A Physiotherapist's Guide to Training for Football

Charlie Baker
on
March 8, 2021

Introduction

While Coronavirus wreaks havoc with the football season; postponing games and interrupting regular training it is an important time for footballers to stay on top of their own fitness.

In this article, White House Clinic Senior Physiotherapist and Football and Running Injury Specialist, Charlie Baker, takes a look at some of the exercises that you can do at home (2-3 times a week) to help reduce your risk of injury with football.

Key Components for Football Fitness

While technique and tactics are improving in the British game, so is the athleticism of the modern footballer. To play and perform at a high level you need skill but also strength and fitness.

Unfortunately for those who prefer the ball at their feet, the ability to run far and fast is becoming increasingly important. In some Premier League matches last season Dele Ali and James Milner topped 13 kilometers (8.1 miles).

Fitness to run is not only important to perform, it is also important in remaining injury free. Muscular injuries often happen on tired legs so the fitter you are and the stronger you are, the less chance you have of spending time on the sidelines!

The Simplest Exercises for Football Fitness

The simplest exercise for football fitness can be broken down into two parts:

A. Strength and conditioning

B. Cardiovascular fitness

Strength and Conditioning for Football

To start, we will look at Strength and Conditioning exercises for football that can be done at home:

1. Strengthen your Hamstrings on the sofa with the “box bridge” (see image below).

box bridge

The box (sofa) bridge is a great strengthener for the hamstrings. Start out aiming for 5 sets of 5 (if you fatigue beforehand stop and remember your score for next time). Start on two legs if a single leg is too hard.

Top tip - change the angle of your knee on the leg you’re exercising to hit different parts of the hamstring.

2. Strengthen your groin the Danish way. Not many exercises hit your groin like the “Copenhagen” (see below images).

Copenhagen
Copenhagen

Top tip - if you can’t manage the movement for 5 sets of 5 then start out by holding your leg at the top (bottom image) for 10 then 20 then 30 seconds.

3. Work that weak ankle with sideways hops (see below images).

hops

To start with make them clean landings and see if you can catch yourself. Once this gets easy, try to pick up the pace and see how many sideways hops you can do in 2 minutes.

These exercises are designed to be challenging and you should feel muscular tiredness/increasing difficulty towards the end of the reps but not pain from the start. If on exercises 1. and 2. that means; to hold at the top of the movement, add weight or move slowly throughout full range, that is up to you.

Cardiovascular Fitness for Football

Footballers need to be able to run, so it helps to maintain your cardiovascular fitness through running.

Once a week you could do a 'match day run’ - something around 10k to get the distance in your legs and on another day in the week you could do some strides (70-80 % sprints focusing on good relaxed form) to keep those muscular patterns and fitness.

Alongside some home-based exercises, it should be less of a shock to the system when you get back on the pitch.

Summary

Football specific fitness plays an important role in reducing injuries, especially in a stop-start season.

Our specialist advice suggests that we need to work on two mains areas; getting stronger with some strength and conditioning work, alongside getting fitter cardiovascularly.

If you have any questions or more personal details you want answered, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Charlie Baker

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