Football is hands down the most popular sport in the world and the number of players worldwide grows ever year. Even with that many players enthusiastically embracing the sport most of the strength and condition programs for soccer players are either outdated or ignored altogether. The exception being at the professional level, but at every other level of the sport coaches focus on skills rather than endurance. Endurance is like owing a piece of real estate as opposed to renting, where the athlete will benefit from endurance in the long run, after an hour of play for example.
Athletes in other professional sports such as hockey or American football understand that to excel at their game they need more than skill they need the endurance training to improve their performance. They also train all year long not just during the respective seasons. Football doesn’t seem to follow the same pattern, in fact there are some football players who don’t think they need to develop their strength or power to improve their game. There are plenty of components of fitness involved in football here are some of them that you should develop in the off season.
Endurance in Football
Running is a key element of football and every player should develop a good aerobic base to start with. Outfield players can run up to 13km during one 90 minute game. That’s hard on the cardiovascular system and your endurance. While this is one area that football players do train for, however running for an hour a couple of times per week doesn’t really reflect the demands of a football match. In an actual match you sprint, jog, and you are constantly changing direction.
Strength in Soccer
No matter what sport you play strength is going to be key to how well you play. Football players view strength with very little importance but your speed and power come from how strong you are. You also need your strength to hold off your opponents when you want to keep them away from your ball. There are other benefits to improving your strength.
- Better able to resist injury
- Leaner body mass
- Better metabolism
- Improved flexibility and stability
- Greater bone density
- Faster recovery from injury
Even the most elite football players cannot match rugby players or those that play American football when it comes to strength. You can change that with a proper off season training regimen.
Your strength training needs to include functional exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups, chin ups and dips. Exercises that use opposing muscle groups and help with balance will do you the most good. Don’t just rely on machines to train and don’t waste time with machines like leg extensions that just exercise your quadriceps. You can train using your own body weight or some free weights or resistance bands, but try and involve the whole body.
Speed & Agility for Football
Speed and agility training should be another component of your off season training. Today’s football matches are quicker than they have ever been, while endurance is definitely important faster players will beat you every time. You may have better endurance than the guy on the opposing team but it doesn’t matter if he can get to the other end of the field faster than you.
Practice sprints from a standing start over a distance of roughly 30 yards. Keep timing yourself, you should be able to do this in less than 5 seconds, while the pros can do it in about 4 seconds. Power will come from your strength and your speed and if you want to be a formidable opponent the improve your speed and explosiveness.
You can improve your explosiveness with jump squats, push presses and plenty of plyometric exercises. Plyometric exercises like box jumps, split lunge jumps and push presses should be part of your circuit training program. Here is a video below to show you how plyometric exercises can help improve your explosiveness and overall fitness.
Flexibility in Football
Flexibility is far more important to playing soccer than you think. If you maintain a healthy range of motion you can significantly reduce the number of injuries on the field. However few players use the most effective methods of stretching or when to use them. Most are still doing passive stretching before a workout when this actually does far more to diminish your performance than it does to improve it. The best thing is to do a dynamic warm up, including lunges or squats, butt kicks and arm circles before you work out. To avoid injuries always hire a personal trainer. If you are a personal trainer looking for a job, go to Top Local Trainer and you can find many opportunities there. Good Luck!
Sports nutrition is an in-depth topic that needs it’s own blog post but suffice to say that eating for training is a different thing then eating to maintain your weight. Talk with a nutritionist about the best diet for your performance.
Sports specific training is best if you work with a trainer and get a program that is catered to your individual needs. Get a program based on both the sport you play and the position. Don’t overlook off season training as a football player, follow in the footsteps of other sports players and improve your game throughout the year.