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Anaerobic Fartlek Training for Football

Football training traditionally involves grueling calisthenics, hard-hitting tackles, running and agility drills. Effective training includes drills that replicate the specific demands of play. Fartlek training can give football players a competitive edge by challenging the body's energy systems and duplicating the varying intensity of play, preparing players to adapt swiftly under pressure.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play." As its name implies, Fartlek training includes intervals of varying lengths and intensities. This variety challenges both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

First used by runners, Fartlek features short bursts of all-out effort interspersed with less demanding longer intervals at a slower pace. The long-range benefit of Fartlek training is an improved ability to adapt quickly to changes in intensity during perpetual motion, as on the football field.

Applying Fartlek to Football

Fartlek training sessions are meant to mimic the types of activity that take place during play. The unpredictable nature of a football game makes Fartlek an ideal training protocol. Fartlek trains the muscles, joints and energy delivery systems to respond quickly to changes in direction and intensity. Training your players in ways they will perform on the field prepares them for peak performance on game day.

Designing Drills

To design Fartlek drills for football, consider the variety of demands the game imposes on players from kickoff all the way to goal. A longer, moderate-intensity running interval at kickoff may be followed by short, high-intensity bursts as the ball moves down the field, an all-out run of several seconds as a player runs the ball, brief periods of backward-to-forward running and sprints with rapid directional changes. Perpetually varying the length and intensity of intervals while maintaining continuous motion is the idea behind Fartlek.

Sample Drill

A sample Fartlek training drill for football could entail the following:

  • 10-minute easy warm-up jog
  • 10-second all-out sprint 
  • 30-second jog 
  • 15-second sprint 
  • 45-second jog
  • 30-second backward run 
  • 10-second forward sprint 
  • one-minute jog 
  • 15-second backward run 
  • alternating directional changes of five to 10 seconds 
  • 30 seconds fast running 
  • one-minute walk 
  • three-minute jog 
  • one-minute walk 
  • three-minute jog 

You can set up a specific sequence and repeat it, or you can make it up as you go along. Be sure players give an all-out effort during sprints to challenge the anaerobic threshold. Cool down and stretch at the end of the session.

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About the Author

Michelle Matte is an accomplished fitness professional who holds certifications in personal training, pilates, yoga, group exercise and senior fitness. She has developed curricula for personal trainers and group exercise instructors for an international education provider. In her spare time, Matte writes fiction and blogs.

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