To play professional football you need to be an athlete. Gone are the days when you could just rely on your technical ability to make it. Unless you’re an outlier like Lionel Messi, then you probably don’t need to read this blog as you’ll have training in an hour at ‘La Masia’ – Barcelona’s famed football academy.
For the rest of us, the step up from youth to senior football is now bigger than ever. Let alone remaining injury-free! I’ve lost count on the amount of times I have heard coaches say;
“They have the technical ability to play at the top, they just need to be quicker, more powerful, more mobile”
So if your serious about giving yourself the best opportunity to play the game you love for longer, make it into the professional game, or take a step up from the amateurs to play in the semi-professional scene. Strength and conditioning is a necessity.
TYPE OF TRAINING
We need to understand strength and conditioning training for football is not as easy as walking into your local gym. Doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps, 2 or 3 times a week, on every machine we can see. It will not develop the qualities required to reach your physical potential as a player and athlete. As a performance coach I look at a number of movements that are associated with football.
LOWER BODY: Striking the ball, running, change of direction, jumping and tackling.
UPPER BODY: Holding off opponents, shielding the ball, running, throw ins.
Furthermore, when we think about these movements above, it is actually these explosive, powerful movements that decide the outcome of a game. Striking the ball, sprinting back and making a last ditch tackle, jumping up and winning the header from a corner to score.
“Improving these physical qualities are the game changers.”
So let’s delve into this a little further, we need to look at what type of strength training methods we need to implement, these fall into a five categories;
MAXIMAL STRENGTH – “Is the ability to apply maximal levels of force irrespective of time constraints”
POWER – Is the rate of performing work, the ability to apply force with speed.
EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH – Is the ability to overcome heavy resistance with speed.
SPEED STRENGTH – Is the ability to apply lower levels of force rapidly.
STRENGTH ENDURANCE – Is the ability to apply levels of force for a prolonged period without deterioration.
Next, we need to know when to work on these strength characteristics and when to implement the correct methods. We don’t want to be incorporating all these approaches at once!
We need to determine the phases of your season. In football there are 3 phases;
This is the phase where we restore our body from a long season, recovery is just as important as training. At the start of the off-season we will look to improve our body and limb control, and joint stability.
Drawing closer to the end of the off-season leading into the pre-season we will start to build on our general strength and muscle size, then move into maximal strength training.
At the start of pre-season, we continue with our maximal strength phase and build a solid strength base. We will then start to transition into a new phase that will focus more on our power development. This is where we will use that solid base strength we have developed and start to transform it into more football specific power (explosive strength and power).
This phase is also known as our ‘maintenance phase’. The goal of this phase is to maintain the improvements we have made during the off-season and pre-season. This may be 1 or even 2 sessions a week made up of a number of 6-8 week phases over the long duration of the season. We don’t follow the same strength program for all 9 months of the season.
Of course, strength and conditioning is not the be all and end all of making that next step up. There are also a number of other considerations to look into such as;
- Testing / Screening
- Anaerobic and aerobic conditioning
- Agility and change of direction training
- Pre and rehabilitation training
So to wrap up, strength and conditioning should be a fundamental part of your training if you’re a football player looking to progress or continue to enjoy playing the game we love for longer! If you have any questions or interested in specific strength training for your team/individual sport come in and visit us here at Absolute Health & Performance, 199 William Street, Melbourne CBD 3000, or call us on 03 8547 4830.
Written by Absolute’s Performance Coach Steve Hissey.