It’s common to see social media posts of a professional player in the gym or on the training pitch doing conditioning drills and for some reason we instantly think if we do the same as them we will be able to be as fit as them.
Unfortunately, that is never the case. Whether you have an active or sedentary life trying to complete all out repeated sprints and changes of direction like a well-trained elite athlete without the correct preparation will lead to one thing, injury.
Know Your Level
Be honest with yourself and it is achievable. When was the last time you sprinted full speed? When was the last time you even ran? Did you warm up? Do you have any previous or current injuries? Think about it!
Build your tolerance up to high intensity sprinting and change of direction drills. Hamstrings in particular don’t like being exposed to this type of training unless they have been allowed the time to get used to it gradually.
Strength training has finally become an essential part of professional football players program. The benefits are endless but in a nutshell it will help minimize your risk of injury and help maximize your potential for performance on the pitch. Who doesn’t need that?
Don’t be fooled into thinking footballers are doing bodybuilding programs daily with countless exercises for each body part. They stick to the basics of jumping, squatting, hip hinging, pushing, pulling, rotating and bracing. Players need to be strong but also powerful so training is focused on performance rather than aesthetics. 2-4x per week is optimal (splitting upper and lower body usually) depending on the time of the season.
Can you get into a squat position effortlessly? Can you touch your toes? Can you bend your knee to go past your ankle without your heel coming off the ground? Can you reach your arms straight over your head?
If you can’t then you are restricting the ability of your body to get into the positions it needs to for it to be able to run faster, jump higher and change direction quicker. Start working on your hips, ankles and thoracic spine as a start for some game changing improvements.
Train Hard. Recovery Harder
Of course one of they keys to making sure you are a top performer on the pitch is training hard and smart on a regular basis. However with that being said keep in mind your body will only be able to benefit from that hard training if you are taking the time to take your recovery as serious as your training. Recovery can be as complicated or as simple as you like but it has to be consistent.
To keep it simple, ensure you warm up and cool down appropriately, sleep 7-9 hours per night and ensure you are eating plenty of whole foods and drinking 2-4L of water daily. A protein and carbohydrate drink or meal with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of around 1:1 to 4:1 (harder the session the higher the ratio) after exercise will also assist in your recovery.
Play The Beautiful Game
If you want to get better at something there is only one way to achieve it. Do it. Whatever your level it is essential that you are exposed to the game as often as possible to ensure you are able to compete at the real life demands of the sport.
Football team training, team games, individual training and of course small-sided games like Kikoff Soccer Centres five-a-sides are all critical components of a football players preparation.