!

Hahaha nice one :slightly_smiling_face:

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