‘Bridging the gap’: Differences in training and match physical load in 1st team and U23 players from the English Premier League

Kavanagh, Ronan, Carling, Christoper, Malone, Shane, Di Michele, Rocco, Morgans, Ryland and Rhodes, David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4224-1959 (2023) ‘Bridging the gap’: Differences in training and match physical load in 1st team and U23 players from the English Premier League. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching . ISSN 1747-9541

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/17479541231186227


To explore the differences in training and match load in English Premier League (EPL) 1st team and U23 players. Identifying differences in relative and absolute physical outputs in relation to Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) and Maximal Sprint Speed (MSS) and how this informs monitoring and training prescription.

Two groups of full-time professional football players (1st team, n = 24 and U23 squad, n = 27) participated in this study. Training and match data were categorised into weekly blocks from Monday to Sunday. Each player's weekly total was then averaged to provide a squad average for each metric examined.

Match analysis identified significantly higher distance covered above 120% MAS and distance between 120% MAS and 85% MSS (p = .04, effect size [ES] = 0.64; p < .01, ES = 1.13) for the 1st team. Distance above 85% MSS was significantly higher for the U23's (p < .01, ES = 2.92). Training and match data during one-match weeks displayed significantly higher differences in all high-speed variables for 1st team players compared to U23 players (p ≤ .05, ES = 0.82–1.78). Analysis of training and match data during a two-match week displayed no significant differences for all physical variables (p > .05).

Practitioners should consider the utilisation of individual relative thresholds to identify differences between physical performance variables during training and matches for 1st team and U23 players. Utilising these comparisons to inform training design, could maximise players physical development and potential for successful transition. Importantly, these findings relate to only one EPL club and therefore practitioners should assess their own players’ relative training and game outputs.

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