Football is the most popular sport in the UK and provides a great way for so many children to get outside and get active. Playing a sport as a child has so many benefits both physically and mentally, so it's great that we have such a popular and accessible team sport that so many are involved in from a young age. But what happens when recreational football becomes more serious, or is continued beyond childhood? Due to being so popular, the competition between players to make it is extremely high, so anything that can give a player the edge, whether that's fitness or skills, can make the difference between being successful & potentially making a professional or semi professional career out of it and not even making a local team.
The key physical elements of the game include, speed, agility, core strength/stability, balance, endurance and power. Improving these will have a massive impact on your game, and allow you to focus on skills and tactics rather than your physical fitness. Many players find that their brain and tactical thinking are two steps ahead of their body, but working on your physical fitness will allow your body to keep up with your decisions and execute them efficiently. Whilst it is possible to work on these things in the gym without a PT, a Personal Trainer will be able to design a progressive program and ensure you get the most out of your sessions. Not only this, but a PT can provide direction, motivation and accountability, and the results you'll get from working with a trainer will show this.
So, how can we improve certain areas and how do they translate to football? Remember that these points don't just apply to semi professional or professional athletes, they can be helpful for amateur players to reduce the risk of injury if nothing else.
Speed is essential in nearly every sport. In football, the faster you are, the easier it is to get away from the opposition and you'll be able to cover the pitch in shorter times allowing you to defend more effectively. Speed training is made up of many different elements however the bulk of speed training will be focused on acceleration in the form of sprints plus single leg strengthening exercises to develop power. Any explosive strength movements will help with this, such as power cleans, vertical jumps, medicine ball slams, sled pushes/pulls and plyometric moves. As is often the case, exercises with greater benefits also carry greater risks if performed incorrectly. This is why it's important to work with a PT who can guide you through complex movements to ensure your safety at all times.
Being fast in a straight line has it's advantages, alone however it won't serve you very well in football. Agility is crucial to be successful in harnessing your explosive power into rapid changes of direction, acceleration and deceleration. Cone drills, agility ladders, shuttles, skater jumps and other single leg hop sequences should all be prescribed by a Personal Trainer in a footballers gym program to improve quickness.
Core Strength/Stability & Balance
This goes hand in hand with agility - great core strength will stabalise your body during the changes of direction and allow you to balance during transfers of weight. Functional training in the gym with your trainer will work your core without you performing hundreds of crunches. Single arm pressing, anti-rotational banded work and many other unilateral exercises are key for producing complete core stability. As well as improving performance, good core strength will reduce the chance of injury, which is something that every sportsperson should aspire to do in their training.
90 minutes is a long time to be performing and so you want to make sure you are conditioned enough to last the whole match. If you are thinking about how tired you are towards the end of a game, you won't be as focused on the job in hand, in what can be the most important moments. As an athlete or aspiring athlete, you must become comfortable being uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be at the peak of fitness to give yourself the best chance. No matter how fit you are, you will get fatigued at some point and this is when you must be able to push through and still perform. To improve your stamina, your PT should have you completing a range of different training methods; longer intervals are perhaps most suitable as they replicate a game situation better than simply running long distances.
As a keen sportsperson, some of these may come naturally to you, but that doesn't mean that they can't be improved with targeted work. On the flip side, if they aren't qualities that you naturally excel at, this doesn't mean that you can't bring them up to a higher standard either, it just might require a lot of hard work. You will get coached at training sessions by football coaches, however specific gym work is essential to take you to the next level. If you feel you would benefit from the help of a Personal Trainer, or are interested in how Online PT programming can help you, please get in touch via our Facebook, website or email.