Football (or soccer) is one of the world’s most popular sports, with millions of players and fans. Despite its popularity, training programs for footballers are often given short shrift. Many coaches and players focus solely on developing skills, and not on building endurance.
To be a great player, you’ll need to pay attention to other aspects of fitness like:
- Strength and endurance
- Power and speed
- Flexibility and agility
Athletes of sports like hockey and basketball, are more understanding of the importance of conditioning and strength programs, especially in their off-season. Many footballers believe that they don’t need to develop power or strength to be successful, but there’s nothing farther from the truth. Here, we will look at the different fitness components involved in football and in ways you can optimize your training program.
Endurance: Any good soccer conditioning program should be centered around developing your aerobic fitness. There have been several studies done on soccer’s physiological demands, and they’ve shown that an outfielder can run up to eight miles during the average game. Running that distance puts a high demand on the cardiovascular system and upon the muscles, so any gains here will translate easily to the pitch.
Strength: A good strength training program can benefit you, no matter your sport- but its importance in football is grossly underestimated. Without strength, power and speed are nonexistent; a footballer needs strength to keep challengers at bay. Strength training helps develop resistance to injury, and it also results in the building of lean muscle mass, which raises metabolism. Players will notice an increase in energy, balance, and stability, with faster recovery times between games.
Speed/Agility: This is another essential part of any football fitness plan. Today’s games are played faster than ever; while strength and endurance are paramount, the faster players are at an advantage. Power is where speed and strength meet; to improve your explosiveness, you should include plyometric moves like jump squats, power cleans, and box jumps in your fitness plan.
Flexibility: Flexibility is an all too often overlooked component of overall fitness. Maintaining your range of motion can be beneficial, but not many people know how to stretch correctly. Start with dynamic stretches like arm circles, butt kicks, and walking lunges, as static stretches can increase the risk of injury.
Nutrition: We won’t delve too deeply into the specifics of sports nutrition, but you should know that the food you eat directly affects your energy, recovery, health, and performance on the field. Keep these basic tips in mind:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day
- Eat after a workout instead of before
- Include protein, whole grains, and fruit/vegetables in each meal
- Reduce the amount of starchy carbs you eat (such as rice, bread, potatoes, and pasta)
- Eliminate empty calories like pastries, soda, chips, and alcohol
- Don’t eat right before bedtime
Your weekly off-season program should include at least two days of strength training (supersets working different muscle groups, and one power/speed day). You should also get in some sprints and agility work on your power/speed day. Include two or three 30-minute cardio sessions per week.