Don’t be overwhelmed by the annual slog. Follow our checklist for superior match fitness and take the new campaign by storm
Words by Ben Welch
Locate Your Weaknesses
Before you start working up a sweat you need to identify your body’s weak sports. “A simple test you can do at home is a single leg squat in front of the mirror,” explains England physio Steve Kemp. “Does your knee roll in? If it does you’re at risk of lower-limb injury. To counter this put an exercise band around your knees and squat. This will fire up your glutes and improve your hip stability.” You’re welcome.
Make A Plan
Pre-season is a grind, so you need a schedule with targets, says peak performance coach, Tom Bates. “Plan and prepare. Set realistic goals. Focus on the outcome – why are you doing this? Because you want to get better. Connect with your purpose.”
Slip Into Something Tight
Your weary legs are going to need help recovering from all the extra work, so invest in some tights. Seriously. Compression garments constrict your muscles, helping to reduce the amount of fluid build-up, which decreases swelling and pressure. Worth the uncomfortable squeeze.
Get Your Diet Right
If you want to play like the elite, you have to start eating like them. “Eat for a purpose,” advises Mike Taylor, Southampton’s consultant nutritionist. “Increase carbohydrate intake to match the extra training you’re doing and get protein on board at the right time to maximise recovery.”
Push Yourself Like CR7
“Everyone has days when they are less motivated and I do too, but I know that in order to continue to play at the highest level, I must push myself even on the days I might not feel like it,” says Real Madrid mega-star and Euro 2016 winner, Cristiano Ronaldo. Probably worth listening to him.
Train To Do Your Job
Make sure your training is tailored to your position – that’s the advice of PSG captain Thiago Silva. “Defenders and strikers, who run almost the same during a match, should focus on power, sprinting, working out on the sand. Midfielders and full-backs, who cover long distances, should focus on running.” Either way, you’re sweating.
Shed your stiff upper lip and open up.”Get an emotional partner and speak about the challenges,” advises Bates. “A problem shared, is a problem halved. It’s a collective endeavour.” Just don’t go asking your new teammates for a hug #awkward.
I must push myself even on the days I might not feel like it
Get The Balls Out
“Get into the football quickly,” says Tony Strudwick, Manchester United’s head of athletic development. “Utilize football in small-sided games to achieve multiple outcomes. Training has to be progressive. Don’t destroy yourself in week 1.”
Build Up Your Workload
Strudwick, Manchester United’s head of athletic development. “Utilize football in small-sided games to achieve multiple outcomes. Training has to be progressive. Don’t destroy yourself in week 1.”
Steady runs, sprints, 5-a-side – mixing it up is key, says Tottenham fitness coach, Nathan Gardiner. “For the first two weeks – do big numbers, big areas, big duration. Next two weeks aim for mid-numbers – 7v7 5v5, playing for a shorter duration. Then for the last two weeks tighten it up with 3v3 and 4v4. Try 10-12 minute runs, from the penalty box to the halfway line.”
Switch To Beast Mode
Adebayor Akinfenwa – aka the world’s strongest footballer – inflates his upper body with supersets. “I like to work on my biceps and triceps back to back, with no rest in between,” says the Wycombe Wanderers striker.” I’ll start the curls on a heavy weight, completing 10 repetitions, before going straight to the dips.”
Do The Dickie Bow
It’s not a new dance craze. It’s James Milner’s ‘favourite’ endurance drill. “Jog along the width of the 18-yard box until you reach the corner of the penalty area,” explains the Liverpool man. “Then run diagonally to the opposite corner. Then jog along the other side of the penalty area and run diagonally back to the start. Do that six times.” We’re tired.
Get Out On The Road
There’s nothing like a bit of fresh air, according to Southampton striker, Charlie Austin. “I try to run as much as possible,” he says. “No one likes running on a treadmill, so I mix it up and get out on the road. This makes it a bit more enjoyable.”
Prepare To Freeze
Ice baths are torturous, but effective – they repair muscle damage and flush out waste products after exercise, which helps ease soreness. Gareth Bale is a fan (sort of). “I have ice baths after every training session and one the day before a game.” Yikes.
Ice baths are torturous, but effective – they repair muscle damage and flush out waste products from exercise
Get Strong, Build Power
Adam Lallana might not win a bodybuilding contest, but he’s robust and that’s down to the work he does in pre-season. “To develop power I’ll do things like pull-ups, squats and lunges. I do lots of pilates to work on my core. The TRX suspension trainer is also great for a full-body workout.”
Get Plenty Of Shuteye
Rest is just as important as work, insists sleep coach, Nick Littlehales. “Aim for seven to nine hours – certainly no less than six,” he says. “During this time your body will repair muscle tissue and replenish energy stores. It promotes growth hormones and decreases the stress hormone, cortisone.”
With sweat gushing out of every orifice you’re going to need to get fluids back on board sharpish. “Staying hydrated is what I call bottom-line nutrition,” says Tottenham and Manchester City nutritionist, Matt Lovell. “If you become dehydrated your performance will drop off rapidly.”
Keep Your Body Loose
Pre-season isn’t all about heavy weights and running – you need to stay flexible and strong. “I workout at home or outside, focusing on my core and mobility with Pilates. This helps with stability and agility,” says Manchester United’s Dutch maestro, Daley Blind.
Stamp Your Authority
This will be your only chance to wipe the slate clean and start again. Make it count. “Pre-season is a great time to lay down the foundations for the year,” says Alex Inglethorpe, Liverpool’s academy director. “How do you want to play? Do you want to press? What’s your shape and style in possession?”
Get To Know New Teammates
New season, means new signings. Time to make ‘Fwends’, says Arsenal’s Alex OxladeChamberlain. “When a club brings in new players during pre-season it’s vital for them to have a few weeks to get to know their team-mates, what the manager expects and to settle in.”
Make A Good Impression
Tips and advice supplied by fourfourtwo performance, where pro footballers reveal the secrets of their game. visit fourfourtwo.com/ performance and follow @fftperformance