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A different view of training

By Luke Berry :  21/12/2010 :  Comments (23) :
It has been discussed long and hard on this site. Is David Moyes the man for the job at Everton? Has he run his course?

Another poor start to a Premier League season has seen Everton languishing in 14th place and looking like they may be dragged into a relegation battle. People have posited many reasons for this, not least the fact that Moyes's negativity is starting to seep through the club and is being picked up by the players; the same players that not so long ago were looking like a really good team. Good enough to maybe even challenge...

However, for all the things that have been mentioned as to the reasons for our current bad form; Moyes tactical ineptitude, the lack of a top striker, players wanting out. Nobody seems to have picked up on what I believe is a far more pertinent reason to our slow start, Moyes's overtraining of his players in pre-season.

Articles by the Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen have highlighted the necessity of tailoring individual's fitness regimens, in a far more scientifically proven, role-specific manner.

When Moyes had a bunch of average players at his disposal, he saw one way to close the gap in an affordable manner: boost fitness levels. It allowed players with less ability to compete by sheer fact that they could cover more ground, for longer, and it worked... For a time.

Moyes now has the best playing squad, in terms of quality and depth, that he has ever had, and yet we seem to be perennial slow starters. This is largely, I believe, because he still trains his players to the levels of fitness that were required when he had an average squad.

Moyes is missing something here. We seem to be getting more injuries to key players than we ever have, and are constantly setting ourselves for a fall with the slow pace we are setting at the beginning of the season.

It's time for Moyes to address this. I wonder what sort of a fee Raymond Verheijen commands for his consultancy work? If affordable, Everton and Moyes should snap him up.

People may think this article is off the mark. They may argue that it is in fact our mis-firing strikers, or that it is Moyes tactical ineptitude. However, no-one can argue that lots of our midfielder's have looked well off the pace, and looked off the pace at the beginning. If they were fit, fresh and ready to go, then I believe the fact that we don't have a real to class forward in the mold of Drogba would have been compensated for.

I know Moyes likes to look at new training techniques, and he uses science to try and get the best from his players. Maybe he should be having a listen to what Raymond Verheijen has to say. Maybe then, we might get the flying start that would have seen us challenging right at the top. Because despite what some critics might argue, this league is so open this season, that an in-form Everton could have turned it in to a six-horse race.

Reader Comments

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Dick Fearon
1   Posted 22/12/2010 at 07:27:40

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Every part of our pre season should come under the microscope. whatever we have done in the past fails in what it should do.

Year upon year we are slow out of the blocks and serious questions should be asked. Moyes was reported in the Echo as saying it would take another few weeks for us to be hitting our straps. That was three weeks AFTER the big kick off. What a disgraceful acknowledgement that there was something terribly wrong with our pre season preparation.

I agree with Luke where he says different players may need a different approach to getting fit and ready to fire but in our case I think the tempo for all should be increased.

This is not a convalescence home for backsliders.

Sam Hoare
2   Posted 22/12/2010 at 09:00:02

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So...the players are off the pace and unfit because they doing too much fitness training??!

Admittedly some inquest clearly needs to be conducted into our pre-season approach but I find this article about as coherent as an alcoholic Welshman after midnight on New Years eve.
Martin Faulkner
3   Posted 22/12/2010 at 09:36:40

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The problem lies with the shithouse opposition we play every pre-season under moyes, Bury, PNE and a couple of Yank/Aussie also-rans are not going to get us ready for the likes of Arsenal day one. It's no wonder the Mallorca's of this world play us off the pitch in the penultimate friendly. Poor choice opposition in my mind, we should be looking to play in one of the many European pre-season tournaments.

Raymond Verheijen's fitness training "less is more" is specifically designed to stop players from burning out to early in the season, not for optimising fitness for Day 1. I do agree though it would be money well spent to get someone like him to advise our current set-up and have them look at new ideas.
Sean Smythe
4   Posted 22/12/2010 at 09:56:09

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I remember reading an article about him, Luke, and had the same kind of thoughts as yourself.
Martin Faulkner
5   Posted 22/12/2010 at 10:05:27

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Here's a link to an article from the Daily Mail about RV's impact on the arse Bellamy

Seems like he places a lot of stead in this guy's work and now pays to consult him out of his own pocket.

