I wrote this article for Premier League Preview Magazine last month.
It's pretty common knowledge that sports science is huge in professional football these days. What's not as commonly known is what exactly sports science is, and that you don't have to be a professional footballer to benefit from some of the scientifically proven theories that are put into place by the Premier League's best science and medical teams.
An interesting look at sports performance is that "if you can't move without the ball, you can't move with the ball". Arguing that if you can't compete with the opposite team when running alone (a pretty simple task) then when you put a ball into the equation, you're never going to get an advantage and will probably just end up in an awkward pile on the floor after the 6 foot 4 centre half comes across and clatters you into the corner flag! To avoid this, or at least limiting the possibility of it happening... you might have to get yourself in the gym. What sort of stuff should you do? Well, if you're looking at trying to get yourself a trial at West Ham... you might have to speak to a Strength and Conditioning coach as each position requires different qualities. For example, you don't need to run 100m in 10 seconds if you're going to play in goal... but you might need to add upper body weight so you can rise amongst the crowd when coming off your line at a corner. However, we're going to take a look at four general exercises to both add a bit of bulk so that you have a better chance at holding your own and prevent that awkward shoulder barge that makes you look like a baby has just been run into by a Labrador; as well as increasing your speed and acceleration to give you the edge to get to the ball, and then bomb on into the other half.
Back squats are key to developing your lower body power. Improving your speed and acceleration. The squat is an exercise that works a number of muscles at once. The three joins most responsible for producing sprint speed and power are the hip, knee and ankle. All three of these joint are worked during the squat. Strengthening these joints means they can produce more power, and more power means you can run faster!
Kettle bell Swings
Kettlebell swings condition the hamstrings for quick, loaded actions helping to increase power whilst on the pitch. Again an exercise that works on those 3 joints responsible for running, the KB swing combines strength and movement... which for those of you that don't know = power! Studies have shown a link between stronger hamstrings and straight line running speed. The first time you try this exercise you'll feel the hamstring stretch that they cause and the next day... you'll know they've worked! They also act as a good strengthener for the core which aids with balance, turning and prevents injuries.
Deadlifts are a classic full body strength exercise that you will probably have seen "Strongmen" performing them in competitions and training. They recruit almost every muscle in your body throughout the full range of motion. Predominantly strengthening the lower body and core muscles. The best thing to do if you're a complete beginner is to use a plastic bar or unloaded barbell to make sure you learn the correct technique and do not injure yourself. A good benchmark for people with a good strength training foundation to start is lifting your bodyweight (remember the bar usually weighs 20kg). This will be heavy enough for you to make some gains but also light enough to master the technique. This video explains the technique and important points to stick to. Don't let your pride get the best of you... you'll make more improvements lifting lighter with the correct technique than lifting 200kg, slipping a disk and having to rest in bed for a few months (where funnily enough... you won't make any gains!). A good exercise to compare your progress to elite athletes as it is used by coaches in almost every sport. A quick Google search will show you videos of Anthony Joshua deadlifting BIG weights! Warning: the deadlift is addictive...
Want to get better at sprinting? Well guess what you should do... Sprint! To get better at cooking you need to cook more... so why should it be any different when it comes to fitness?! To keep it sport specific, stick too shorter sprints such as 30m sprints and rest for around two minutes after each one. Make sure you're full warmed up as an explosive activity like sprinting puts a huge amount of stress on your body. The best way to do this is to perform your sprints at the end of your training session. This way you will probably be sufficiently warmed up and the risk of injury is much less. Complete around 6-8 sprints to improve your explosive power.
Add these four exercises into your gym programme 2-3 times a week and watch your performance improve! Let me know how you get on in the comments box below!
*Disclaimer: Check with your GP before carrying out a new gym programme. Images taken from the Nike Academy Facebook page.