A good fitness regime is crucial for building up the power, speed and strength required for the combination of sprinting, running and jumping that is used in football. An effective fitness regime should include exercises that work on the following areas.
Plyometric exercises are used to improve the footballer’s ability to change rapidly between activity that contracts the muscles concentrically (muscles are shortened) and eccentrically (muscles are lengthened to maintain stability).
The aim of using the exercises is to decrease the time it takes between running, when concentric contraction takes place, and stopping when eccentric contraction is effected.
They include exercises such as hopping on one leg, sprinting from lying down and the ‘depth jump,’ where players leap from 5ft platforms and try to spring up again as soon as they hit the floor.
As well as conventional cardiovascular exercises, such as running and rowing, specific leg, upper body and abdominal exercises, such as squats, press-ups and sit-ups are crucial for building up all round muscular endurance.
In order to build up power and strength in the leg and arm muscles, weight training is a crucial part of any fitness regime. Leg presses, quads, abductor pulls and hamstring curls each build up different leg muscles and bicep curls, tricep dips and shoulder presses increase arm strength.
In order to pass the ball effectively, the player needs to have good eye-brain-body coordination. This is increased by working on the bodies motor skills to enable the body reacts almost instantly to a situation on the pitch. Ladder drills are an effective way of improving motor skills where players aim to run within the ‘rungs’ of a rope ladder without stepping on the rope.
As with all sports, good stretching is crucial before and after training to keep the muscles elastic and to avoid injury.