Want to score goals? Here’s some advice on how to become a better football player and lead your team to victory!

Football is a very physically demanding sport. It requires a great deal of skill and a high level of fitness to become a good player, and millions of people around the world practice and play everyday to better their game. To be an effective player you need high levels of strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, skill and mental resolve to name a few! But how do you know what exercises to do in the gym to help you get the best results? Read on as I outline some of the most important areas to focus on in your personal training to become a better football player.

A great player must train with the ball and improve his or her skill in the game. Aside from this, there are four very important elements of movement and fitness that they must possess: Cardiovascular Endurance, Strength, Speed and Agility. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements to get a better idea of what exercises to incorporate into your plan.

Photo of football players in a game

Cardiovascular Endurance

A full length game runs for 90 minutes made up of two 45 minute halves, and many games go for longer than this if you include injury and extra time. And unless you are the goal keeper, most of this time is spent running after the ball, into space or marking a player. It is not uncommon for players to run 10km in one game, with some players running up to 13km in one game! This running is made up of periods of flat out sprinting, running, jogging, and walking. You must always be ready to burst into full speed and your recovery is almost always catching your breath while jogging back into position or following the game. An effective way to increase your cardiovascular fitness is to focus on interval training with an active recovery. Higher speeds interspersed with lower speeds is a great way to emulate the conditions in a game, and the speeds can be varied depending on what position is being played or what you are trying to achieve. Some great examples are our versions of the 6x300m and the interval session on the treadmill.

Strength

Football is a physical contact sport. Although it doesn’t involve direct player collisions like rugby league or Australian rules, there is alot of player interaction on and off the ball, and if you don’t posses adequate strength you can get pushed around easily and are more prone to injury. And as you don’t use your hands to touch the ball (unless you’re the goalkeeper), most of the strength we are talking about here is lower body (legs) and trunk (core) related. The best exercises to focus on are compound exercises involving functional movement patterns that will complement the movements in the game. Weighted squats, lunges, and deadlifts are all effective exercises to help build up strength in the legs. Single leg versions of the above examples are a great way to increase the difficulty of the workout and are an excellent option for progression. A strong core is also very important for stability and strength and is a fundamental base for any good player. Exercises such as bicycle crunches, planks, and cable chops are just some great examples to help you achieve solid core strength to help improve your game. If you want to learn more about this kind of exercise, please feel free to read our article covering functional training, compound exercises and deadlift.

Speed

Speed is essential in football to get you into position or to the ball first. Sprinting is one of the main aspects of the game, and more often than not it is at full speed for 10 seconds or less at a time. The energy system used in this type of running is the ATP anaerobic energy system and that is the system we need to focus on to help us improve our maximum speed and also our quickness to recover, and to be ready to do it again (and again, and again!) Shuttle runs at increasing distances from 10 to 50 metres with a jogging recovery are great, as is our version of the tabata test on the treadmill.

Agility

Football involves constantly changing direction at different speeds. Outmanoeuvring a defender, jockeying an attacker, lunging for a free ball, jumping for a header, tackling, passing and shooting are all examples of complex movements that happen in every game. We must train our body to be able to change direction quickly and easily with minimum risk of injury. In the gym we can improve our agility with routines incorporating direction changes, some great examples are agility ladders, single leg hops, x-runs and lateral treadmill running.

I hope this basic introduction has given you a bit of an insight into the importance of sport specific training and some of the things you can do to improve your game. There is a lot more detail to go into (for example on and off season training, flexibility and nutrition) and every personal training program should be tailored specifically to the players needs, and incorporated into and compliment the training sessions they have with their team.

For further advice regarding football specific training, help with any of the above exercises or any more general information, please get in contact with one of our personal trainers or exercise physiologists! Also, if you would like to learn more about other spot spcific training tips, please contact us or send us a message on Facebook!

See you in the gym,
Michael.