3 Reasons Why ALL Footballers MUST Strength Train:
The beautiful game is becoming more and more physical..
There is much more running, and there are many more 1 v 1 duels..
Pro footballers are fitter, faster & stronger than ever before!
If you are well developed physically (and of course technically & tactically), you have a high probability of becoming a professional.
And most importantly, you have a very high probability of having a long career.
Of course you can’t just be physical specimen. Your physical ability has to be complemented by great technique and an excellent football IQ.
At the end of the day, game changing moments are generally created by being able to create space from your opponent; whether it be on a corner, on a counterattack or in a 1 v 1 situation.
You create those opportunities by being explosive and powerful.
The ability to generate force comes through a proper training routine (in and out of the gym).
Like I always say, you’re a footballer, NOT A GYM GOER, so when you go to the gym, you should always be asking yourself, “how will this make me better when match day comes around?”
Obviously you can do some curls for the girls, but it shouldn’t be your main focus 🙂
The goal is to develop a very solid strength base/foundation in the gym and then be able to translate the strength you develop in the gym into power and explosiveness on the field!
Whether you’re in off season or in season, whether you’re a professional footballer, in an academy or playing at your local club; incorporating strength training into your daily routine is essential.
Let’s hop into the 3 reasons why strength training is such a key component in ensuring your future success as a footballer!
Reason 1 to Strength Train as a Footballer: To Be Better on Game Day:
Our main goal in the gym is to improve our play on the pitch!
Nowadays, I see too many people just going to the gym to get “shredded” and “bigger” or they are just going through the motions because “every other footballer does it.”
You need to have your own performance goals based on your past injury history, training experience and where you are in the season.
Your gym routine must be individualized based upon:
1.Your current performance goals.
2.Your “longer term goals” (3,6,12 months)
3.Your injury history
4.Your past training history
7.Where you are in the season.
As a footballer, you need to master the ability to self-analyze yourself accurately and honestly.
You need to be able to look in the mirror and tell yourself the truth!
Something that is lacking nowadays…
It’s your responsibility to notice the areas you need to improve upon and what your strengths are..
From there, you can plan.
These specific goals should supplement a complete program that makes sure your entire body is well-balanced and strong.
Proper & Specific Strength training is what will help you reach your goals!
What type of workouts should you do to improve your performance?
Like we spoke about, this depends on your goals…
If you’re looking to improve speed, focusing on improving your body/spatial awareness, correcting imbalances and then improving strength seems very reasonable.
After you’ve hit all of those parameters, you can use explosive power training and plyometrics to transition the strength you’ve developed in the gym to the field!
Here are 3 Exercises you can try out to improve your overall power as a footballer:
If you want to improve your quickness, jumping height and overall athleticism (as well as your speed), plyometrics are very valuable.
Here is a video I just released on that:
Always make sure to start your workouts with plyometrics because you want to be as rapid as possible during these which requires maximum energy and “freshness!”
Prepare for Workouts Properly!
If you’re lifting heavy weight or moving weight explosively, make sure you do a proper warm up to get blood flowing throughout your entire body!
A good warmup should also switch your brain on and get you ready to work!
Make sure you take enough rest in between sets.
Obviously, this depends on the quality (strength, explosiveness, power) that you’re working on in the gym..
For example, if you want to build muscle, you should only rest 45-90 seconds in between sets.
If you are working to improve your power, you should rest about 90 Seconds-3 minutes in between sets to make sure you’re as fresh as possible, so you can move that weight as fast as possible!
Hire a Coach:
If you don’t think you can make your own plan, reach out to a strength and conditioning coach so he/she can make a specific plan according to your goals, past injury history and overall training experience.
A coach will also make sure your form is correct when you’re lifting so you can maximize your workouts and steer clear of injury.
I will repeat it until I’m blue in the face:
Your technique and form matter much more than how much weight you’re lifting!
I don’t care about impressing the girl next to you..
I mean, I don’t mind 🙂 , as long as your form is good, and you make sure you don’t get injured.
Trust me, if she’s meant for you, she will respect you looking after your body instead of risking yourself trying to impress her 😉
Why I Started Studying Strength & Conditioning:
One of the main reasons I got into the S&C and football fitness industry is due to how much “US College Strength coaches” focused on how much weight you were lifting in certain movements!
Unfortunately, this caused 3 of my teammates on my college team to have major back injuries!
And yes, of course, you guessed it…
These strength coaches never played real football.
They were hockey and/or American football players (hand egg) and don’t know the context of the game….
You are in the gym to improve your performance on game day.
It makes no sense to go into the gym and do “extras” in addition to your team training if you’re going to hurt yourself!
That’s an absolute waste!
