To meet the high-intensity demands of a competitive match, while at the same time withstanding fatigue, two things need to happen.

First, your heart needs to pump oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles at a sufficient rate. Because it’s oxygen that is the catalyst for energy production.

Then, that oxygen must be converted to energy quickly in the mitochondria.

This process is called aerobic metabolism. And it’s critical in team sports.

For instance, in soccer, 90% of the total energy cost during play is derived this way.

We used to think that conventional endurance training, such as steady-state or extensive interval running, was the best way to improve aerobic fitness.

However, a new study in Sports Medicine, proves otherwise.

While conventional endurance training works (particularly in the short-term), the study shows that small-sided games are better in the long run.


Because not only do appropriately prescribed games elicit the stimulus required to increase aerobic fitness, they also provide opportunity to improve technical skills.

And considering how busy a young team sport athlete is, training smarter reduces the physiological stress, thus decreasing the risk of burnout and injury.

What’s more, who wants to run when playing games can lead to better performance?

Oh, and one more thing before you shoot.

The study also showed that better fitness results are had when you stick with it, twice a week for at least 8 weeks, proving that adherence is the most important thing.