US SoccerUS Soccer
Eddie Johnson

Performance Fitness: The Buildup Phase

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann delivered an important message to the players on the first day of camp that rang loud and clear: this camp is about preparation for the huge World Cup qualifier on Feb. 6 in Honduras.

With less than a month to get ready and the players coming off an extended break, time is precious. Despite the sense of urgency – and the players’ eagerness to start competing for spots – U.S. MNT performance fitness coach Masa Sakihana insists the task of getting the group up to speed starts at a measured pace.

“We start by building up from a low intensity. You can’t just go straight in at full speed.” said Sakihana. “The first week is about building a foundation of physical fitness so starting next week the coaches can really focus on the soccer side of training.”

The majority of the opening sessions will be spent in the gym, with emphasis on cardiovascular fitness, strength and power training and for the first time since Klinsmann began as coach, Pilates.

“Pilates is essentially working on building your core,” Sakihana said. “Core training reduces the potential for injuries and also helps create good posture. With good posture comes more fluid and efficient movement on the field. We have brought in a core training specialist who will be working with the group every day.”

Also important in the process is rest, which Sakihana says will include a regeneration session every 3-4 days. For now, a lot of the work has involved a battery of performance fitness tests, from the VO2 max to functional movement screening and nutritional evaluations, all designed to assess each player’s strengths and deficiencies in order to tailor individualized programs for improvement.

And how have the players responded?

“The response from the players has been very good,” Sakihana said. “The first couple days have been a lot of testing, and some of it is new to them. They are willing to do the hard work and put 100 percent into everything, so we are very happy with their approach.”