Down the Gym
A buzz grows in a successful club. By success, we don’t mean just a side that wins a lot, but one where the players enjoy their soccer, a sense of camaraderie develops and every person associated with the team loves training and playing – even when they are working hard.
When we have such an ambience, players will want to do their bit outside of organised sessions to keep themselves as match fit as they can. Fitting this in around the conditions of normal life can be tough. Family commitments, work and so forth can make the organization of a set training programme difficult to maintain. Nevertheless, the good coach can help his or her team by outlining a training regime to follow.
Individual Training Programme
While there are some standard requirements in fitness for soccer, programs should ideally be tailored to the individual needs of a player. These are determined by a mixture of preferred playing position and the characteristics of that player.
For example, a Number 10 might want to work on drills to help that explosive burst of pace which will create a yard for a pass or shot; a traditional centre forward or central defender might want to develop upper body strength to help them hold up the ball…or an opposing player. A speedy winger will want strength, but not at the cost of suppleness and agility.
At the same time, older players will need to work more on aerobic fitness, often, than younger ones. Those very young players will want a lot less time spent on muscle development than more mature players, as they are still growing. Players recovering from injury will have their own specific requirements.
Ludwig Feuerbach came up with the famous line ‘We are what we eat.’; the German philosopher was speaking well over 100 years ago but his words still ring true. Anyhow, we never argue with a German when it comes to soccer.
Diet influences performance, recovery, motivation and, let’s face it, food is good. It also contributes greatly towards mental strength – essential in a soccer player and irreplaceable in a goalkeeper. Here are some crucial guidelines:
- Calories – around 24 daily times number of pounds in bodyweight. That means, for an average sized fit male player, something around 3500 calories daily.
- Protein – a good guide is that one gram of protein per pound of body weight will help to maintain body mass. If a player needs to bulk up a little, then that can be increased to 1.5 grams per pound until the target weight is achieved.
- Meat, fish and eggs are among the best sources of protein. Some fats are fine as well, it does not have to always be the leanest (and hence most expensive) cuts.
- Carbohydrates – active sports players do need to replace their glycogen used during activity. Avoid processed foods, and go for plenty of plant based material. White rice is often derided, but is an excellent way to replenish glycogen storage and is harmless to the digestion.
- Fats – for so long they were avoided as though they were the plague. What we now know is that some fats are necessary in the diet. Go for monounsaturated fats – olive oil and nuts for example; Omega – 3 fats such as are found in oily fish and seeds and a little bit of saturated fat is also OK. Avoid fats with hydrogenated oils, trans fats and foods made with Omega – 6 cooking oils.
Stamina – physical and mental – is developed and maintained through aerobic activities. Some players love going for a run, and there is little better (certainly at the amateur level) for developing fitness… but running is a trial for some. We play soccer to enjoy it, and if our days are dominated by the thought of an hour pounding the streets three times a week, that pleasure begins to wane.
Where this is the case, encourage players to try out other ways to improve their aerobic fitness. A game of squash, donning the leotards in front of the TV to dance along with a fitness video (corny, but effective) and best of all, pairing up for sessions down the gym (running machine, cross training and rowing are great for this aspect of training, as is intensive swimming.) It’s always more fun with a mate, and variety being the tastiest spice of life are two mantras for the coach.
Three intense forty five minute sessions per week will maintain fitness, add these to a weekly match and a team training session, and fitness will improve.
Never to be underestimated in soccer, where concentration lapses cost goals. We will have a blog specifically geared to this later, but we can note now that physical fitness makes mental well-being stronger.
As soccer players, we do not wish to overdo the weights, as becoming muscle bound reduces agility. However, a weekly session in the gym working on upper body, the abdomen and thighs will help build up strength on the ball and explosiveness in the break. Even better than one long session, are several short periods on the machines, perhaps at the outset of an aerobic session.
However, one area that we do want to develop is upper body strength. The video on the link below provides some simple ideas, especially suitable for the beginner to this kind of program.
The best ways to develop agility include stretches and gymnastic exercises. If time is there, joining a martial arts group, or dance troupe, will really add to this aspect of our soccer prowess – and is a great social event as well. Failing this, it might be enough to don the white three piece, put on the brown shirt and medallion and head down to the disco for a bit of Night Fever.
As we said at the outset, our training programs are best geared to our players’ own circumstances. Nevertheless, a good way of working is on a 5/2 basis. Here, the ‘2’ are rest days, limited to a gentle jog or brisk walk. The five days might be made up of:
- Match day
- Soccer training session
- One serious run or game of squash
- One session in the gym, including weights
- One agility day, such as martial arts session
Such a regime will maintain fitness, while adding in an additional aerobic fitness day will help to enhance it, for example, at the start of a season or when recovering from long term injury.
Once you get these incorporated into your training program, you can check out our blog on soccer mental strength.
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