There are no shortcuts or easy routes !
There’s a lot of misleading information out there and click-bait titles such as:
“Build strong legs like CR7 with this SINGLE exercise” or “This ONE drill will make you run fast like Mbappe”.
While these are sexy titles and appealing to you, they’re trying to give you an easy route or shortcut…
There is no ONE single exercise that will magically help you reach your goals.
These just don’t exist…
You achieve true, long-lasting results through a HOLISTIC APPROACH of everything you do.
Ask any footballer out there if his or her journey was easy.
Trust me, I’ve interviewed a lot of pros on my podcast: A LOT of sweat, tears and consistent work went on behind the scenes before they signed their contract.
Improving your performance on the field requires dedication and hard work; but with consistent execution, you can reach your performance goals.
To achieve your genetic potential: it is essential to build skills such as agility, power, and speed!
Agility is important because it enables you to quickly change directions and avoid opponents.
Power gives a player the strength to quickly break away from an opponent or block someone trying to move forward with the ball.
Lastly, speed allows a player to outrun others and make it first to certain areas of the field at any given time, which is a massive advantage.
Reason 2 to Strength Train as a Footballer- To Reduce the risk of injury
*Keeping your body in balance
Keep in mind; you are only as strong as your weakest link!
So, making sure you have a well-balanced, functional physique is key!
You may have one leg that is significantly stronger than the other, – which is completely natural but can be corrected – so it’s crucial to balance everything out and minimize weak links in your body.
If one area of your body is stronger than another, this could “compensation” which means another body part takes over for the load of the “weak link.”
This is what generally creates an overload in the body and leads to overuse injuries, and/or more serious injuries.
Like we’ve talked about before, make sure you are doing the right movements and not neglecting smaller muscle groups like the glute medius and/or tibialis.
It’s crucial to address every muscle to move more efficiently on the pitch!
How to work in the gym to prevent injuries:
As a footballer, preventing injury should be your main priority.
I know it’s fun to look good on the beach, but your main goal is to be on the pitch! Right?
As a strength and conditioning coach, our main job is to make sure our players are on the pitch.
If they’re not on the field, they cannot become a better footballer.
If they’re not available for the weekend, they have no ability to improve their “value” or help their team grab those precious 3 points.
You can do as much performance enhancement and optimization as you want….
But it does you no good if you’re the fastest and strongest player, and you’re always sidelined..
Injury-prevention exercises can help provide greater stability to the joints and build resilient muscles, making you less prone to injury.
Exercises such as Copenhagens for stronger adductors (your groin), Nordics for hamstring-injury prevention, Tibialis Raises and Ankle strengthening for shin splints prevention can help you out a lot.
As we spoke about before, you need to find what your strengths and weaknesses are and make your plan based off of that..
The biggest predictor of injury is past injury!
Sounds simple, but very true.
That means, if you sprained your ankle before, you are more likely to sprain it again..
Which means you better stay consistent with your lower limb strengthening exercises!
This “accessory” work should always be included as an important part of your gym sessions.
There’s 2 ways you can look at including “injury-prevention” exercises into your routine.
(I suggest both):
1. Do 1-2 sets of your exercises to activate your muscles.
2. Do 1-3 sets afterwards and really look to tax your muscles.
So, after your session, you’re going to want to push those muscles to exhaustion and fatigue so they can adapt!
Your Own Prehab Routine:
You may also want to build a prehab routine for yourself that you can do 3-6 times per week.
This should be a short 15-20 minute super light workout that you can perform before every training session and game (obviously tailoring volume to yourself).
As you reach higher and higher levels, you’ll see that every single pro goes through their prehab routine religiously.
Let’s get into practice! You know it’s easy to talk but let me give you some advice to implement right away:
Let’s say you’ve personally struggled with ankle injuries and recently came back from a hamstring injury.
Here’s a solid sample prehab routine:
- 5-10 minute light bike ride
GOAL : get blood flow to your muscles and heart rate up
- Hip Mobility (watch this video)
GOAL : having mobile hips going into your session will optimize your movements.
- Band Activation (front/side/backward kicks, monster walks, banded squats etc.)
GOAL: activate accessory muscles such as hip flexors and glutes, which can take a lot of load and pick up injuries if not warmed up properly. Also activate the quads.
- Ankle activation (seated circles/ pumps, heel/tiptoe forwards/backwards walks, single-leg balance, calf raises)
GOAL: focus on one of your problem areas (ankles) and strengthen the entire foot + surrounding muscles (soleus, tibialis).
