Horizontal alternation, fatigue and team performance

I spoke in the last article (1) about training control and fitness. Inseparable from two theme is the horizontal alternation in specificity. Although training control is an instrument to measure players' loads and fatigue, even before that, it is important that the contents and loads provided allow 1) a global experience of the several contents, tactical, technical, physical, in the micro and macro dimensions of the game; 2) do not focus, permanently, on identical muscular experiences and that may create overload of a certain type of muscular contraction, more focused on endurance, strength or speed.

This is, in fact, one of the basic principles established by tactical periodization, together with the principle of specificity, propensities and complex progression. We start with this conceptual discussion to define, first of all, that the alternation in the different muscular experiences does not necessarily concern to motor skills: it is rather an organization of the microcycle that makes each day , the exercises converge more to a certain muscular experience. This can be done simply by setting the number of players, space and time of the exercise. In tactical periodization, the alternation is horizontal in specificity, as the differentiation between these experiences is made on different days of the week, depending on the effort-recovery binomial.

This binomial is, in fact, the cornerstone of the choice of contents along the microcycle. To it must be added the distance for the previous game, and the proximity of the next game. Depending on these two vectors, more relevant choices will be made, which will allow us to manage loads, applying fatigue at a “safe” distance from the next game, so that players can recover… training in specificity.

Some basic principles are fundamental to allow this to happen, preventing injuries, maintaining the intensity of the training process and respecting the most relevant contents for that microcycle. As we have already mentioned, alternating muscle experiences throughout the week is essential. To it will necessarily be added an alternation in the contents and organizational dimensions that are being privileged in the session.

However, and as the training principles do not survive by themselves, it is crucial to keep in mind what are the most relevant contents for this microcycle, depending on the previous opponent, the next one and, eventually, the specifics of the strategy to be adopted to following game. Anything that is a sectarian management of these principles, not seeking to manage the balance between them, meets all the conditions to increase the risk of injury, increase the fatigue levels of players or, on the other hand, being too attached to the management of loads in function of the microcycle, neglecting tactical-technical contents that are decisive for the performance of the team.

It is in this precarious and challenging balance that the challenge of leading a team in high performance training lies.


Article by Alexandre Costa - Football Fitness Coach

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