Strength Training for Football
When we first began our A-Unit journey we were predominantly working alongside pro Rugby teams. Forging close relationships with leading Strength & Conditioning Coaches we were able to develop our products to gain the most out of their players and enhance our understanding of what pro-athletes need to be at the top of their game.
As our company has grown so has the awareness of the importance of Strength Training. In particular, within football;
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the physical requirements for football is that it is a purely an aerobic sport. This is an outright fallacy, as although aerobic in duration (90 minutes on field activity will see to that), it is anaerobic in intensity. According to a 2002 study by Jan Hoff at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology a player operates at over 90% of their maximal heart rate whilst engaged in close quarter ball control exercise (such as dribbling) or 5 aside. This tells us that what at first may seem like an aerobic, endurance oriented discipline is in fact anaerobic in nature, and therefore requires a (strength) training protocol far different from the traditional “jog 5 times around the pitch” method.
During a match, footballers tend to run in short, hard bursts and then jog or even walk back into position. This is especially true for strikers and defenders, where positioning and reacting are of paramount importance. Training must be structured in such a way to emphasis anaerobic conditioning so that rapid recovery from short sprints is at its optimal level.
This isn’t meant to downplay the importance of aerobic fitness, but it is meant to highlight the essential requirement that differently positioned players, and even teams with differing playing styles, need to factor varying degrees of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning into their training. A midfielder will certainly need to stress the aerobic more than his defensive counterpart.
Furthermore, when designing a football specific resistance training programme great care must be taken to not overplay the aerobic work as it has been proven that an excess of aerobic fitness can actually restrict on the field performance. This is because high levels of aerobic fitness have no impact on the high intensity activities required on the football field. By stressing the endurance component of conditioning, coaches limit the ability of players to develop the strength and power used to kick, sprint, jump and tackle. The type II b muscle fibers used in such activities are only developed by focused strength and power training, endurance work can actually be counterproductive.
It is also worthwhile noting that every footballer is best served by being able to jump as high as possible in order to head the ball. Countless studies have shown us that the more aerobically fit the athlete, the more their vertical jump will decrease! In simple terms the vertical jump is inversely correlated with increases in V02 max. This is because the body’s ability to generate power is limited by excessive aerobic conditioning. And how do footballers best generate power? By strength training of course!
With increased explosive strength comes the ability to better overcome inertia. That makes you sprint quicker, and the ability to be a quick sprinter can often be the difference between making the starting 11 and never even getting to the reserves bench.
Take Leicester City, they have invested in their training and coaching staff and incorporated strength training into their regime and are dominating the pitch!