Is Soccer Aerobic or Anaerobic? Understanding the Energy Systems Used in the Sport

Are you a soccer enthusiast wondering whether it is an aerobic or anaerobic sport? Well, we’ve got news for you – it’s actually both! 

In fact, soccer players use a combination of both energy systems during gameplay to execute a range of actions, from running and jumping to kicking and sprinting.

Soccer Aerobic or Anaerobic

But wait, what do aerobic and anaerobic even mean? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Simply put, aerobic exercise refers to activities that involve low to moderate intensity, where your body uses oxygen to produce energy. Think jogging, cycling, and swimming. 

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, refers to high-intensity activities where your body can’t supply enough oxygen to meet energy demands. Think sprinting, weightlifting, and jumping.

Examples of Sports that are Predominantly Aerobic or Anaerobic

Many sports can be classified as predominantly aerobic or anaerobic based on their physical demands. Here are some examples:


  • Long-distance running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Rowing
  • Triathlon


  • Weightlifting
  • Sprinting
  • Gymnastics
  • Powerlifting
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Tennis

Soccer and Energy Systems: The Dynamic Duo

Now, let’s dive into how these energy systems relate to soccer. 

Footballers need both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, as they must perform a variety of actions throughout the game. From running and sprinting to jumping and kicking, it takes a combination of both energy systems to keep up with the pace of play.

Aerobic Demands in Soccer: Stamina is Key

Soccer players need a solid aerobic capacity to maintain endurance and stamina throughout the game. They need to be able to run for extended periods of time without getting tired and recover quickly after short bursts of high-intensity activity.

Did you know that professional players cover an average of 10-13 km per game? That’s a lot of running! 

Learn how to get even faster for soccer in our guide.

To improve their aerobic capacity, soccer athletes can engage in activities such as long-distance running, cycling, or even high-intensity interval training.

Anaerobic Demands in Soccer: Short Bursts of Energy

In addition to aerobic capacity, soccer players also need anaerobic power for short bursts of high-intensity activities such as sprinting and jumping. They need to be able to sprint to get past defenders or catch up to attackers, as well as change direction quickly to avoid tackles or make a pass.

Anaerobic power is the maximum rate at which your body can produce energy without oxygen. Players can improve their anaerobic power by engaging in activities such as sprints, plyometrics, and resistance training.

Different Energy Systems Used During a Soccer Game

Players use different energy systems to produce the energy needed to perform various actions such as running, jumping, and kicking the ball. The three energy systems involved in soccer are the ATP-PC system, glycolytic system, and aerobic system.

The ATP-PC system is responsible for producing energy during short, high-intensity activities such as jumping or sprinting. 

The glycolytic system is responsible for producing energy during longer bouts of high-intensity exercise.

The aerobic system is responsible for producing energy during low to moderate-intensity activities, such as jogging or walking. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, during a soccer game, players spend approximately 70% of their time performing low-intensity activities, 20% performing moderate-intensity activities, and 10% performing high-intensity activities. This highlights the importance of training for all three energy systems to ensure that players can perform at a high level throughout the game.

Train Like a Pro: Fitness Tips for Soccer Training

So, now that we’ve covered the basics of aerobic and anaerobic energy systems in soccer, you’re probably wondering how you can train like a pro. Here are some tips to get you started:

Aerobic Training: Endurance is the Name of the Game

  • Incorporate long-distance running or cycling into your training routine.
  • Engage in high-intensity interval training to improve your endurance and VO2 max. Try hill sprints, cone-to-cone sprints, and suicides.
  • Practice soccer-specific drills that involve jogging and running, such as dribbling and passing drills.

Anaerobic Training: Power Up Your Play

  • Incorporate sprint intervals into your training routine, such as 30-second sprints followed by 30-second rests.
  • Perform plyometric exercises, such as box jumps and depth jumps, to improve your explosiveness.
  • Engage in resistance training to build strength and power, which are essential for sprinting and jumping. Squats are a great compound exercise that works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles.

Fitness Training For Specific Soccer Positions

The physical demands placed on each player can vary depending on their position. Here’s how different positions require different types of fitness training:

Goalkeepers: Goalies require explosive power and agility, as they need to be able to quickly change direction to make saves. They also need to have good reaction time and be able to jump high to reach the ball. Their training should focus on anaerobic fitness, including plyometrics, agility drills, and strength training.

Defenders: Players on defense need to be able to run for extended periods of time to keep up with attackers, but they also need to have the strength and power to win challenges for the ball. Their training should focus on a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, including endurance runs, interval training, and strength training.

Midfielders: These athletes cover a lot of ground on the pitch and require high levels of aerobic fitness to keep up with the pace of the game. They also need to be able to change direction quickly and have good ball control. Their training should focus on aerobic fitness, including long distance runs and interval training, as well as drills to improve agility and ball control.

Forwards: Attackers require explosive power and speed to get past defenders and score goals. They also need to have good endurance to keep up with the pace of the game. Their training should focus on a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, including sprint training, plyometrics, and strength training.

Each position on the soccer field requires a unique set of physical attributes, and therefore, requires a different type of fitness training. A successful soccer player needs to have a balance of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, as well as the specific skills required for their position.

Read our guide on how to get in shape for soccer!

Nutrition for Soccer Performance

Proper nutrition helps players maintain high levels of energy throughout a game, supports muscle recovery and repair, and can prevent injuries. Here are some key points to consider:

Fueling Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise requires the body to use oxygen to produce energy, so it’s important for players to consume complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which provide a slow and steady release of energy. Players should aim to eat a meal that is high in carbohydrates at least 3-4 hours before a game or practice and consume a smaller, carbohydrate-rich snack about 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.

Fueling Anaerobic Exercise: Anaerobic exercises require the body to use the stored energy in the muscles. To support this, players need to consume foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as fruit, honey, or sports drinks. Eating a carbohydrate-rich snack during half-time can also help refuel the muscles.

Hydration: Staying hydrated is critical for soccer athletes, as even mild dehydration can lead to a decline in performance. Players should aim to drink water or sports drinks regularly throughout the day and during exercise. Drinking a sports drink during exercise can also help replace electrolytes lost through sweat.

By following these nutrition tips, players can fuel their bodies for success on the field.

FAQs: Your Burning Questions Answered

Can I train both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems at the same time?

Yes, you can train both energy systems simultaneously through activities such as high-intensity interval training.

Is soccer more aerobic or anaerobic?

Soccer requires both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, as players need to perform various actions throughout the game that require both systems.

How can I improve my aerobic capacity for soccer?

Incorporate activities such as long-distance running, cycling, or high-intensity interval training into your routine to improve your aerobic capacity.

How can I improve my anaerobic power for soccer?

Incorporate activities such as sprint intervals, plyometrics, and resistance training into your routine to improve your anaerobic power.

Ready, Set, Play!

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about the energy systems used in soccer. 

Remember, both aerobic and anaerobic training is important for improving your overall soccer performance. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a soccer superstar.

Adrian Turner
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