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26.01.17
Sports

Can strength training make you a better footballer?

Children practising football skills in a field

Did you know that football requires different types of strength and this varies with each position played? If you aren’t taking a structured approach to your strength programme, then you will never be able to improve your performance and progress. This is especially important for young children who are striving to become elite players or following a specific talent pathway, as well as anyone who wants to enjoy playing the game and hone their skills. 

Here are some of the benefits of strength training for footballers: 

Enhance sprint speed

Another piece of research - by Taiana and colleagues - found that a 10-week leg-strength training programme for footballers improved their 10m and 30m sprint times and their vertical jump performance. Apor (1998) suggests that players need to develop the musculature of a sprinter to boost sprint speed. 

Reduced injuries 

A study by Reilly (1990) found that stronger players outlasted the weaker players in terms of a regular place in the team, and had reduced injury risks.  Research by Apor (1998) found that knee-extension torque has been associated with success in the game and that strong hamstring muscles in relation to quadriceps are crucial to knee injury prevention. 

From this research, we can conclude that strength and strength training, especially in the legs and trunk, are important for footballers who want to improve kick performance, reduce the risk of injury and enhance sprint speed. 

Strength training programmes for footballers

Strength training for football varies significantly during different times of the year:

Off-season (6 months) 

The objective during off-season is to build as much strength and power as possible. 

In-season (5 months) 

Players must maintain the strength and muscle gained off-season and reduce their training volume and intensity significantly to supplement their football matches. 

Transition (1 month)

This period allows your body to rest and recuperate fully. Rest is crucial for progress and it allows your muscles to repair themselves and grow. 

Anatomical adaption (ongoing)

Like every other sport, football places stress on certain areas of the body which may naturally become more dominant. For example, your quadriceps may be more developed than your hamstrings, or your right side may be stronger than your left. Regardless of what time of year it is, scheduling in some anatomical adaptation training to ensure your body is balanced is highly beneficial for every footballer.

Power training for football 

Elite footballers can transfer their strength into sport-specific movements very rapidly, which is called power. For instance, if two players meet head on at full force, the more powerful athlete will prevail as opposed to the stronger of the two.

There are three types of power training that will enhance your football performance:

Plyometrics

Also known as jump training, plyometric training uses light loads (usually bodyweight) and very fast, explosive movements. We have focused on plyometrics in our post about how to become a better runner. These exercises focus on rapid movement from eccentric to concentric contraction. The shorter that transition, the more powerful the result.

Caution needs to be exercised with plyometrics as its repetitive nature can lead to injuries on joints (including knees which are the most commonly injured joint) To get around this, players may benefit from the fewer repetitions and heavier loads in isometric training. 

Ballistics

Ballistics also uses light loads at high speeds but differs from plyometrics. Force is applied through the full range of motion rather than for just a split second. A good example is throwing a medicine ball powerfully, force is applied from the start to the end of the movement.

Isotonic Weight Lifting

Although this isn't suitable for young children, traditional strength training exercises which focuses on lighter loads (50-80% 1RM) which are lifted in quick bursts at a constant speed can help improve power. 

There you have it, simply put these tips to the test and your football performance will dramatically improve.

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