Historically, football and weightlifting have not gone hand in hand.
However, the modern game has recognised the importance of weightlifting in improving the performance of high-tier players. Regular sessions in the gym are now an everyday part of a footballers training schedule, and this is now seen to improve your football performance and improve the longevity of your participation in the sport.
If you're inspired you to improve your football form, we’ve put together our top tips for using weightlifting practices to give yourself the edge over the competition.
All sports place a demand on the athlete to exhibit a variety of forces, which, in turn, create an action and outcome.
In football, that can be your sprint speed, the height of your jump or the power behind your football trainer as you strike the ball. In weightlifting, it’s the rapid upward extension of the body you need to hoist a large weight overhead.
For this reason, weightlifting is key in helping you generate the explosive power you need to enhance your football performance. Weightlifting helps in two key ways:
1) It reduces the risk of injury
2) It enhances the physical attributes that dictate how you perform on the pitch
Stretching out tight muscles is important to maintain posture, which ensures you strike the right balance between muscle groups. Stretching also helps prepare the muscles/joints for the activity you are about to take part in.
It is essential to stretch out the entire body before training or a match. You should focus on muscle groups that are particularly tight. For football, the specific stretches to consider are:
- Hip and Groin mobility- Hip flexor rotations and seated groin stretch.
- Lying Piriformis stretch - a deeper stretch for this muscle
- Hamstring mobility- Traditional static hamstring stretches.
- Quadricep mobility - traditional static stretching
- Calf mobility - traditional standing stretches
- Upper back mobility- Traditional static shoulder exercises.
You should do static stretching both at the start of your session and at the end, usually before dynamic stretching. Hold each pose for 30 seconds and repeat stretches for tighter areas two or three times. Stretching shouldn’t be painful, so don’t be too aggressive in your poses.
Stretching before playing is certainly something we would advocate. However, it should accompany a group of dynamic stretches also which should all be carried out before a training session or game as a full preparation routine.
Adequately preparing yourself for sport is essential not only to ensure you’re performing at your best, but more importantly to minimise the risk of injury.
Athletes should go through a range of movements to mobilise the required joints of the body. These would typically include exercises that go through a long range of motion, allowing the full use of a joints movement.
Walking high knees, forward lunges with rotation, inchworms, reverse lunge with overhead reach and arabesque are all examples that are good for football, where the movement should be executed using the full circumference of the joint. Once again, this should be completely pain-free, although you are likely to feel the muscles stretching while doing this.
Increasing strength will help to enhance your football performance. When addressing a weakness. Try starting with simple exercises and advance gradually. Static contractions such as the plank or ski squats are good examples because they draw focus to postural maintenance. Once you’ve mastered these, you can use more dynamic movements in your exercise regime.
For football, the following exercises help to develop your strength:
- Romanian Deadlift
- Single Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift
- Nordic Hamstring Curl
- Razor Curl
- GHR Hold
The goal in all these exercises is to isolate your lower body through strong posture, allowing you to work on the desired muscle groups. The strength gains are biggest when completing them with a load.
Advancing to more demanding strength-based exercises such as front and back squat, while increasing the load, rep and intensity would all aid longer-term development.
Measuring and testing
In football, key tests for strength and power include:
- Single-leg glute hamstring raise and hold
- Single-leg squat
- Single-leg hop
- Knee-wall test
- Side hold
- High-speed running assessments
- Repeated tuck jump
These measures/tests are all transferable into football, measuring the explosive power required for each component of play, such as sprinting, striking the ball and jumping.
To excel in football, you must be flexible. The torso works in combination with the pelvis and lower limbs to create rotational force, which translates to the lower body to support the movements required to perform.
It’s important to facilitate these movements equally at each joint without being excessive, but also to acquire the ability to resist other forces acting on the body as well as preventing over-rotation, particularly at the knee and ankles.
Exercises that support flexion are fantastic for this. There are plenty of exercises available that use a variety of implements such as resistance bands, cable machines, barbells, tribars, to list a few. These exercises followed by regular specific and general conditioning and stretching will all work to support the physiological attributes needed to compete on a regular basis.
Once you’ve laid your foundation, it’s important not only to maintain it but to also build upon it. You can develop key muscles groups that will launch your football performance to new heights; they can be addressed and enhanced through both exercise choice and prescription.
For more complex exercises and programming that truly develop performance, British Weight Lifting offers some educational courses and workshops that can detail how to execute some of the most athletic movements in the strength and conditioning world, which we can confidently state will enhance your football performance. Head over to www.britishweightlifting.org to check out when the next course is near you.
The British Weight Lifting and Para Powerlifting Championships take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th July at The Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
The Championships will see a host of Commonwealth Games medallists from across the Home Nations compete for domestic glory and places at the top of the British Rankings.
Tickets are now on sale.