- “Upper Leg Training”
A. Nordic Curls (2-4 sets of 5 reps)
B. Lying Leg Curls at a Gym (2-4 sets of 5 reps)
C. Single Leg Glute Bridge
Copenhagens (2-4 sets of 15-40 seconds each side)
GOAL : get the hamstrings ready and activated (Nordic/Leg Curls), as well as the adductors (Copenhagens) which are commonly stressed as footballers.
- Core Finisher:
I am just giving you a sample of something I would do or something one of my advanced 1 on 1 clients would do, so I wouldn’t take this too literally…
I would highly recommend you adapt it based on you.
Mobility exercises are also essential to make sure your body moves efficiently.
I personally recommend doing mobility exercises at least 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes and build up from there.
When your body gets used to it, you’ll be able to add in mobility work almost every day.
Start with this routine here, and let me know how it goes for you!
Remember, if you’re more mobile, you’ll be more efficient with your gym movements like squats and lunges, which will optimize your strength & power levels.
Then, if you move better with these movements and gain strength, you’ll have more potential when it comes to plyometric training and translating that raw strength into explosiveness, which will make you sprint faster and jump higher!
And of course, mobility goes hand-in-hand with injury prevention: the more range of motion you have, the more efficient your movement will be, which accounts to less injuries!
See how everything ties together?
That’s why I always preach a holistic view of training!
Listen to your body!
Muscle soreness is common when starting new weight training exercises – so start slowly and build up gradually (progressively overload!)
Sure, you might prevent injuries with proper strength training, but you can also definitely avoid them by noticing when your body feels too tight and maybe replacing a hard workout with a recovery session instead.
With all that being said, injuries are the last thing we want to deal with, but they aren’t inevitable.
The goal is to say, how can we minimize them and always find a solution if we do get injured..?
3- To Build Lean Muscle Mass … and Confidence:
As a younger footballer, and you’re looking to “put on weight,” this should be one of your goals!
Building these muscles will make you game-ready so you have the necessary muscle endurance to make sure you’re sharp for the weekend.
Start with exercises targeted at major muscle groups before moving into more specific exercises.
Your goal in the beginning should always be to build general strength!
Focus on mastering your bodyweight first with a balanced, focused workouts that target both lower body and upper body strength. This can help to build lean muscle mass effectively.
Exercise selection should be tailored specifically towards the actions of a footballer through the movements you do in the gym.
In other words, you shouldn’t be using the pec fly machine too consistently…
You want to go for lunges, squats, bench press, pull-ups, deadlifts : these will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to building that solid muscular base.
These will translate into more effective and explosive jumps, pulls and pushes during games, which will help your team get over the line.
Building lean muscle mass will give you the foundation at an early stage to move on to more complex and football-specific exercises for strength and power.
As I always say, be patient and work hard. There’s no rush when you’re looking to develop into an elite footballer!
There is also a bonus to hypertrophy (gaining muscle) which will indirectly improve your game (that not many people think about)…
If you put on your jersey before a game in the changing room, you look yourself in the mirror and you look good; that will sky rocket your confidence!
You know that beautiful feeling when your arms are snug in the jersey and fill up the sleeves…
If you don’t know that feeling, wait until you get there!
I am not saying that’s the feeling you should chase but if you do all of the right things, you will get to that point!
This will also give you a nice spike in dopamine and testosterone.
Both are underlooked when it comes to improving your performance on the pitch…
Them “feel good” hormones baby!
I’m not talking going full Schwarzenegger-mode and hitting 10 sets of bench press every day, BUT having visible arms, defined shoulders and pecs can help your confidence a lot!
It can also get you noticed and impress football coaches and opponents before the game even starts.
Recap and main takeaway:
All in all, strength training is an essential part of any football player’s routine – whether you’re just starting out or you are a seasoned professional.
It provides numerous benefits that can help improve your performance on and off the field.
The main takeaway I want you to get from this post is that every footballer will benefit from strength training, BUT you should tailor your gym workouts according to your goals, your needs and injury history.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all gym program..even though something is always better than nothing.
So, if at this point you’re still not following a strength training program for football players, what are you waiting for?
Start incorporating strength training into your regime today!
If you’re looking for football specific workouts specifically tailored to you, your goals and injury history – whether you want to build strength, improve your speed, agility, or muscle endurance..
I have a 1 on 1 program which has helped tons of players reach the pro game and improve their performance and life for the better.
I know there is tons of information out there about strength training, fascia, yadda yadda yadda.
Point is, I don’t want you to get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.
Instead, apply for my program and I will do all of the thinking for you!
All you will have to do is execute!
Feel free to apply for it if that sounds like it would be a good fit!
Overall, with dedication and consistency with your strength training, believe me that you’ll be able to go further than ever before by developing yourself both mentally and physically so that you can truly show off all of your talents on the pitch.
Hope this article helped you!
All the best from your big brother,