Julian Nagelsmann will lead Bayern Munich's first pre-season training session on 8 July as they gear up for the new campaign. - © Getty Images
Julian Nagelsmann will lead Bayern Munich's first pre-season training session on 8 July as they gear up for the new campaign. - © CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images

What exactly is pre-season and what happens?


With the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign set to kick off on 5 August, clubs across Germany are starting to gather their players together to begin their pre-season preparations. But why do they need so much time? And what actually goes on?

bundesliga.com takes a closer look…

The quick and easy answer is that pre-season is to get players fit and ready in time for their first competitive game. In reality, however, there are a number of moving parts to consider: new players arriving, others leaving, some may be injured, or perhaps there is a new coach with new tactics to implement.

The first question, then, is when to start? Players obviously need time for their bodies to recover after a long, arduous season. RB Leipzig, for example, played more competitive games in 2021/22 than any other German team (54), the last of which was the triumphant DFB Cup final against Freiburg on 21 May

The new campaign begins earlier than usual this year due to the schedule reshuffle with the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November, leaving Domenico Tedesco’s side just nine weeks of summer holiday.

Watch: How Matchday 1 of the 2022/23 Bundesliga season looks

That might sound like a lot, but between giving players time off, dosing training to avoid muscle injuries, going on training camps (more on that later) and playing in friendlies, it all goes by quickly.

“Every club has to find a pragmatic solution that works for them,” explained Thomas Tuchel during his time in the Mainz hotseat. “If you start too early you need to be careful that you don’t lose momentum. You can’t maintain that kind of tension for too long.”

Bochum and Union Berlin are the first clubs to begin their preparations this year, both regrouping on Monday 20 June. Bayern Munich will be the last to get started again, with Julian Nagelsmann’s charges scheduled for a return on 8 July.

But regardless of when it happens, the first item on the agenda at all clubs is a lactate test.

Players are generally told to rest completely for a week to 10 days at the end of a season, before completing an individually tailored training programme that takes into account their age, position, injury history and current fitness status.

The lactate test is then used as a baseline to determine their condition upon their return. Players usually run laps around a track before having their ear lobe pricked for a drop of blood. They then continue to run at a faster pace for a few laps, give another blood sample, and repeat the process several times.

“From these drops of blood you can see the concentration of lactate in the blood,” said Prof. Dr. Tim Meyer, who has been Germany’s national team doctor since 2001.

“When we have the lactate values we can put them on a graph… and that helps us determine performance diagnostics. The graphs also show various thresholds, which can give recommendations for training… so in this way you can determine which heart rate or speed the players need in different areas of training.”

Mark Uth undergoing a lactate acid test during pre-season training with Cologne last year. - Herbert Bucco via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Herbert Bucco

All of which brings us to training camps. “The preparation time you have in pre-season is among the most important periods of time you have as a coach,” said Markus Weinzierl, who stepped down as Augsburg boss at the end of 2021/22.

Weinzierl, like the majority of coaches, is a fan of taking his squad away for a week or so. “You have your players and your staff together around the clock at training camps,” the 47-year-old explained.

“You can use that time intensively to talk to the players about a variety of things, you can do video analysis, you can integrate new players and forge a sense of togetherness in the team.”

The locations of teams’ camps is determined by a number of factors: most opt for warm-weather training, or a combination of sun and altitude training in the mountains to help players gain fitness quicker. There may also be commercial reasons at play, with clubs contractually obliged to visit certain places to meet responsibilities with partners and sponsors. Switzerland, Austria and Spain are popular locations for Germany’s top-flight teams, as are the USA, China and Japan.

Former Augsburg head coach Markus Weinzierl took an active part in his team's training camp in Austria last year. - Klaus Rainer Krieger via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Krieger

Irrespective of the location, however, it is safe to say that most players generally do not enjoy the task of getting back to peak fitness.

“It gets harder every day,” former Bayern and Werder Bremen defender Valerien Ismael once told Spiegel. “But it’s here that you lay the foundation for the fitness you’ll have over the entire season.”

As such, players are aware it is a necessary part of their job description. “If you come back from your holiday out of shape then you stand out in a negative way,” Ismael continued.

“It means everyone else has to carry you, and you slow down the whole team’s performance. An unfit player suffers a lot in training camps. And if you’re not fit, you pick up injuries more easily. If you’re injured you miss out on the friendly games and then someone else take your place in the team.”

Valerien Ismael in Bayern training in 2006. - Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images

Be that as it may, Weinzierl argues that from a coach’s perspective friendlies aren’t as important: “The intensity of training is the decisive factor. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last in the exercises. You shouldn’t give too much significance to friendlies or results during pre-season – I’ve seen a lot of teams who don’t give it their all, for a variety of reasons.

“Nobody wants to get injured, or players are tired from some strenuous training sessions. I think an intensive week of training focusing on your tactics is more useful than half-hearted friendlies.”

Upon returning to Germany from the camps, the focus remains on building fitness and stamina, while also performing media duties – granting interview requests and having pictures and video footage taken that will used by TV broadcasters as well as print and online outlets throughout the season.

Watch: From the archive - the making of Dortmund's 2019 media day

“Two weeks before Matchday 1, you’re generally able to play at full tilt for 60 or 70 minutes,” Ismael added. “In the last week of pre-season you’re at about 80 percent of your maximum performance level. You pick up the remaining 20 percent through the games once the season kicks off.”

Spare a thought, then, for Manuel Neuer, Marco Reus, Christopher Nkunku and Co. over the coming days and weeks as they put in the hard yards with a view to enjoying a successful Bundesliga campaign in 2022/23.