Whether you are a young footballer with dreams of someday signing with a major club, or just someone who wants to get into terrific shape, you might wonder how you can replicate the training programs of the pros. How can these athletes cover 10 to 15 kilometers per game and then be back ready to practice the next day? Read on to learn a bit about how you can train like a professional soccer star on your own time.
- Plan a week-long regime
- Focus on the legs
- Mix up your training
- Take the recovery process seriously
- Don't forget diet and sleep
Plan a week-long regime
In a typical one-game week, football clubs will observe a basic weeklong regime cycle to make sure players are in their best shape when the weekend hits. You might not be able to replicate every bit of this training routine. For instance, if you don't have buddies who are willing to run soccer drills with you every day, you are going to have to adapt the training model to suit what you can However, the basic idea should be to point to your most major workout on Saturday, with some gentle recovery workouts on Sunday and Monday, a couple of more intensive workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, a rest day on Thursday, and a low-intensity workout on Friday. This basic plan can be applied to any sport?be it football, long distance running, or biking.
Focus on the legs
A soccer player's legs are his or her greatest asset, so it stands to reason that someone hoping to train like a professional footballer should focus on the legs first and foremost. Biking, running, or spending time on a cross trainer can strengthen the legs while also building cardiovascular fitness, but you should also spend some time each day just on the legs. If you are weight training, try squats with either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. If you don't have immediate access to weights, do walking lunges instead. Repeated reps of these leg exercises give footballers much of their famous muscle strength and speed.
Mix up your training
As you can see from the above leg exercises, footballers don't get in shape just by hitting the pitch and doing possession and dribbling exercises with the ball. Cardio work, strength and power training, and on-pitch football training are all vital parts of the training process. In order to develop into a well-rounded athlete (regardless of what your main sport is), you should use this spirit of cross training to improve. If you are a runner, for instance, don't just run; do weight and strength training (deadlifts, pull-ups, etc.), bike workouts, yoga, and other sports training as well.
Take the recovery process seriously
After a match, professional footballers will often hit the ice bath to soothe their aching muscles, or wear compression pants to promote maximum blood and oxygen flow to those muscles. The Sunday and Monday after a Saturday game, meanwhile, are restful workouts designed to work away any lingering soreness or tiredness from the match. Whether your big weekend workout is a soccer match, a marathon road race, or just an extremely long bicycle ride, you should respect the recovery process. Trying to give 100% every day will burn you out and lead to injury.
Don't forget diet and sleep
You can't train your hardest if you stayed up late the night before or haven't been eating a proper diet. At a minimum, you should be getting eight hours of sleep every night, and more is better. To a certain extent, that tip could apply to anyone. The same can't be said for a professional footballer's diet, which will generally include way more food?especially in the carb or protein variety?than the average person's. Aim to start the day with a breakfast that includes a lot of fruit; plan a lunch that includes carbs, protein, and vegetables; and double down on carbohydrates and protein at dinner. Consider a protein shake as a means of refueling your body after a tough workout. And perhaps above all else, ramp up your water intake. For more tips on diet, you might read Gary Neville's 24-hour training plan.
Even if "training like a professional footballer" never leads to a professional sporting career, it will build you into a fitter, healthier person overall. With a full work or family life, it can be tough to hit every benchmark of this training regimen, so don't worry too much if you have to miss a day or cut a workout short. Remember that professional football stars are training as their day job, while you have to fit your training in around other obligations.