Top 8 exercises for footballers


This advice follows on from A Physiotherapist's Guide to Training for Football, written by Charlie Baker. Here we look at some of the best prehab exercises which are geared towards footballers -these will target the prime areas to keep strong and flexible in order to reduce the risk of injury while playing the sport we love:

The exercises consider some of the common injuries we treat as a result of football injuries; including hamstring strains, lateral ankle sprains, groin strains and ACL injuries of the knee. Being a fast-paced multi-directional contact sport, football does attract a higher injury rate than a lot of other sports. Therefore, training and conditioning should be included as key regular aspects of your enjoyment of the game.

Exercises* to do on the training pitch:

1. Ball toe taps

It’s always good to start with an exercise which will warm you up and get the heart rate kicking. This simple exercise is great for any age and ability. Perform for 30 seconds before a rest, and then repeat 4-5 times through.

2. V sit up with ball  

This targets the abdominal muscles and helps to build a strong core. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps. This can be adapted in training, so that as you sit up you throw the ball to a training mate standing in front of you, who gently passes in back. It could even be incorporated into a relay race against your team mates!

3. Single leg stand with ball wall kicks & catch  

By standing on 1 leg for a prolonged period of time you are working on balance and endurance in the leg muscles. Try and do this for 1 minute before a rest and repeat. If you do this on the training pitch with no wall around, you can pass the ball to a training mate instead. Get used to this by kicking with your dominant leg, but then try it on your weaker foot as well for a harder challenge.

4. Squat jump into explosive jumping jack

This is a great exercise to build strength in jumping up and wining those headers. Start by standing up straight with your feet shoulders width apart. Bend your knees as you sink your buttocks backwards as if descending into a chair. Drive through your buttock muscles and push through your heels to jump up, whilst simultaneously opening your legs and arms outwards to form a shape resembling a star. Land with your feet shoulders width apart and immediately lower back down into a squat. Repeat 10-15 times and perform 3 sets.

Exercises to do in the gym or at home:

5. Kettlebell side lunge

This exercise incorporates strength work in the lateral plane, which is needed in a multidirectional sport like football. Choose a kettlebell weight which is appropriate to your ability (or start with no weight) and repeat 3 sets of 10 reps each side.

6. Box bridge

This version is a single leg bridge on a bench or box, targeting a high load to strengthen the hamstring muscles in the back of your thigh. Dig your heel in to target the hamstrings. Aim to complete 10 reps in 3 sets each side, while alternating left and right.

7. Copenhagen

A tough exercise which really targets the adductor (or groin) muscles, focussing on building strength in a muscle which often gets injured in football. Start with 6 reps before swapping sides, and completing 3 sets. Build up to 10 reps with practice.

8. Foam roll quadriceps

Waking up with soreness in the front of the thigh is all too common after a hard match the day (or two!) before. Your quadricep muscles are working hard for the entirety of a football match, and the pain you get as they recover is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). If you can help loosen them slightly with a foam roller this will help in your recovery. Spend 2-3 minutes releasing each leg.

This programme has been compiled by Steve Canning, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist with 20 years of experience in treating sports injuries. He may have hung up his boots a while ago, but now he is actively involved as a football coach for his daughter’s local football team.

*The exercises listed should only be performed if you have the strength & ability to perform them comfortably. If you are unsure, we recommend you discuss this with a qualified physiotherapist. We cannot be held responsible for any injuries sustained while performing them without an initial assessment and advice from one of our team.

Steve Canning

Clinical Director & Senior Physiotherapist

Steve is the Clinical Director and a Senior Physiotherapist at the White House clinic and has worked at the clinic since 2005. He qualified with a BSc in Physiotherapy from Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.

Steve Canning

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