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High volume training with small-sided games affects technical demands in football: a descriptive study



Interval training with small-sided games (SSGs) is effective for improving physical conditioning and technical skills in football. This descriptive study investigated the effect of a high volume of SSGs on physiological and perceptual response [heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE)] and technical actions in amateur adult football players.


Twelve male football players (age 22.5 ± 1.8 years, weight 72.6 ± 6.3 kg, height 1.76 ± 0.06 m) completed two indoor SSG formats (3 vs. 3 and 4 vs. 4) (twice each) composed of six sets of 4 min each, with 2 min of passive recovery. RPE and HR were measured to calculate exercise intensity. Each game was filmed to evaluate the technical actions; the recordings were analyzed using a hand notation system.


Mean HR for the two SSG formats did not differ significantly; RPE scores were higher for the 3 vs. 3 as compared to the 4 vs. 4 games (42.5 ± 3.0 vs. 35.0 ± 10.3, respectively; p < 0.05); and the number of technical actions (passes, target passes, and dribbling) decreased as the games progressed, with statistically significant differences between games 5 and 6 compared to game 1 (p < 0.05), but not in the frequency of other technical actions (shots, interceptions, and tackles).


The decrease in the number of technical actions in both formats as the games progress beyond four sets of 4 min could annul the advantage of SSGs for technical skills training. These findings may help football coaches maximize the benefit of training with SSGs.

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We wish to thank the players for their participation in the study. We also thank Dr. Carlo Morandi for his valuable support in writing the manuscript. There were no external funding sources for this study.

Conflict of interest

Marco Beato, Luciano Bertinato and Federico Schena declare they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Marco Beato.

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Beato, M., Bertinato, L. & Schena, F. High volume training with small-sided games affects technical demands in football: a descriptive study. Sport Sci Health 10, 219–223 (2014).

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  • Coaching
  • Exercise training
  • Sport
  • Physical performance