Footballers are looking to increase fitness as a return to sport is now in sight. It is important that certain types of conditioning are not overlooked. Most committed footballers have been practising skills at a good intensity on their own and are now back with their team along with cycling and going for runs.
However, it must be stressed that things like max sprint exposure, acceleration / deceleration work, and higher speed runs must be practiced & progressed as the return gets closer. This is to ensure we are prepared: for ‘worst case scenario’ of situations that require this, to perform in the common demands of football & to protect against injury.
High speed running can ensure the hamstrings are protected & conditioned, it prepares the body to be conditioned against fatigue that could otherwise lead to decreased performance and slower muscle activation & when trained correctly can improve speed & performance.
It’s just as just important for a defensive midfielder as it is for a full back to practice longer runs & high-speed efforts as there is always a chance that players will be exposed to these demands in a game, offensively & defensively. A high level defensive midfielder can still cover 500m of high speed distance (over 19.7km/h for men, 18.0km/h for women) in a 90 minutes game, of which include efforts of very high speed running (over 25.2hm/h for men, over 25hm/h for women).
If in a team setting, small-sided games can be manipulated to meet these requirements, but alone, sometimes sprints & intervals must be run to meet these requirements, although they may seem less attractive to a lot of footballers. Examples include box to box runs with short rest period & sprint efforts with large rest times.