24/06/2017 - 14:11

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If you think footballers only train for technique and endurance, you're mistaken. For serious footballers, power training is an essential part of their workout, and the best way to gain strength and explosiveness. This article will show you how to add power training to your football workout to become a better player. 

Of course, technical skills and endurance are the main elements of a footballer's performance, apart from his talent. You cannot train talent, and technical skills and endurance are covered by the regular football practice. Some footballers practise in their spare time, doing cardio training, but the best thing to do is power training. When you perform the right exercises, you not only increase your muscle strength, but you also improve the flexibility of the tendons, you develop more (jumping) power, and you increase your speed. It also strengthens the core and creates better resilience, allowing you to win more often in a duel. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself to the gym!

Football players and power training

As a footballer, you need to be able to explode quickly and with plenty of power, at every short sprint. For that, you need to train your leg muscles and your core. Those muscles also contribute to your balance, ensuring that it's increasingly difficult to steal the ball from you. Well-trained leg muscles also help you increase your capacity to jump, something that could come in very handy in aerial duels.

You may think that footballers only use their legs; as a matter a fact, the upper torso also plays an important role. The core needs to be well-developed, allowing the player to change directions continuously. Your upper body also takes a lot of hits during a game, so increased upper body strength is recommendable.

Power training for football players is aimed at improving performances, not muscle mass. Your muscles grow, but that is not the main goal. If you emphasise muscle growth, this could hinder your speed and agility, so you need to find the right balance.

We recommend compound exercises, not isolated exercises, unless there is a good reason to do so. We also recommend the use of dumbbells, instead of machines, better activating the muscle tissue, and also training the smaller muscles that are left out when you use machines. 

You should preferably schedule your power training right after football practice (possibly on the same day), preventing the residual effects of your power training to interfere with your football practice. You always run the risk of muscle pain, especially at the beginning, so two-day intervals are recommended, especially when working up to a big match. 

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Types of power training 

Power training helps footballers to delay fatigue, increase the strength of their movements, and decrease the risk of injuries. Real bodybuilders who lift extremely heavy weight use anaerobic energy (without oxygen) to do this. During a football match, players continuously alternate between muscle relaxation and muscle tension. In the latter phase, a muscle can quickly restore, which means that anaerobic energy is rarely used. During power training sessions with relatively low weights, you can perform many reps at high speed, allowing the muscles to stay oxygenated and use aerobic energy (containing oxygen). 

Plyometric exercises

The performances of bodybuilders are only applicable during a very short period; this is not something that would benefit a footballer. The force you generate when you do a 200-kilogramme squat is something you cannot generate when playing football, simply because there isn't enough time. So, footballers will benefit more from training their endurance and explosive power, using aerobic energy. It is much more important that you can move your body weight over a great distance within the shortest amount of time. That is why plyometric exercises are very useful. These are not aimed at generating as much force as possible, but on ways to generate force as quickly as possible. That is why it can be beneficial to add plyometric exercises to your training. Plyometric exercises use the stretch shortening cycle principle.

Stretch shortening cycle

When gaining muscle mass, the muscle attachments are used as little as possible, because you want the actual muscle to do the work, stimulating it to grow. Footballers do not strive to achieve more muscle mass; training the muscle attachments and the tendons, increasing their elastic capacity, is very important. When a muscle is stretched while tensed, this stretches the attachment of the muscle. When the muscle is subsequently tensed up, the elasticity ensures that the stretched attachment shortens; this is what ensures that tensing the muscle costs less energy. A squat with heavy weights has little use, as was explained; a squat with a light weight and an added jump is much more efficient. The energy you store during squatting is applied to the attachments and the elastic muscle tissue. 

Exercises for general strength

The following exercises are more focused on general strength. They are a solid basis for power training; if you want to increase your explosiveness, you should add plyometric exercises as well.

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Squats

Squatting is a great exercise to strengthen your core and legs. This is a compound exercise, which means that you train several muscle groups at the same time, in this case, the legs, buttocks, and hamstrings. If you’ve never done squats, start by training with the leg press machine at the gym.

Lunges

Just as squats, lunges are excellent exercises to increase leg strength. It can greatly increase your jump and kick strength. Do not use too much weight, and make sure to perform many repetitions.

Planking

Planking uses the strength from your stomach and pelvis. It strengthens your core, which leads to an increased balance and stability. It also helps you to perform other exercises correctly. 

Calf raises

When jumping and sprinting, your calves are an important factor. Training your calf muscles can greatly increase your explosiveness for sprinting and jumping. By performing the exercise with your feet turned inward, you can train a different part of your calf muscles.

Exercises for explosive strength

These plyometric exercises focus on developing explosive strength. The exercises should always be performed directly after warming up; they require your body to be warmed up, but not exhausted. 

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Box Jump

A box jump is when you jump onto an elevation from a standstill. You can also just jump, without an elevation, but the elevation allows you to measure your progress by increasing the elevation bit by bit. 

Counter movement jump

The counter movement jump uses the stretch-shortening cycle: first, you move in the opposite direction (when you bend your knees) before you jump. 

Side jumps

This is the same principle as the other jumps, but now sideways. This is a particularly good exercise for footballers because, during football matches, you often have to move left or right in an explosive movement. You can make this exercise more challenging by jumping over an obstacle.

Lunge jumps

Lunge jumps are a great alternative. You start a lunge, jump up, and while you’re in the air, you switch legs. Always make sure the knee of the front leg is above the ankle, not above the toes.

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Endurance training

If you also want to add some additional endurance training, we recommend interval training or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Interval training not only trains the slow muscle fibres you need to keep going the full 90 minutes of a match, but it also trains the fast muscle fibres required for sprinting.

For example, during interval training, you can sprint for one minute at 90 percent of the maximum heart rate (220 minus your age). You then slow down for 90 seconds (at approximately 60 percent). And you repeat this approximately eight times. When performed regularly, this will greatly improve your fitness level.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is always important, but even more so for footballers. They absolutely need to take on board the right nutrients. On training and match days, we recommend additional carbohydrates, increasing the energy storage. Examples are:

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potato

You can take additional proteins after power training, increasing the recovery of your muscles and preventing muscle ache. You can do this by taking in high-protein nutrition such as:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Curd cheese

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Supplements

Supplements can offer additional benefits. Creatine for instance, can help you increase your explosiveness when sprinting. The downside is that it will probably increase your weight, which in turn will make you tired faster.

In some cases, it is more practical to digest the above-mentioned additional carbohydrates and protein in the form of supplements. Such shakes are much more concentrated than other food products, and the dosage can be determined more easily. When you take them at the right time, these will no doubt benefit you. These supplements have no negative side-effects. You could take ProXtend before training, and 100% Whey after training.

When you follow the instructions in this article, you will undoubtedly become a better football player. You should ensure that this workout does not interfere with your regular football practice. Otherwise, you will not benefit much. You now know what to do to astonish your team-mates after the summer break!

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