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FIFA 19: The Ultimate Workout for Football Players

When designing a training programme for a specific sport, the main things you need to consider are the demands of the sport itself, the individual needs of the athlete and what the athlete needs to up their performance.

WHAT TRAINING DO FOOTBALLERS NEED?

The first area of focus should be the area with the potential for the biggest, hopefully quickest improvements. For example, if a player is overweight – relative to what they should be for their best possible performance – their first goal should be to reduce body fat as this will have the most profound positive effect on their overall performance in the least possible time.

By simply reducing inefficient weight stored as body fat, endurance will improve, power to weight ratio will increase – making them faster and able to jump higher – and risk of injury will decrease as the joints will be loaded less.

Besides being an appropriate weight in order perform well, the major demands of football mean a priority needs to be placed on anaerobic endurance as playing football relies multiple sprint-recover situations. In addition, players should also look to improve their power to weight ratio so they can run faster, jump higher and change direction quicker. All of which adds up to a lean, mean, explosive football player.

TRAINING FOR ENDURANCE

It may be surprising, but even at premier league level, the hardest working midfielders typically run less than 11km per game. To put that into context, a semi-gentle run on a treadmill at 8-10km per hour would cover 12-15km in an equivalent 90 minute game period.

This highlights the fact it’s not the average speed over 90 minutes that makes football so physically demanding, but rather how that distance is covered.

The ‘how’ is short, high intensity bursts of activity with limited chance for recovery as the game is always moving. Even when not sprinting!

In an end to end game, this can mean high intensity periods of action for several minutes. Although this might not rack up distance, it does place huge demands on your anaerobic energy systems, which enable you to sprint and recover. This is far more taxing than maintaining a steady state of speed.

Your body uses an anaerobic system to produce energy when you can’t provide enough oxygen to create energy aerobically. This happens at high heart rates with high speeds and pushes you into what we might consider your red zone. The more into the red zone you go, and the longer you stay there, the longer it will take to recover. The very best players can work at high intensity (high speed/power/heart rate) and sustain it, but also recover from it quickly.

This means although an aerobic base is a good starting point (long distance running at a steady pace) the most important type of training is high intensity interval training, which relies on short sprints with limited recovery. The bonus HIIT training is it builds aerobic performance, anaerobic performance and can be specific to increasing your speed as well!

TRAINING FOR SPEED

You can incorporate sprint training into HIIT workouts, so there’s some crossover in terms of performance. However, as you do HIIT and gradually fatigue, it becomes less specific to developing top speed. This means you want to do some sprint specific training, where you allow yourself to fully recover between sprints in order to get the best possible benefit in regards to speed.

If you think of speed, and most importantly acceleration (the ability to change speed quickly), then you need to be able to produce force quickly. There’s no point being able to produce lots of power/force if you can’t produce it quickly enough. So, as well as sprinting itself, you can use explosive dynamic movements such as box jumps to help develop faster muscle fibre contractions geared towards moving your body weight quickly.

TRAINING FOR POWER

When you think of power, you may jump straight to images of weight lifters or powerlifters pumping iron. When it comes to football there are two specific training considerations. One is your ability to produce maximal force related to your strength. The other, like we’ve highlighted above, is the speed at which you can create that force. This is what we often mean by power.

The beauty of strength training, even with heavy loads and slow acceleration, is the stronger you are at a heavy load, the easier and quicker you can move lighter loads. This means strength training is going to have huge carry over into your ability to produce power. This will help you run faster, jump higher and change direction quicker – especially when balanced against dynamic explosive movements that teach your muscles to move even quicker.

TRAINING FOR PREVENTION

This is a big one that’s often ignored.

Firstly, it’s important to note lack of fitness, lack of muscle strength and an inability to move properly with good stability are all huge risk factors for injury. By simply training properly for the demands of the sport, the chances are you’re going to reduce your chance of injury overall.

The main muscles to prevent knee injuries are the hamstrings and glutes, yet they are often neglected in training programmes. In particular, the hamstrings are important for knee stabilisation during sprinting.

As your hamstrings contract eccentrically after heel contact, they provide extra control at the knee joint and give a helping hand to the ligaments in your knee that often give out when these muscles are weak.

Strong glutes also support your hamstrings and tie the upper body and lower body segments together, so glute specific training is also a good idea. This will also have lots of carry over to performance as they are massively involved in sprinting and jumping.

FOOTBALL FIT WORKOUT

EXERCISE, REPS/INTERVAL TIME, SETS/INTERVALS, REST BETWEEN SETS/INTERVALS

Warm Up
Cycle: 5 minutes moderate effort

Muscle Activation and Mobility
Deadbugs: 10 each side, repeat twice
Superman Stretch: 15, repeat twice
Squat Sits: 5 sits, repeat twice
Walking Lunge Stretch: 10 each side, repeat twice

Front Squats: 8-12, 3, 120s
Hip Thrusts: 15-20, 3, 120s
Stiff Legged Deadlift: 8-12, 3, 120s
Box Jumps: 10-15, 3, 120s
Treadmill Sprints: 20s (max possible speed), 5, until fully recovered
Cycle HIIT: 30s, 8, 90-120s


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