Essentials of Pre-Season Strength & Fitness Training for Soccer Players
Pre-season training is a critical time for footballers to prepare their bodies for the upcoming season's physical demands.
To achieve optimal performance and reduce the risk of injury, you should approach pre-season training with the mindset of "slow-cooking" yourself to peak fitness rather than going into "beast-mode" for 2-3 weeks.
With that said, a common question among players is whether to ease into pre-season training or start with intense workouts from day one?
In short, rushing into a high training load will increase your risk of injury. Injury right at the start of a new season is common in players who give themselves too short a preparation period and launch straight into intense training both on the pitch and in the gym, with no real thought on how one session is affecting another.
It's essential to follow the principle of progressive overload. This involves gradually increasing the demands of your sessions and training load, leading to gradual improvements whilst reducing the risk of injury setbacks.
Training load is the term used to quantify the amount of work you do in a session or over a week. Dr. Tim Gabbett's acute:chronic ratio is widely used to help coaches guide their athletes to achieve peak fitness without increasing the risk of injury.
The acute load represents the current week's workload, while the chronic load is the previous four weeks' workload. If the acute load is 1.4 times greater than the chronic load, Gabbet states that the risk of injury increases significantly.
As a footballer, you know that the physical demands vary from sprinting, agility, power, endurance and technical skills. Therefore, just as you do during the season, in pre-season training you will need to combine multiple elements of performance simultaneously.
However with an already demanding schedule in-season, there is one element which can be difficult to incorporate at any other time other than as part of your pre-season - hypertrophy training. This is due to the soreness or DOMS which is created from this type of training, which could negatively impact your performances on the pitch.
During your pre-season period, you will have more opportunity to allow for days of soreness and stiffness. A bigger muscle can become a stronger muscle, and that strength can be conditioned into greater explosive power, so it makes sense to utilise hypertrophy training so that you can always return to the new season as a more explosive football athlete than ever before.
It's also important to understand that changes and improvements in physical qualities cannot happen overnight.
In beginners who notice improvements in muscle strength and mass in just the first few weeks, those gains will primarily come from neural adaptations and a muscle "pump" rather than actual muscle growth.
For muscle growth to also occur, it will take around 8 to 10 weeks of following a progressive programme. This allows you to rest at the end of one season and gradually return to peak fitness right in time the new season.
Be patient with your progress and stay consistent with your training efforts. Changes in physical qualities take time and can only occur after a repeated cycle of training, optimal nutrition and adeqaute rest, so it's important to stay committed to your programme, train smart and trust the process.
If you'd like a day by day pre-season plan to follow which combines all of your speed, strength, stamina, mobility and power work, check out our Pre-Season Programme here or our Elite Programme for a fully personalised plan.