5 tips to optimize your football fitness

Football is an incredibly demanding sport, and you must possess a plethora of skills if you hope to stay competitive.

Players must possess a natural touch on the ball, they must be incredibly fast to outrun their opponents, they must be strong to win the first ball, they need to explode with power in their lower bodies, and they need to have the incredible endurance to do all of that for 90 minutes.

Statistics show us that football players, on average, run over 6 miles in a single match and due to the dynamic nature of the game, running is rarely slow-paced.

It’s clear that football players are some of the most well-rounded athletes in the world, but to reach that level of athleticism, their training needs to be finely-tuned and very specific.

With that, here are five tips to optimize your fitness regimen.

1. improve sprint speed

Being able to perform short bursts of incredibly high-speed running is critical for players of all positions.

Drills such as weighted sled pull and push, interval running, speed parachutes, and traditional 50-meter dashes are all great ways to develop your sprint speed.

Example: Perform 5 to 10 sprint intervals of 50 yards with a speed parachute giving yourself 30 to 40 seconds of rest in-between sprints.

2. improve agility

Being able to change direction in a split second is critical and can be the difference between scoring a goal or the ball being put in the back of your team’s net.

Agility drills with the use of cones and agility ladders work great because they simulate real match circumstances quite well.

Example: Place ten cones a few meters apart in a zigzagging formation. Slowly run around them with the ball at your feet. Increase the speed with each new round, slowly ramping up the intensity.

3. incorporate plyometrics

Aside from agility, improving one’s explosiveness is very critical because it allows the player to adequately use their speed and agility together in one beautiful equilibrium.

Exercises such as lateral jumps, box jumps, and dot drills are all greats ways to build up explosiveness and strength in the lower body.

Example: T-Hop Drill

  • Create a "T" with tape on the ground roughly two feet by two feet
  • Start by hopping with feet together, forward and backward as fast as you can, along the vertical line of the T
  • Progress to lateral two-foot hops, diagonally, clockwise and counter-clockwise
  • Progress to one-foot hops in all directions

The key to this drill is to limit ground contact time, moving as fast as possible.

Sets/Duration: 1x20 seconds each pattern

4. develop lower body strength

Working to develop lower body muscular strength helps football players on two fronts:

First, it amplifies explosiveness, speed, and agility, tying everything up into one neat package.

Second, it helps with injury prevention because strength training promotes joint stability and strengthens ligaments and tendons.

Example: Do not skip leg day. Once or twice per week, perform one or two movements for your quads (e.g., the back squat, leg press, lunge, or leg extension), one or two movements for your hamstrings (e.g., hamstring curl or Romanian deadlift) and one movement for your calves (a calf raise variation).

5. improve endurance

Becoming stronger, more explosive, more agile, and faster than the competition will only get you so far.

Without the proper conditioning to last for 90 minutes on the field, all of the efforts will be in vain.

Traditional jogging, interval sprints or a combination of both (Fartlek) all work great to increase your VO2 max and allow you to push forward in the 80th minute when the competition is physically drained.

Example: Hop on the treadmill. Adjust to 10% include, run at 10 mph for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this 9 times.

To make it more interesting, you can incorporate interval runs a couple of times per week. You can perform ten 1-minute intervals at 60-70% of your maximum speed with 30 to 60 seconds of rest in-between.

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