It seems no time at all since clubs were preparing their players during what was an elongated pre-season campaign, but for many of us we now face another enforced break in football during lockdown.
While it is hoped that this period with no team training or games will only last a month, we don’t really know yet when leagues will resume in England. It is therefore vital for clubs and coaches to help their players keep ticking over to stay fit and sharp, ready for their return to football.
You may have already downloaded our free guide on planning a pre-season training schedule, and while we hope a full pre-season plan won’t be needed when we get back to business, there will be some philosophies and ideas within the ebook that will help you.
The guide complements our extensive Conditioning For Football cpd course with our MiMentor fitness experts Nick Harvey and Mark Armitage. Their knowledge of the game working for Premier League clubs and at international level, which they share in the course, will help coaches learn not just to take ideas and practices from others, but to create their own fitness and conditioning sessions in their own environment, suitable for their teams and the way they play.
The course looks at the Conditioning Continuum – from isolated fitness and strength training through to integrated methods within game and tactical-related sessions.
During lockdown, integrated training will be tricky, with people in England only permitted to meet with one other person, so here we will look at more isolated methods for three key areas of football fitness – stamina, strength and sprinting.
It will give you some ideas to consider and share with your players for them to do on their own, or with a teammate during lockdown.
Depending on how you want your team to play will depend on how you should get them to train. For example, a team that likes to adopt a high-press, you may need to focus on speed, stamina and strength.
Some areas that players should focus on during this ‘off-season’ period are:
- Progressive conditioning, such as interval running.
- Strength training to develop the robustness to cope with high intensity loads during team training and games.
- High speed running and change of direction work to prepare for the specific demands of integrated training when football resumes.
These types of exercises will support sprinting, starting and stopping strength, which are all fundamentals for adopting a pressing style of football.
Before undertaking any fitness training, players should also ensure they warm up properly to help prevent injuries.
One way to maintain and improve stamina in an isolated training environment is through Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) running. One example would be to get your players to mark out a running distance outside on a field or open space, suitable for them and what they might be expected to run within a game, eg 50 yards, with a ten-yard recovery at each end.
Players must complete the run within a specified time, before walking the recovery section and attempting the run again. Progressions or adaptations would be for distances and times of the running and recovery and for the number of repetitions.
Strength provides the foundation of a lot of other key physical qualities required in the game and training will prepare players for the intensity of match play, reduce the risk of injury and improve their ability to recover between games.
Strength training for football players should prioritise quality over quantity to support on-field performance. Consider exercises such as squats (for acceleration), Romanian deadlifts (for sprinting), single-leg hops (for stopping) and pull-ups (for general strength).
Players who don’t have access to gym weights may need to improvise to establish resistance. Three sets of six repetitions is a good place to start.
The ability to sprint fast repeatedly over the course of a game is fundamental in the modern game and higher speed running (HSR) demands have increased significantly over recent years.
While starting speed is important due to the many high intensity actions that involve quick accelerations over short 5-15m distances, depending on their position, players are also required to sprint maximally, or near maximum, over longer distances.
There are many different situations sprinting will be needed, so hamstring/posterior chain strength and ankle strength and stiffness is important.
But how can we help our players work on these areas during lockdown?
Exercises like Nordics (assisted or banded) or the box bridge can develop and maintain hamstring strength and can be done anywhere. Incorporating calf raises and depth jumps will work on the ankle to enable players to transfer as much force as possible into the ground when running.
Again, three sets of six repetitions is a good place to start.
If your players incorporate these ideas into a weekly training plan to carry out two or three times per week, it will enable them to stay in good physical shape for when team training resumes.