Testing Time For Saints Stars

By SFC Media time Tue 02 Jul Club

Saints' returning stars have been put through their paces at Southampton Solent University over the past two days ahead of their return to Staplewood for pre-season training.

Members of the Club's Sports Medicine & Science department plus a team from the university itself have been testing out the First Team's fitness levels today and yesterday.

A handful of players have been given extended summer breaks having played international football for their respective countries over the past six weeks.

However, for those who reported back on 1st July, there has been no sign of a gentle introduction to their pre-season schedule, which will officially get underway from tomorrow morning.

Our cameras were on hand this morning to capture the scene as Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Jason Puncheon were put through their paces.

The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Luke Shaw and Artur Boruc have also taken part in the tests at various points during today and yesterday.

Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach Nick Harvey oversaw the proceedings of the last two days, and was left impressed by how the squad fared.

"Over the course of the two days we have all of the players in the First Team squad down and we do a number of physiological tests to see where they're at after the off-season," he said.

"They gain some starting points and some physical benchmarks that we then look to improve once we go into pre-season training tomorrow.

"The boys are looking in good nick and they've stood up well to all of the tests that we've done.

"All of the lads have impressed me with their attitude to off-season training – very rarely now do you get people come back out of shape because they know it's going to have a knock-on effect through pre-season and into the season.

"I think players now generally realise that the off-season isn't a time to just binge and lose condition. They know that we're going to start at a high level, and they need to be ready for that physically.

"As long as the players get enough time for their recovery and regeneration, it's important that they keep training. They don't really have any time where we tell them not to do anything.

"During the off-season they always do a bit of conditioning work and basic strength training so they come back robust and ready to cope with what's going to be a really demanding period of time physically."

The days' sessions culminated in each player undergoing the dreaded VO2 max test, which measures an individual's capacity to use and transport oxygen during exercise.

The test involves players running at increasing speeds while their breathing is measured until their aerobic energy is fully taxed.

"It was horrible – it always is," said Lambert after completing his VO2 max test.

"I feel good this year and I'm in good shape – but it doesn't matter how good shape you're in. Those last few minutes really hit home.

"It's good. It's made to be hard and it pushes you to your limits, and it's good to have people at your side giving you support. It really pushes you on."

Like his teammates, Lambert came through his test with flying colours, much to Harvey's satisfaction.

"We're looking for players to give an absolute maximum effort so they can't run any more," he explained. 

"A nice analogy to use is that we're looking at the size of their engine but – more importantly from a training point of view – we're looking at the condition of their engine as well.

"It's mentally very tough because most of them have done it before on several occasions, so they know they've got to go through the pain barrier. 

"I think the mental aspect is good because, as we go through pre-season and into games, we want to be strong for 95 minutes and that is about mental toughness as well as physical ability."

With the first two days' tests out of the way, the players will now move onto pre-season training from tomorrow morning.

Over the next few weeks they will be joined by the likes of Gastón Ramírez, Maya Yoshida, James Ward-Prowse and new signing Dejan Lovren, who have been given extra time off having extended their 2012/13 season to play for their respective countries.

"We have to be conscious of freshness, so if the lads who've been playing over the summer were to come straight in with the others and do a similar training programme then there's an element of cumulative fatigue that would impact them as they go into the season," explained Harvey.

"We need to give them enough time to regenerate a bit while still maintaining their condition, so they will join us at different points now over the next few weeks. 

"We will make sure they're fresh going into the new season."

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