Combining HIIT and strength training for football

Combining HIIT and strength training for football

A common dilemma we often get asked about at Predator, focuses around weight training plans for those involved in other sporting pursuits. Often, people are concerned that if they undertake a certain type of training (particularly strength training) then it might have a negative effect on their performance in their chosen sport. Similarly, if they are involved in heavy training for their sport, there are questions raised as to whether this will affect progress within other areas of training. Given the increasing awareness of the risks of overtraining, devising a training plan for these athletes can be challenging.

A study by Wong et al (1) published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the effects of a pre-season concurrent muscular strength and high-intensity interval training protocol in professional soccer players. 39 players were involved in the study to determine the effects such a program would have on the players’ aerobic endurance and explosiveness. Participants were split into two groups: a control group (19 participants) and an experimental group (20 participants). Both groups undertook 8 weeks of pre-season soccer training, however the experimental group also received high-intensity interval training and muscular strength training two times per week throughout the course of the study. 4 sets of 6 rep max weights were performed on the bench press, high pull, back half squat, jump squat and chin-ups for the strength training. High-intensity interval training involved 16 intervals each of 15-second sprints at 120% of individual maximal aerobic speed, with 15 seconds rest between each.


The experimental group showed a significant improvement in the bench press and back half squat. Improvements in 10m, 30m and vertical jump results were significantly larger in the experimental group but interestingly the group showed no changes in body mass as a result of the training.


The authors concluded that high-intensity interval training can successfully be used alongside muscular strength training to improve explosive and aerobic performance in soccer players.


Our Take

Whilst the results supported the suggestion that using the two approaches together could be beneficial for players, there are some limitations with the study.  Firstly, the study states that all this took place during pre-season training. Those familiar with the professional game will know that not only is pre-season training very different in nature to the training methods used during a season but also that it starts after the close-season whereby players may be completely untrained. Thus, we have to take caution when recommending the approach during season as the demand and workload is significantly different. As the players may well have been untrained for a few weeks, this may have well have exaggerated the extent to which increases in performance were seen as we all know how results seem to come faster in the first few weeks of training. How long does it take to get HIIT results?

We also feel that this study should have included additional groups to compare to the control group. The results suggest that the method was effective to some extent in this case but it does not examine the alternative training methods that could be used. Had a different set/range protocol or indeed different training methods altogether been included, how do we know that the results of these would not be superior to the combination of HIIT and strength training used in this study? Having said that, the study does lend some positive findings to those concerned with “juggling” different athletic goals by addressing a program that will suit separate disciplines. Whilst the strength and explosiveness of the experimental group did improve as a result of the intervention, interestingly no body mass changes were seen as a result of the training. Whilst there may have been fluctuations in dietary intake between participants (with certain footballers known to be under-reporters particularly during the close season), it is promising that strength and aerobic performance can both be improved without any significant changes in weight that may affect a player’s in game performance.

Overall, a promising study but one which is crying out for further research before we can begin to draw solid conclusions.


Author: Hassan Muzaffar



Wong P, L Effect of Preseason Concurrent Muscular Strength and High-Intensity Interval Training in Professional Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2010 Mar;24(3):653-60.

© 2012, Hassan Muzaffar. All rights reserved.