Often called "The Beautiful Game", football, or soccer if you're from the United States, is unquestionably the most popular sport in the world.
It started with George Best in the 1960's, and now Soccer is the new rock and roll of our time with multi-million pound paydays, glamorous celebrity lifestyles and worldwide acclaim on offer for its top exponents. Sponsors and TV Companies also profit massively from the world-wide demand for the game and its domination of our TV Screens and popular culture shows no signs of flagging.
Not surprisingly therefore, how to actually train a soccer player to produce the goods on the pitch is big business for the coaches who know how. As an avid football fan for over 25 years I'm going to explain the best conditioning exercises currently known for the different player positions. I am not going to discuss ball control here because that is a separate topic:
The Goalie has to go from a still position suddenly into a quick explosive movement. Powerlifting, reaction training and plyometrics should therefore be the mainstay of the training regime. A controlled low fat diet should also improve agility making it easier for the keeper to span the width of the goal at breakneck speed when required.
Similar to the Keeper, the defender needs explosive bursts of energy and good reactions and agility. They also ideally need to be physically bigger to intimidate and impose themselves on the attacking strikers but still be able to run fast enough to keep up with them. Fullbacks need full body strength training but a high protein / low carbohydrate diet to avoid putting on too much weight which could slow them down. Reaction training is also a must here.
Mid-fielders need to do interval training interspersing sprints with longer runs to improve both their basic fitness and explosive power as they will need both to get them through 90 minutes of what will be a lot of running around (more so than with any other player position). Power lifting to achieve full body strength (but again not at the expense of speed) should also feature prominently to give extra authority to the tackles that will need to be made.
Forwards need to train for speed and agility pure and simple. This means factoring in explosive twists and turns into their workouts. They also need good general fitness so they can run at a slower speed for longer periods of time to keep up with the pace of the game and stay in contention to capitalise on any opportunities that are created.
These tips are just general guidelines and obviously will need to be tweaked to fit the individual requirements of different athletes but hopefully the underlying principles should be clear. The more progress a player makes the more individualised his or her training can become.
It is important that any unique physical characteristics of a footballer (e.g. an unusually tall player) be taken into account when initially forming a training program and it is also important to constantly re-evaluate the training methods to find the right 'fit' for that particular individual.
To use an analogy from Boxing: behind every great fighter there is a great trainer. The best boxers in history often had very unconventional techniques but had trainers who recognised their particular talents and structured the training to allow for this. Muhammed Ali did everything wrong from a boxing textbook point of view but his trainer, Angelo Dundee, recognised his genius and allowed him to express himself in training, taking a much more 'hands off' approach than other boxing trainers of the day.
So perhaps the rule should be that there are no definitive 'hard and fast' rules but that if you combine the above basic principles with a flexible approach then the foundation for success can be achieved.
Gary Evans has been an avid football supporter for over 25 years. If you found the above information on soccer training useful, you can learn a lot more about how the world's elite players and coaches train for their soccer matches by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/kqgdg
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