Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2023) 22, 317 - 328   DOI:

Research article
Positional Differences in Absolute vs. Relative Training Loads in Elite Academy Soccer Players
Tom Douchet1,2,3, , Christos Paizis1,2, Hugo Roche3, Nicolas Babault1,2
Author Information
1 INSERM UMR1093-CAPS, Université de Bourgogne, UFR des Sciences du Sport, F-21000, Dijon
2 Centre d’Expertise de la Performance, Université de Bourgogne, UFR des Sciences du Sport, F-21000, Dijon
3 Dijon Football Côte d’Or (DFCO), 17 rue du Stade, 21000 Dijon, France

Tom Douchet
✉ Dijon Football Côte d’Or (DFCO), 17 rue du stade, 21000 Dijon, France.
Publish Date
Received: 18-07-2022
Accepted: 20-05-2023
Published (online): 01-06-2023

Weekly training loads are typically reported using absolute values and are not individualized according to competition positional demands (relative values). The aim of this study was to evaluate absolute and relative training loads and compare across playing positions during a full in-season in an elite soccer academy. 24 elite academy soccer players, categorized into five positions (CD: central defender [n = 4]; FB: full back [n = 5]; CM: central midfielder [n = 6]; WM: wide midfielder [n = 5]; FW: forward [n = 4]), were monitored using a global positioning system. Absolute training load was calculated using the total distance, the distance at moderate-speed ([15-20[ km·h-1), high-speed ([20-25[ km·h-1), sprint (> 25 km·h-1), the total number of accelerations (> 3 m·s-2) and decelerations (< -3 m·s-2). Relative training load was calculated by dividing absolute training loads by mean values from the competitive matches. Training loads were determined daily according to their distance from match day (MD). One-way ANOVAs were performed to evaluate differences between playing positions. Absolute moderate-speed distance was greater for WM compared to CD (p = 0.015, and p = 0.017), while the opposite was shown for relative values (p = 0.014, and p < 0.001) on MD-4 and MD-3, respectively. The absolute moderate-speed distance was not different between CD, FB, CM, and FW, whereas relative values were greater for CD on MD+2 and MD-4 (p < 0.05). FB and WM performed greater absolute high-speed distance than CD on MD-4 and MD-3 (p < 0.05) while no difference was highlighted for relative values.Our results demonstrated that in the present academy players, training load for CD was underestimated using absolute training loads for moderate and high-speed distances. In contrast, relative training loads highlighted WM as an underloaded position. Therefore, relative training loads are recommended as they contextualize training loads according to competitive demands and favor training individualization.

Key words: GPS, microcycle, periodization, youth, high-intensity

           Key Points
  • Relative loads should be quantified instead of absolute training loads to contextualize training loads based on players' demands during soccer competition.
  • Relative training loads could help practitioners to further individualize training contents and improve prescription.
  • Players should cover greater distances in high-velocity thresholds during training to replicate competitive demands.
  • Practitioners should consider adding large-sided games and dissociated work to meet high-intensity requirements.
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