Pre-season training is the hard yards. The time to work off the excesses of summer and get match fit again. Pre-season training tips blog post
It’s not easy: as the saying goes, if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right – but it’s worth the effort. Come season kick-off, with a good pre-season behind you, you’ll literally hit the ground running, and play better (than your opponents).
And at most amateur levels, fitness counts for a lot. You’ll compete harder and for longer. If you’re still going strong after an hour, you’ll be set to take charge of the game, if you haven’t already, when others are flagging.
How to perfect your pre-season training
The good news is that it’s July (or early August) and there’s no football really worth watching on the TV. So, you can focus on getting yourself ready for the beginning of your football season.
Here are some pre-season training tips to help get you ready for kick-off:
Week 1: After a couple of months of not playing (or not playing much), it’s a good idea to ease yourself back into training. The first thing to do is build up your cardiovascular fitness again. So, start with some gentle running. Between 20 and 30 minutes at the beginning, and build it up to 45. Go longer if it feels right.
As well as the running, and if you can, go to the gym and make use of the exercise bikes or rowing machines, or do some lengths at the local pool. Or, if the weather’s good, get some tennis in.
Week 2: Now’s the time to step up the intensity of your pre-season training and focus on your anaerobic fitness (while maintaining your cardiovascular fitness). This will help you sustain your performance during a game.
Interval sprints and similar exercises are a good way to do this. Introduce four-four running drills and bleep tests to your routine. Four-four drills comprise four minutes of fast running followed by four minutes of walking.
Week 3: With some good work done on your cardiovascular and anaerobic fitness, now it’s time to up the intensity to match levels and focus on in-match football skills. So, keep doing the short runs and training exercises, and introduce more 5-a-side games.
The games will give you the chance to do your exercises (sprints, multi-directional actions, etc.) and sharpen your skills (close control, etc.) in a match environment. You’ll be surprised how rusty these skills can get!
Week 4: You should feel it all coming together, so knuckling down now really makes the difference when the season starts. Mix up the short- and long-distance training – so shuttle runs alongside longer running sessions, and increase the number of 5-a-side games if possible.
As you get near to the first game of the new season, it’s important to hone your in-game skills, and short-sided games are a great way of sharpening your reactions, the close control skills and in-game movements that will make a big difference on the day.
Remember, these steps are just a guide. You’ll know your own body and know what it needs to do (and what it doesn’t). With so many year-round 5-a-side leagues, you may not actually stop playing during the summer, so the small-sided-game fitness will already be there and you can adjust your training to reflect that.
Two essential elements of all pre-season training
However, small-sided games aren’t a substitute for 11-a-side matches. Regardless of the pre-season training you can get in, one of the best ways of (re)gaining your match fitness is to play 90-minute games. Pre-season friendlies should be part of everyone’s pre-season training.
Another essential part of your training is stretching. There’s a lot of focus on the pre-training warm-up, which is good, but it’s just as important to stretch after training, in particular in pre-season when you’re building up your fitness. Do it immediately after training and the morning after a session. Because you’ll be stiff and there’ll be pain. Gentle stretching will help.
Apply these pre-season training tips, as you see fit, and you’ll have that all-important extra yard when the season starts.