Stephen Kenny
6   Posted 22/12/2010 at 10:29:01

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Each individual will have a sport specific stregth & conditioning training plan designed for their Somatotype(body shape), muscle fibre balance(good sprinter, cross country type) and to minimise the risk of injury (strength imbalance) I.e. Michael Owen's hamstrings.

They will also be working on things that improve performance such as motor skills(movement patterns) and plyometrics to improve spring etc.

They will also take part in generic group sessions that work to improve cardiovascular function and boost anaerobic performance I.e. laps of the pitch, running up hills, doing shutlle runs and other basic techniques, they will also perform workouts that are timed to mimic the flow and physical demands of a professional football match.

They are battery tested with things such as 20m sprints, standing jumps and other things when they are fresh and this is repeated periodically throughout the season which will show if a player is suffering from fatigue.

If they were being worked too hard through pre-season I think this would start to show around this point in the season were we normally perform well and start picking up wins. The Uefa cup runs of a few years ago tell me that this probably isn't the case as we seemed to cope quite well with two games a week.

Through the season is a different matter and I'm not sure if they are over-training although it was a suspicion of mine in the everyone getting serious soft tissue injuries phase we had not so long ago. I think on the whole the club manages players fitness quite well when you look at the performance of Phil Neville and Distin compared to other pro's their age?
Ray Said
7   Posted 22/12/2010 at 10:57:44

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An example to look at is Inter under Benitez.
Under Mourinho_according to an article by one of the Inter fitness coaches-90% of the work was with the ball, sessions in confined spaces to build explosiveness and sessions in large spaces with fewer players to build stamina. They won the Serie A and Champions League .
This year under Benitez, a change occurred. They now do much more gym work and around 20% with the ball-result is a string of players injured and they are way behind in Serie A. Benitez claims the players were not fit enough to play his way.
Although i have no information on this,I would doubt that we do much ball work but spend long hours in the gym and running.
Simon Watts
8   Posted 22/12/2010 at 12:23:14

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At last, someone else has mentioned this. I was thinking no one would take any notice. I have been saying for years now, that pre season is not benefiting the players. I normally get ignored. It is well known to be the hardest pre season in the premiership. I have been on the Everton site mentioning it but they never print my comments about it. I think a lot of people, including Everton believe total body burnout for a month in pre season is beneficial. It takes up to 3 months to get back to normal if you have over pushed yourself.
Simon Watts
9   Posted 22/12/2010 at 12:30:55

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I am not talking about pushing a little extra, but pushing to the point of exhaustion. That is when the body starts doing crazy things, in cell production etc. I have heard players go on about it. Distin has been at three premiership clubs, and he said that it was unbelievable what you have to go through at pre season. Who ever advises the club on fitness should be sacked. There is a lot of science based around this subject, and if you continually ignore it, then the club deserves its slow starts. It is an obvious cause and effect. Worst thing is that if they play bad he makes them train harder. Everton will start winning again about now. I said this 6 month ago.
Charles King
10   Posted 22/12/2010 at 12:36:15

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Can't argue with the facts, we are dog meat at the start of each season, then somewhere we have a purple patch before drifting away again.

Keeps us in the Prem though.
Lee Courtliff
11   Posted 22/12/2010 at 13:32:13

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I don't know much about modern fitness techniques but I always agreed with the people who said the problem with our pre-season is the 2nd/3rd rate opposition. I don't believe that a man like Moyes, who is so obviously methodical, would neglect to read up on the latest developments in player conditioning. That would suprise me even more than seeing Vic up front against City.
Dick Fearon
12   Posted 22/12/2010 at 13:38:23

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Has anyone got any idea what is Everton's pre season and typical mid week routine. Hours per day and how they are divided between fitness, individual and group skills etc.
In the old days lots of players, ours and RS would be in Maghull betting shops by mid afternoon. That was before haidressers and tattoo parlours became popular.
Stuart Ansell
13   Posted 22/12/2010 at 14:35:35

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It hasn't got much to do with the topic of this thread but don't people find it strange that players warm up about 40-50 minutes before kick off and then about 15 minutes before the match starts they go back inside for the last big chat. It takes the average person 15 minutes to cool down from excessive what is the real point of the warm up...perhaps Moyes should stay out with the team until the whistle is may give us a bit of an advantage over the first 5-10 minutes. The city match showed what a good start can do in a match.......just a thought!!

