Soccer is perhaps one of the most demanding of all sports. No other sport has such a large playing field and no other sport lasts as long without regular rest periods. Players run virtually non stop, often times sprinting, for an hour and a half. Midfield players can cover as much as eight miles during a match.
It is therefore vital that preparation for the football season starts around eight weeks before the season starts. This time should be spent improving fitness levels.
As a personal trainer in cardiff and Newport boot camp expert, it is my responsibility to design a pre-season training programme; that ensures that by the time the season comes that my players are conditioned and prepared physically and mentally for the forthcoming season. As Newport County is now a professional club, meaning that all players are paid simply to play football, players are expected to train everyday. Many players are paid extremely well, with some earning as much as £700 per week.
Soccer training incorporates all the components of fitness:
Strength Speed Power Aerobic Anaerobic endurance Flexibility Skill
Soccer is a total sport and a well thought out training programme must reflect that. Soccer players must perform with short bursts of power and speed. They must also be able to maintain this for ninety minutes or more.
Early Pre-Season (1-4 weeks)
The first thing a coach needs to do before training is assess the current fitness levels of the group. The first two days of training will involve fitness testing. The tests will include:
Day One – Testing
Bench Press One rep max – upper body strength Squats One rep max – lower body strength Multistage fitness test - Aerobic Endurance Flexibility – Sit and Reach test
Day two – Testing
60 metre sprint – speed Illinois run – agility 10 metre sprint - power
The fitness test results will give me an idea of how much time we will have to perform on each aspect of fitness. If the players have looked after themselves in the off season this will mean that as a team we will be able to progress from aerobic/endurance training towards skill/tactical training at a faster rate.
The emphasis early on is preparing for late pre-season soccer training. Things should be kept at a light and not too demanding intensity. The last thing a coach should do is put the group through, stomach wrenching interval training. This is due to the fact that players have had long breaks from the season finishing. It must be emphasised that a break from football is very important following the end of the season. Players who start training programmes as soon as the season finish, often tire in season and suffer burn out. If players jumped straight back into vigorous exercise from this lay off it would be a shock to the system and could result in injury.
Endurance Training for soccer requires more than just running continuously. Running at any intensity for ninety minutes requires a high level of stamina. Add the fact that the run includes sprints, change in direction, side to side movements, jumping jockeying, challenges, tackles and use of the ball, and it is identifiable why endurance soccer training becomes the foundation of any fitness regime.
I would as a coach stick to continuous type training for the first 2- 3 weeks of pre-season. This would give my players a solid aerobic base, before progressing into the development of speed and power. This endurance training will include:
12 minute runs 3 km runs 5 km runs Swimming 3 km rows 5km cycle
This type of training will be performed four times per week in early pre-season and will be a variety of long distance runs, rows and swims. My technical sessions at this stage will also include endurance. I will perform sessions such as keep ball. Two teams keep the ball away from another. This makes the team chasing work extremely hard and is extremely specific to a game scenario.
Strength is extremely important in football. Footballers require strength in both upper and lower body. It is also important as a foundation of developing speed and explosive power.
Maximum strength can take up to twelve weeks to develop. Therefore as a coach I would identify the members of my squad that needed to improve on this aspect of fitness and tell them to start their strength training during the off season. Soccer, like any sport, places a lot of uneven demands on the body. Most players have a predominant kicking foot for example. They kick using the same motor patterns, tens of thousands of times every year. Therefore some muscles develop more than others. Some joints are placed under more stress than others.
The goals of this phase are: To prepare the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons for more intense work in subsequent phases To strengthen underused stabilizer muscles To balance the right and left side of the body To redress the balance between the flexors and extensors (soccer players, for example, are notorious for having over-developed quads from repetitive kicking actions. No wonder hamstring injuries are so prevalent in the game). A good portion of your soccer strength training should focus on core stability. The core includes the abdominals, lower back and trunk that all form your "center of power". Every twisting, turning, stopping and starting movement is supported by your core. It allows your upper and lower body to work in cohesion, minimising shock and stress. This is the most important phase of any soccer strength training program. Yet most athletes dismiss it. The foundations you lay in this phase literally determine the quality of strength and power formed in later phases. More importantly, without this phase, injures - both short and long-term become much more likely. Strength sessions will be performed four times per week in the first two weeks of early pre-season. Players will be expected to work at an intensity of 80% – 90%, as this will develop maximal strength, rather than strength endurance or power. The four sessions will include two upper body and two lower body. All sessions will be performed in the morning as research shows that athletes can lift heavier weights for longer in the morning. This is due to the body feeling fresher and a higher level of testosterone in the body.
Session 1- Upper Body – Monday This session will focus on the chest, shoulders and bicep. After the first week of training, the bench can slowly be replaced with a stability ball. This could be started firstly just for flies, and slowly progressed to the bench press, shoulder press and seated dumbbell curls. This will develop stabiliser muscles and will be more specific to the game of soccer. It also develops the core muscles that are vital in giving the body a strong centre for football.