Francisco ‘Paco’ Seirul-lo is a remarkable figure who has had a profound influence on Pep Guardiola and FC Barcelona’s training methods.
Although not widely known, Seirul-lo served as a fitness coach under Guardiola and was hailed as the best physical trainer by the Manchester City coach.
His journey with FC Barcelona dates back to 1978 when he joined the club as a coach for their handball team.
Over the years, he developed an integrated training methodology called the Structural Microcycle, which revolutionised the way physical and football training were approached.
Seirul-lo, who produced the work ‘Dynamic Systems and Performance in Team Sports‘, believed that physical training and football training should not be separate entities.
Unlike traditional methods prevalent in the 1990s, he proposed a holistic approach that combined physical and football training to promote dynamic interactivity.
Instead of isolating agility, conditioning, and other physical aspects, they were integrated into regular training sessions whenever possible. This idea was met with surprise, confusion, and skepticism initially but has since gained recognition for its effectiveness.
Unlike many other clubs, FC Barcelona does not focus on excessive physical work during preseason training. Seirul-lo emphasised personalised training regimens for each player, incorporating individualised exercises and football circuits that include physical elements.
The goal is to identify the players’ strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement through games and exercises involving the ball.
Seirul-lo criticised the practice of intense physical training without involving the ball, stating that it leads to fatigue and negatively impacts the first few games of the season.
Structural Training (Microcycle)
Seirul-lo’s integrated methodology organises the season into cycles, which are further divided into microcycles of three or five days.
Each microcycle focuses on specific tactical, technical, and physical components aligned with the team’s training objectives.
For example, if the team is working on build-up play, the microcycle will emphasise the physical requirements of the players involved in that phase, such as resistance strength, elastic strength, or explosive strength.
The four phases of a microcycle, that each serve different purposes, include;
Players recover after a game which can be a rest-day or can include a recovery session. Characterised by low intensity and low volume, and focuses on psychological and physical recovery.
Training session(s) begin the activation process of the body in preparation for the next game. High volume with long sessions. Alternatively, multiple sessions each day but moderate intensity.
Training incorporates high intensity but low-to-moderate volume, taking place in the days prior to the game to ensure what has been practiced in the days before are optimised and replicated during the match.
This is the preparation phase on the day before the match, low in intensity and volume, with the aim of keeping the body active to prevent the loss of and gains from the week.
Seirul-lo shifted the training focus from the team to the individual player. He recognised that each player has unique objectives, ambitions, and motivations, which should be considered in training sessions.
The training sessions are designed to improve various individual structures, including conditioning, coordination, cognitive stimulation, socio-affective skills, emotional-volitional aspects, and creativity.
By incorporating these structures, players are prepared physically, mentally engaged, and encouraged to grow as a team.
The Role of the Coach
Seirul-lo believed that coaches should guide players towards finding their own solutions rather than instructing them directly.
The Structural Training approach emphasises players’ creativity, allowing them to make decisions based on the tactical solutions they have learned.
Training sessions simulate game scenarios, introducing complexity and encouraging players to find their own solutions.
This approach contrasts with tactical periodisation, which focuses on developing a specific playing style and adherence to a game model.
Paco Seirul-lo’s integrated training methodology has revolutionised the way FC Barcelona approaches physical and football training.
By combining physical and football aspects, training sessions become more holistic and dynamic. The focus on individual players’ development, incorporating their unique structures, allows for personalised growth and a team mentality.
Seirul-lo’s approach prioritises creativity and autonomy, enabling players to make their own decisions during the game.
This player-centered philosophy has contributed to FC Barcelona’s success and continues to shape modern training methods.
After 45 years at Barcelona, Paco Seirul·lo left the club in 2022.