As a younger player, I was on my feet sometimes 15-20 hours per week. Even 11 or 12 hours was still a lot for me and come match day, I was tired and unmotivated. I felt the best times I played was when I actually had more days to rest or came back from an extended break. Every player needs to find their balance and what schedule allows them to best perform.
Remember that the 10,000 hour rule and training 20 hours a week, does not mean you need to be on your feet the entire time. Learning tactically and improving mentally are also things you can do off the field.
Take a look at the regime of Southampton FC players, the following is an excerpt of Mens Health magazine.
“Weekly training programmes vary depending on the training phase (off-season, pre-season or in-season), the number of games in the week, and the individual’s training status,” says Nick Harvey, first team fitness coach at Southampton FC. “But a typical training week during the season with no midweek game runs something like this.”
Saturday (Game Day & Recovery)
Game. After the match, recovery consists of ice baths and compression tights. The latter are specially made leggings moulded to an individual’s physique which promote blood circulation, increase oxygen flow to muscles and wick away sweat.
An active recovery session. This might be, cycling for 15-20 minutes at 60% of maximum heart rate.
Monday (Light Technical Day)
Extended Recovery Work: “Sometimes we’ll do a light football session or it might be some technical work, but physiologically the focus is still on making sure the players are fully recovered 48 hours after the game, which is often when tiredness and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sets in,” says Harvey. “It’s a light day focusing on recovery before the higher intensity stuff on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Tuesday (High Intensity & Strength Work)
AM: High intensity football work, such as conditioned small sided games focusing on keeping possession with no goals, or a man-to-man game where you have to stick with one opponent wherever he goes.
PM: Strength and power work. For example, squats, deadlifts, bench-presses and pull-ups (volume and loads are tailored to each player).
Wednesday (Moderate/High Intensity & Strength Work)
AM: Moderate/high intensity football work. Possession drills and 11-versus-11 tactical play.
PM: Power development and complex training. This is a mixture of strength and plyometric work designed to develop explosiveness. The focus is typically on low reps at high speed, such as power cleans (3×4 sets) and hurdle jumps.
Friday (Low Intensity & Tactics)
Low Intensity football work (focus on tactical preparation) with speed and reaction time training in warm up. For example, short shuttle runs setting off when a man breaks the line or at the blow of a whistle.
So there’s the answer, at least one rest day and one active recovery day (such as cycling for 15-20 minutes) is what you should aim for in your training schedule during the season.