Football is a great way to get fit and stay in shape, whatever your age. It goes without saying that you need to actually play football and focus on the technical aspects of the game to improve your skills. But if you aspire to play football at a good level, good stamina is also key. The average professional player covers over 10km in a 90-minute match. Football has also become a much more powerful and explosive sport over the years, so this is something you’ll need to work on both on and off the field. Here are some key exercises to help you on your way to becoming man (or woman) of the match:
- Keep on running: go and get yourself on a treadmill or do a few laps of your local park. However you want to do it, running should be an important part of your exercise regime. Top footballers often do interval training to help build their stamina, so start by jogging for five minutes, and then pick up the pace for the next five minutes. Repeat three times.
- A change of direction: a good footballer can change direction quickly, whilst keeping control of the ball. Work on your agility by weaving in and out of cones, which you can do as part of your sprinting (if you’re doing it outside...not so easy on a treadmill!). And don’t forget to include a football in your training. Slowly zigzag through 20 cones and back again, increasing your speed each time whilst keeping control of the ball throughout.
- Be more explosive: this takes a lot of hard work, but it’s necessary in order to take your football to the next level. Work on plyometric exercises such as squat thrusts, burpees and tuck jumps. And introduce a plyo box into your routine for a more explosive workout. Try four sets of 10 single-leg box jumps on each side, gradually increasing the height of the box each week.
- Abs of steel: strong core muscles are important for a football player as they serve a base for endurance, posture, strength, power and coordination. There are lots of exercises you can do to help build a strong core, many just using your own bodyweight. Sit-ups and crunches can improve core performance. Try adding weights like kettlebells or a medicine ball to your routine for a more intense workout.
- Make yourself stronger: by doing squats, deadlifts and lunges, which all have a positive effect on explosive power, overall speed, agility and strength. But most importantly, you want to prevent injury by strengthening ligaments and tendons. Try five sets of six reps of deadlifts, squats and lunges throughout the week.
And it’s so important to look at what we put in to our bodies too. Afterall, food is our fuel, so the food and drink we choose can affect how we perform during sport, and it plays a huge part in helping us stay fit and healthy. But remember, every player is different. There is no single diet that meets the needs of all players at all times. It depends on so many factors, including which position you play. And needs also change across the season so you’ll need to be flexible with your diet. Here are some of the top foods every footballer should have in their diet to maximise performance and aid quick recovery:
- Milk: is high in protein which is important for muscle recovery and strengthening. It’s also an excellent source of calcium which keeps bones strong to help prevent injury.
- Eggs: are also a great source of protein and essential amino acids, which can support muscle repair after a game. The healthy fats in eggs also help to lower blood cholesterol.
- Oily fish: like salmon are full of healthy fats like Omega 3, which are effective at reducing inflammation in the body. It's also another food that’s full of protein.
- Quinoa: is a carbohydrate that’s a great substitute to pasta and rice. It’s low in fat and high in fibre and protein (and also high in those magic amino acids).
- Green veg: like broccoli and spinach are rich in iron, which has positive effects on the quality of your blood. They also help restore energy levels and increase vitality, which are both extremely important in football. Plus they’re rich in vitamins A and K, which help reduce inflammation and improve bone health.
- Beetroot: is a little wonder veg that’s easy to throw into a salad. It helps reduce inflammation and increases energy, speed and mental focus. Now that’s impressive!
But remember, one of the most important parts of your diet should be water, and ensuring you are properly hydrated at all times. You can also use supplements in conjunction with a healthy diet, but it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice if you’re unsure what you should be taking.