PURPOSE: To examine the skeletal muscle and performance responses across two different exercise training modalities which are highly applied in soccer training.
METHODS: Using an RCT design, 39 well-trained male soccer players were randomized into either a speed endurance training (SET; n = 21) or a small-sided game group (SSG; n = 18). Over 4 weeks, thrice weekly, SET performed 6-10 × 30-s all-out runs with 3-min recovery, while SSG completed 2 × 7-9-min small-sided games with 2-min recovery. Muscle biopsies were obtained from m. vastus lateralis pre and post intervention and were subsequently analysed for metabolic enzyme activity and muscle protein expression. Moreover, the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery level 2 test (Yo-Yo IR2) was performed.
RESULTS: Muscle CS maximal activity increased (P < 0.05) by 18% in SET only, demonstrating larger (P < 0.05) improvement than SSG, while HAD activity increased (P < 0.05) by 24% in both groups. Na+-K+ ATPase α1 subunit protein expression increased (P < 0.05) in SET and SSG (19 and 37%, respectively), while MCT4 protein expression rose (P < 0.05) by 30 and 61% in SET and SSG, respectively. SOD2 protein expression increased (P < 0.05) by 28 and 37% in SET and SSG, respectively, while GLUT-4 protein expression increased (P < 0.05) by 40% in SSG only. Finally, SET displayed 39% greater improvement (P < 0.05) in Yo-Yo IR2 performance than SSG.
CONCLUSION: Speed endurance training improved muscle oxidative capacity and exercise performance more pronouncedly than small-sided game training, but comparable responses were in muscle ion transporters and antioxidative capacity in well-trained male soccer players.