The purpose of this investigation was to quantify maximal aerobic power (VO2max) in soccer as a function of performance level, position, age, and time of season. In addition, the authors examined the evolution of VO2max among professional players over a 23-y period.
1545 male soccer players (22 ± 4 y, 76 ± 8 kg, 181 ± 6 cm) were tested for VO2max at the Norwegian Olympic Training Center between 1989 and 2012.
No differences in VO2max were observed among national-team players, 1st- and 2nd-division players, and juniors. Midfielders had higher VO2max than defenders, forwards, and goalkeepers (P < .05). Players <18 y of age had ~3% higher VO2max than 23- to 26-y-old players (P = .016). The players had 1.6% and 2.1% lower VO2max during off-season than preseason (P = .046) and in season (P = .021), respectively. Relative to body mass, VO2max among the professional players in this study has not improved over time. Professional players tested during 2006–2012 actually had 3.2% lower VO2max than those tested from 2000 to 2006 (P = .001).
This study provides effect-magnitude estimates for the influence of performance level, player position, age, and season time on VO2max in men’s elite soccer. The findings from a robust data set indicate that VO2max values ~62–64 mL · kg−1 · min−1 fulfill the demands for aerobic capacity in men’s professional soccer and that VO2max is not a clearly distinguishing variable separating players of different standards.
Tønnessen, Hem, and Leirstein are with the Norwegian Olympic Federation, Oslo, Norway. Haugen and Seiler are with the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway.