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Soccer : physical characteristics, physical demands of match-play and effective physical conditioning

Bloomfield, Jonathan R.


Jonathan R. Bloomfield


Remco Polman

Peter O'Donoghue


The overall purpose of this thesis was to examine the physical aspects of high performance soccer. As such, four interrelated studies were designed to pursue this purpose. Each study was designed to overcome certain distinct methodological limitations of previous science and football (soccer) research and build upon existing research. The research designs for each of the four studies were methodologically different and progressed from previous research design incorporating data collected and analysed from text and internet sources, computerised video-analysis of interactive televised material and combined performance and laboratory assessments. In the following section the purpose of each study included in this thesis is provided and the rationale underpinning the selection of each research design is explained.

Study 1: Analysis of Age, Stature, Body Mass, BNH and Quality of Elite Soccer Players from four European Leagues

For many sports, there are specific physical characteristics that indicate suitability for, or potential to compete in that sport at the highest level. Various anthropometric characteristics of athletes have been shown to be reasonable predictors for participation at the highest level in sports such as swimming (Ackland et al., 1993), basketball, rugby league and American football (Norton and Olds, 2000). Surprisingly, there is no research available exploring these characteristics in soccer, particularly within the elite European soccer. It might well be that the recent changes in demands in soccer( Williams et al., 1999) PhD Thesis 6 Jonathan R- Bloomfield have been accompanied by physical characteristic changes in soccer players that have been of greater magnitude than that of the normal population. This is an important issue because even small changes in these physical characteristics of players could result in a large reduction in the pool of people to draw from in the general population who have the suitable physical characteristics to be successful in soccer (Olds, 2001). Furthermore, the comparison of players in different leagues and in different positions might provide some valuable information regarding the different demands placed on soccer players in different leagues (Reilly et al, 2000a; Rienzi et al, 2000; Strudwick et al., 2002).

It is well documented that different positions in soccer constitute various different demands. Such findings suggest heterogeneity in physical characteristics that might be important for success in particular positions in soccer (Strudwick et al., 2002). The first aim of the present study was to investigate whether there are physical differences (age, stature, body mass, body mass index) between players in different positions in four European soccer leagues. This will also provide information into the diversity in playing style as well as the variation in what is being valued in soccer players in the various countries. This results in valuable information for the adaptation of different physical conditioning regimes as well as implications for talent identification (Fisher and Dean, 1998). The second aim of the present study was to assess the quality of the players of each of the four European leagues by surveying their international status, nationality and FIFA world ranking as well as participation in the FIFA World Cup 2002. This will offer information regarding the actual quality of international players within these leagues which, in turn, provides information about which league would be of the highest quality, differences in playing style and player selection. As the four leading European leagues were selected for analysis, the results provide beneficial information concerning the current status and possible future development of European soccer.

Study 2: The 'Bloomfield Movement Classification': Motion Analysis of Individual Soccer Players

In close relation with the investigation of the physical characteristics of elite level players, it was also aimed to identify the physical demands of performance. Computerised video-analysis was selected as the most appropriate platform to incorporate a study using the time-motion analysis methodology. This involves the notation of various subjectively or objectively chosen modes of motion which are digitally timed throughout the performance. To date, fewer than 8 modes of motion have often been chosen in time-motion investigation in soccer which arguably does not provide a sufficient degree of specificity to detail the physical demands. A high element of performance specificity must be established to elicit a high degree of transfer from competition into a training regime to optimise competitive performance (Henry, 1968; Barnett et al., 1973; Sale and MacDougall, 1981; Rosenbaum, 1987; Morrissey et al., 1995; Hill et al., 1998). The present study outlined a new approach to time-motion analysis through a method involving a greater depth of detail concerning modes of timed-motion, as well as other non-timed movements, directions, intensities, turning and 'On the Ball' categories. The aim of this study was to present a new methodology and establish reliability. The purpose was to provide a new method to perform a more detailed time-motion analysis study in soccer performance to be used in the third study of this thesis. PhD Thesis 8 Jonathan R. Bloomfield

Study 3: Physical Demands of Outfield Positions in FA Premier League Soccer.

To elicit an enhancement in soccer performance, it is considered important to analyse the physical demands of match-play (Reilly and Thomas, 1976; All and Farrally, 1991a; Hughes, 2003). Time-motion analysis has been used to investigate these demands. However, many limitations exist with previous research, one of which being the range of classifications used in the collection of data- A high degree of performance specificity is desired to improve coaching practices such as physical conditioning (Barnett et al., 1973). To this end, a new time-motion analysis methodology was designed (see Study 2) and aimed at providing a new level of specificity of performance into the physical demands of high level soccer. Also, the majority of soccer-related time-motion analyses have reported macroscopically with total frequency, total duration or total distance covered providing a summary of the overall physical requirements of soccer. As soccer match-play is essentially an intermittent exercise (Bangsbo, 1994e), it is important to progress the knowledge of the physical nature of the sport and further provide a higher level of specific detail. The aims of the present study were to provide detail regarding intermittent patterns of Purposeful Movement (PM) and Recovery (R), performed by players of three different positions (defender, midfielder and striker), to investigate the reoccurrence of bouts of PM and R within selected time phases and finally provide time-motion analysis of the PM using the BMC. PhD

Study 4: Effective Conditioning for Soccer Match-Play

The interaction of multiple dynamic physical activities often produces a hybrid of physiological and biomechanical stresses. Higher levels of soccer require increased levels of physical fitness through increased demands from high intensity activity (O'Donoghue et al., 2001; Strudwick and Reffly, 2001; Mohr et al., 2003). Therefore, increased ability to perform complex chains of movement skills (agility) in conjuncture with speed (both acceleration and deceleration) and quickness (overcoming inertia) are relative to high level performance (Withers et al., 1982; Bangsbo, 1992; Reilly, 1994a). This occurs through processes of motor learning and physical conditioning with the rules of specificity and overload as key underlying principles. In order to facilitate motor learning, practice should contain variability within each session in preference to the repeated rehearsal of a single skill (Fitts, 1964; Henry, 1968; Barnett et al., 1973; Carlson and Yaure, 1990; Vereijken, 1991; Whiting and Vereijken, 1993; Bangsbo, and Peitersen, 2000; WiHiams, 2002). This may take the form of programmed and controlled (e. g. SAQ0 conditioning) or random and semi-controlled (e. g. small-sided games) practice methods. Hoff et al., (2002) identified that both methods are credible for soccer conditioning. The main aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of programmed and random motor learning and physical conditioning methods and investigate neurophysiological. and performance adaptations, A second aim was to investigate the necessity of the use of specialised SAQ8 equipment for the purposes of programmed conditioning.


Bloomfield, J. R. (2005). Soccer : physical characteristics, physical demands of match-play and effective physical conditioning. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 10, 2012
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Sport science
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Sports Science, The University of Hull
Award Date Nov 1, 2005


Thesis (20.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2005 Bloomfield, Jonathan R. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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