Guest Blog – Football and strength and conditioning relationship with injury and performance (Part Two) – How to improve a footballers physical performance

“If you ain’t pissed off for greatness then that means you’re ok with being mediocre, ain’t no man in here ok with being just basic!” – Ray Lewis

Before I start this article, I just wanted speak about a topic bugging me this week. My youngest brother has just started year 10 in secondary school and as one of his GCSE choices chose PE. This was until the teachers began telling the kids how hard the course was and that they didn’t think everybody would pass the course. What sort of bullshit approach is that towards children? They should be inspiring them to be the best possible version of themselves and give them all the potential help they can to smash that course and pick up the best grade possible, right? This brings me to a point that I will explain further later, don’t be afraid to take a different path to everyone else, people are cautious to being different from everyone else, do what makes you happy and ignore the naysayers! Anyways, on to the article….

Welcome to part two in my look at how footballers should approach their training programme. Part one ( looked at how often footballers pick up injury’s and why this could be happening, with Joules Wallis providing an insight into how a football team trains both pre-season and in-season. In this article I am going to highlight the key areas I believe footballers need to train in order to improve performance and reduce their risk of injury.

Football is becoming a more dynamic and athletic game, with this change requires the players to meet the demands, otherwise they will fall behind. A coach would want their players strong enough to be able to hold off opposing players, fast enough to be able to catch the speedy winger and dispossess him of the ball and mentally strong enough to deal with all ups and downs that occur during a season.


Footballers aim in the pre-season will be to improve alactic power, aerobic capacity and their strength. Then during the season, they will aim to keep the intensity high in their sessions, but reduce the volume in order to be fully prepared for their competitive matches.

So what do I believe to be the most important aspect for a footballer?


Initially, I was going to say strength, but the more I thought and read, the more my view began to change. Don’t get me wrong, strength is a massive area and one that is very often under looked in football and I will talk more about that shortly. However, after listening to a podcast with Barbell Shrugged and Zach Even-Esh, I believe this to be the key. As an athlete or a coach or even as a person, you have to have a mental toughness and desire to become better. Back to the point I made earlier and was spoken about more during the episode of Barbell Shrugged with Zach, we are programmed to taking the same path as everybody else, but what if you took the other path? The risk is a hell of a lot higher, sure, but your results could be great and you could make people think twice about the path their currently on. Be willing to change and not settle for 2nd best, because once you do, you give your competition the opportunity to overtake you.



Before you do anything with an athlete, make sure they can master bodyweight movements safely and correctly such as squats, lunges, crawls, press ups before they start using resistance.

Then focus on getting them stronger in the off season and maintaining that strength gain in season as best you can. Master the kings of the compound exercises (deadlift, squat and bench), strengthen the posterior chain (glute ham raise, sled drags, good mornings) and include a couple of accessory exercises to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, quads and back muscles involved in the sport and mould them into a stronger, faster and more effective athlete. Get your athletes carrying objects such as kegs, sandbags, kettlebells for a set amount of time/distance to add a different aspect into their training and have them compete against each other to raise the atmosphere in the gym. I can hear some people saying “What, no machines? No curls?” If you’re serious about your performance, its time you moved to the serious work. Actions make the loudest noise!

Alactic power

There are around 150 – 250 brief intense actions performed by an individual player in the professional game (Bangsbo, Mohr and Krustrup, 2006). This highlights the need for alactic energy system to be trained and improved to cope with the demands of the sport.  In the gym, you would want your athletes utilising med ball exercises, jumps (vertical jumps, broad jumps etc), short sprints and prowler work focusing on the athlete being explosive as possible (If they don’t own a prowler, get them to use a small percentage of their wage to buy one!)

Watch Ronaldo’s alactic power in this sprint and it’s hard not to be impressed

Aerobic energy system

This is the main source powering a footballer during a 90 minute match as average and peak heart rates are around 85 to 98% of maximal values (Bangsbo, 1994).  The aerobic system will mostly be strengthened during training in the week and from the matches played, but if it’s a really week area in some individuals then get them working on some GPP (general physical preparedness) work in the gym to help such as

1A – Forward sled drag 30m

1B – Med ball slams x 10

1C – KB swings x 12

1D – Sandbag carry 30m

1D – Pullaparts x 20

For 5 rounds to build their GPP!

There is one final area that I would want more of and that is rest for the athletes to decrease the accumulation of fatigue, but the professional game has evolved massively and some teams can now play 3 times a week at a demanding intensity along with their training sessions. Unfortunately, it’s the managers who decide when their players get to rest and the other coaches can only hope that their words of wisdom have an effect on his judgement. I’ve heard of rugby teams tracking their players work rate during training sessions and when a player goes over a certain percentage, they are taken out of the training session to decrease their likelihood of picking up a unnecessary injury, hopefully football will utilise a similar method!


Jake Hartley, BSc


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