Sprinting for Soccer Speed

This article is guest blogged by Jonas Forsberg of YouthSoccerSpeed.com

The reason I got into primarily speed training for soccer players was due to my own experience as a young soccer player. At the age of 15 I was extremely fast and explosive, and if I haven’t injured my ACL it could most likely have led to the Youth National Team. But at the camp where they announce the first National Team Squad, I torn my ACL on the 2nd day. So my rehabilitation period after that was long, and it took me almost 12 months to get back on to the field.

I had been doing a lot of strength training and performed several hours in the gym each week to get back to the field. When I came back I was way stronger than I was before, but what about my speed?

It was gone.

This quality alone turned me into an average player, and it was extremely tough to go through this period, but I learned a lot. Anyway, I was determined to get my speed back, so I asked all of my coaches on how to improve soccer speed. What they all said was basically to use the agility ladder, and trust me, I did.

Problem is, nothing happened with my speed. Sure, my feet were moving a little faster, but I didn’t get faster on 10-30 meters, nothing happened.

It wasn’t until 3 years later I started to put it all together. I played soccer for a Div.3 club here in Sweden, and next to it I played another sport called Floorball (which none of you have ever heard of). Floorball is a sport that’s related to ice-hockey, but you play it indoor with a ball instead of a puck, with softer type of sticks, and regular indoor shoes.

What you do in Floorball is basically a lot of sprints in different directions. You are on the field for 1-2 minutes, go all out and then you switch lines (as in hockey).

So what I noticed on the soccer field was that I did get faster on 10-30 meters, and at first, I was shocked. How could that be?

But today I know that sprinting was probably the biggest reason. During my rehab period I had been doing a lot of high rep training and long distance running to improve my endurance and get back into shape.

Big mistake!

That type of training will only make you slower, and that’s what happened to me. So when I started to change my training to a lot of sprinting, shorter and more intense conditioning type of work (intervals), I also noticed that my speed did improve. And since that point I read all the time about the importance of sprinting for soccer speed. The thing is, I know I am not alone when it comes to the advice I was giving regarding the agility ladder for instance.

People want fancy stuff that looks good, but the truth is, you don’t need any equipment at all to improve your soccer speed. Just put on your soccer boots, hit the soccer field, perform a great warm up (like The MAP System), and then perform sprints.

Start with shorter distance for the first few weeks. This is how I would do it:

  • Week 1-3: 6 x 10 meter sprints (rest at least 60 seconds between every sprint)
  • Week 4-6: 6 x 15 meter sprints (rest at least 90 seconds between every sprint)

Perform that 2-3 times/week, and spread it out over the week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday, Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, etc). Remember to always sprint at the beginning of the workout, right after the warm-up.

If you are doing 10 meter sprints, you can work up to 8-10 sets if you want, but remember to rest long enough between sprints. If you feel that your speed is decreasing and you get very tired, then that’s it for the day.

It is always quality over quantity, remember that! If you sprint longer distances (20-30 meters), the total number of sets would be lower than if you were running 10 meter sprints.

As for starting positions, switch between the following:

  • Athletic Stance (feet next to each other, don’t worry about your first step, just make it happen)
  • On Stomach or Pushup Start

That’s it!

Follow this advice, perform the sprints 2-3 times a week and remember to go all out/full speed with enough rest in between each set.

No fancy stuff, just sprint!

About The Author

Jonas Forsberg is a Swedish Soccer Speed Coach who helps soccer players to improve their soccer specific speed, without making it too complicated.  Visit The Soccer Speed Blog for more info!

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Nice post! I have read your blog, Jonas and like your philosophy on the sprints. This is what i do with my players at Luton Town FC/colchester Town FC at this stage of the season:

    Monday: 10 x 3m Rest = 30’’
    SPRINT 1
    Agility run A
    Agility Ladder A
    Bodyweight A

    Wednesday: 10 x 3m R=30’’
    SPRINT 2
    Agility run B
    Agility Ladder B
    Bodyweight B

    Friday: 8 x 10m
    8 x 20m
    8 x 30m
    8 x 40m
    @ 70 % max (800m race pace)
    Walk back recovery
    Hurdle mobility A
    Medicine ball circuit

    Su: Match

    These players are aged 10-18 so i usually shut the workout down sooner for less developed kids.

    SPRINT 1
    Lunge start
    Push down start
    Jog, turn, sprint
    Side pitter patter, sprint

    Line alternate fast feet
    Forward left, forward right
    Forward diagonal left, both sides

    Zig zag
    Cross over step
    Icky shuffle
    3 forward 1 back
    Lateral 2 step

    There is alot more sprint circuits, agility circuits and bodyweight circuits, but that would make a pretty huge comment. Also, i progress workouts short-long on a seasonal basis. I would like to know your feedback on this structure?

    Paul Graham

  • Can’t seem to find any more info on the Maps system other than a youtube video. Any research papers etc behind it? Thanks