Down side we wouldn't get to see the team running out to the Z cars theme.

I wouldn't say a poor start has always effected the everton squad under the first few years it was after Christmas we struggled. We just can't seem to put any real consistency over an entire season....not sure we can really expect another run in like last year but the next two games could be massive for our confidence if we can get two results.

Jay Harris
14   Posted 22/12/2010 at 15:11:54

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Doesnt explain why we score late goals and finish games strongly as other teams are tiring!!!!!!!!!

Do agree with the view preseason preparation needs to be against better quality opposition though.
Luke Berry
15   Posted 22/12/2010 at 17:44:04

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@ Sam Hoare. Whilst I liked your play with words, you are clearly failing to see the point where overtrining is concerned.
Training for most sports is about taking the body to its limits in an attempt to: Expand those limits. Allow the body to operate at its highest function for a prolonged period. It is intrinsically about placing stress on the body, so that the body learns to cope.

Overtraining in an athlete is a very real concern. When the body is stressed it produces a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical that is produced in the adrenal system. It is linked to our flight or fight response. A build up of cortisol in the system signals bad news for any athlete. It leads to muscle fatigue, muscle atrophy and a decrease in bone mass. It also damages tendon formation and can lead directly to depression.
Now if you have this going throughout a squad it can spell bad news.

To answer what someone else said about the fact that we pick up around here, and our fitness levels start to show. We have a break for England friendly, not far in to the season. It may be that Moyes goes a little bit easier on the players he has left over, around this time. It takes a couple of days rest for recuperation to start. Then the cortisol levels begin to return to a stable level and hey presto, the athletes performance begins to get better.

When I wrote the article I had in mind our slow starts, and the sort of injuries that we were picking up. They are key indicators to overtraining. Others have mentioned our lack of any real opposition and I agree, it leaves me baffled every season as to why we play such poor teams.

In answer to Jay Harris, it may be that our base levels of fitness are that much higher than most other teams. That's why we look stronger (compared to them) at the end. However, if the players weren't overtrained they would be at other teams throughout the ninety minutes but they aren't.
Charlie Percival
16   Posted 22/12/2010 at 18:28:36

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Ok then answer this please Luke berry (Poster).

If the players are being overtrained pre - season then why do we always finish the season stronger?

This invalidates your whole point.

Luke Berry
17   Posted 22/12/2010 at 18:32:02

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Charlie Percival, asking a question that has been unanswered does not invalidate a point. Unless you're party to an answer that specifically does. If so, please post it.
However as an attempt to answer your question, as I had done in #15:

International friendly breaks are a chance for players to get a bit of rest. Even the ones away on duty aren't trained to the level they are at home. And pre-season training is specifically designed to push players past their limits. The training they do during the season is not as intense, by it's nature it is about consolidation and match preparation.

Oh and Charlie, I was merely making an observation, one that seams to have been backed up by a world renowned football fitness expert. If you have an answer as to why our players look burnt out at the beginning of each season and why they seem to be attracting the types of soft tissue injuries that they do, please feel free to enlighten us. I was simply looking at a set of circumstances and offering my view on them.
Charles King
18   Posted 22/12/2010 at 19:24:00

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Charlie @ 16

The reason we fare better in the second half of the season could be because we've done zip in the first half.
Stephen Kenny
19   Posted 22/12/2010 at 19:38:16

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I can assure you that over-training pre-season is not the cause of our perennial poor start. Your Cortisol analogy bears litlle relevence to the scneario you suggest would take many months of massive over training to occur.

They are elite level athletes who have made physical adaptations that will allow them to comfortably outperform a normal guy. It's not uncommon for an elite athlete to train 5-7hrs per day and still peform. our player's aren't doing anything like that in purely physical terms.

