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To examine the acute effects of generic drills (running drills [RDs]) and specific (small-sided-games [SSGs]) long-sprint-ability (LSA) drills on internal and external load of male soccer players.


Fourteen academy-level soccer players (mean ± SD age 17.6 ± 0.61 y, height 1.81 ± 0.63 m, body mass 69.53 ± 4.65 kg) performed four 30-s LSA bouts for maintenance (work:rest 1:2) and production (1:5) with RDs and SSGs. Players’ external load was tracked with GPS technology (20-Hz), and heart rate (HR), blood lactate concentration (BLc), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were used to characterize players’ internal load. Individual peak BLc was assessed with a 30-s all-out test on a nonmotorized treadmill (NMT).


Compared with SSGs, the RDs had a greater effect on external load and BLc (large and small, respectively). During SSGs players covered more distance with high-intensity decelerations (moderate to small). Muscular RPE was higher (small to large) in RDs than in SSGs. The production mode exerted a moderate effect on BLc while the maintenance condition elicited higher cardiovascular effects (small to large).


The results of this study showed the superiority of generic over specific drills in inducing LSA-related physiological responses. In this regard production RDs showed the higher postexercise BLc. Individual peak blood lactate responses were found after the NMT 30-s all-out test, suggesting this drill as a valid option to RDs. The practical physiological diversity among the generic and specific LSA drills here considered enable fitness trainers to modulate prescription of RD and SSG drills for LSA according to training schedule.

Castagna and Francini are with the Fitness Training and Biomechanics Laboratory, Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Coverciano (Florence), Italy. Póvoas is with the Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development, CIDESD, University Inst of Maia, Maia, Portugal. Castagna and D’Ottavio are with the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Castagna ( is corresponding author.