It's quite possible to remove Cortisol from the system via blood washing, a technique Chelsea have used in the past. Also you would clearly notice a drop in performance levels through the season were they massively over-trained as you suggest. This isn't the case, I really do think its quality of opposition that's to blame, we usually only play one good side all pre-season.
Luke Berry
20   Posted 22/12/2010 at 20:20:46

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Stephen, I'm sorry to say this but you are way off with regards to amount of training the average athlete does. 5-7 hours a day? Believe me, if any athletes are training that amount they are literally going to burn themselves out in a very short period of time.

The adaptations which you speak of are endurance adaptations. If you take any long-distance athlete, you will see that they conform to a standard somatotype. They are adapted in a way that increases their aerobic and and anaerobic thresholds. They are also in a state of atrophy. Their muscles simply won't grow. That's what prolonged high levels of cortisol will do to an athletes body.

I have been reading extensively on the factors that can reduce the effects of cortisol, and nowhere is blood washing mentioned. In fact the only thing that allows the body to return to normal is rest.
It doesn't take many months of overtraining to end up in this state either, as you suggest.
It happens when stress is placed on a human both physically and mentally, and it happens very rapidly.

This is a very interesting article:

Read it and look at some of the symptoms. It's uncanny how many of those factors would contribute towards an under performing athlete/team.

I don't disagree that we should play a better standard of opposition in pre-season. I think Moyes needs to pull his finger out and get us involved in one of these European mini-tournaments. However to say that is the sole deciding factor in our lack of performance seems a little bit off. These players are used to playing to a certain level, against top opposition, week in week out. To think they would lose the knack simply after playing against the Gretna's of this world, doesn't go far enough to explaining things for me.

And also on the point of the type of exercises they are doing. Moyes has been a firm believer in the quantity of the exercise being performed. I am sure he reads on the latest trends in science but as Raymond Verheijen has commented, the majority of coaches in the Premier League focus on quantity and not quality and it's having a detrimental effect on the players.
Simon Watts
21   Posted 22/12/2010 at 20:56:56

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Stephen Kenny. Luke has hit the nail on the head. I have been saying it for last 3 years. an elite athlete to train 5-7hrs per day.?? I really dont think a lot of people here understand what overtraining does. If you overtrain your cells start cannabilising each other. Its a delicate balance, but rest periods are more important . One of the main things that happens is your body depletes itself of many elements, especially zinc. Its about getting oxygen around the body. Your body can adjust to certain levels of fitness, but by suddenly upping the level to exhaustion has consequences, and these will last not for days, but sometimes months. Not in a drastic way but enough to lose up to 5 or10 percent of speed, agility, mental alertness. This can last for months.
Stephen Kenny
22   Posted 23/12/2010 at 11:30:37

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I have worked with a number of elite level (not average) athletes and read many studies, training blogs etc. and believe me the Paula Radcliffes, Ricky Hattons, Cristiano Ronaldos of this world will be training for that amount of time. I'm not sugesting that they go for a 5-hour run, but strength, fitness, flexibility, sport specific training will all happen regularly on a daily basis. Look it up, the adaptations I'm talking about take place right across the board, they are not purely endurance based. As you seem so keen to mention muscular atrophy, you are obviously well aware that depending on the type of training performed, one well balanced meal will be enough to put them back into a state of hypertrophy? Negates your argument slightly?


Your post is incoherent shite a Level 2 gym instructor could pick apart, I won't bother.

Anybody who has ever played football will know that if you go from playing the Gretnas of this world, whose pace, movement, ball control and vision are poor, to playing Arsenal, you are in for a massive shock. If you aren't prepared for this, expect to get twatted, which is exactly what happened. The pace of the game is completely different.
Mike Allison
23   Posted 23/12/2010 at 18:05:56

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Looks like I'm out of my league in terms of expert knowledge here but I do follow Spanish football and Barcelona no less claim they aim to peak around November, then expect a slight dip and another peak around January/February. Don't know if they're talking bollocks but Guardiola talks about it freely in press conferences.

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