Skip to content
This Is Why Footballers MUST Do Strength Work

This Is Why Footballers MUST Do Strength Work

So you may be thinking… 

“Great, I like the idea of getting into strength and conditioning, optimising my training and all that but where on earth do I start?”

The thing with football is that you can’t just be good at one thing, you have to be good at many things and this is why lots players have such a tough time figuring out what they should actually be doing in their individual workouts. It can seem like a maze of information!

That’s why I always do my best to explain concepts that can seem pretty complex, into simple and easy to follow sets of guidelines. I find this is the most effective way, players don’t care about big, fancy scientific words - and rightly so, it's not sounding clever that's going to get results.

The truth is that being really fast isn’t enough to make you a great footballer, and neither is having unbelievable stamina. You need a good balance between many components of fitness in order to be at your most effective on the pitch.

There’s not much point in having electric pace, if after 20 minutes you’re completely puffed out. In the same way that being able to run all day isn’t going to help you much if every time you get the ball you get easily pushed off it. 

The good news is that there is one component of training which underpins all other components.

You want to be: fast, fit, strong and resilient to injury as well as mobile? Then believe it or not the underlying value to all of those is strength, strength comes first.

In an ideal world, before any serious player steps out onto the pitch the very first thing they should have done in any of their training… is some form of strength work. If you neglect it, it will almost certainly come back to haunt you, and if you are naturally strong then you are 100% not performing to your full potential by skipping it out. 

“But how is being strong going to help with my stamina?? I just want to increase my fitness – that doesn’t seem to make sense…”

  1. Where there is a strength imbalance (in particular between the quadriceps and the hamstrings), there is an increased risk of hamstring strain.
  2. Research shows that players who do not use strength training are 3X more likely to incur an injury compared to those who use strength training
  3. In beginners, improving basic strength levels will improve other fitness components such as: power, acceleration, speed, agility and even endurance
  4. Once you spend some time nailing the basics, that’s when you’ll benefit from getting more specific with your strength training to experience further improvements in: force, power, acceleration, agility, speed and endurance
OK, but...

“What good is a strong player with almost zero skill or technical ability to work with?”

You’re right, they are going to have very little impact on the pitch...But when you introduce strength work first and combine it with skill in any player of a young training age (that’s a player of any age with a low number of strength training years behind them), the performance outcome is going to be far superior for the following reasons:

*It’s important to note that strength training doesn’t always mean lifting weights in the gym, it also includes holding positions and performing exercises using only your bodyweight.

  1. It aids in the efficient production and absorption of force, allowing you to move and express your movement technique more efficiently
  2. Your neuromuscular system is strengthened (strength training involves both nerve and muscle adaptations). This results in a greater force and power output both during static holding positions and during dynamic movement where speed is key. If you strengthen the neuromuscular system both statically and dynamically then you will be better able to perform any skill
  3. It facilitates improvements in the capacities for force, power, endurance and speed production
  4. Being able to withstand the physical force of an opponent without being put off balance is a crucial requirement. Strength training facilitates this capability and also gives you a greater degree of confidence to withstand your opponent’s physical pressure

You may find that a lot of stuff on the internet is aimed at lower level players, for the pure reason that 99.9% of the population are amateur players, there’s far more amateurs than semi pro or pro players in the world, so people tend to cater for the masses.

The fact that you’re here reading this article and you’re involved in football, in my mind means that you’re a step ahead of most people and are likely to have a bit more experience than most when it comes to fitness training, really you’re looking for an edge in your training? 

Strength training for football isn’t about putting on muscle bulk to look good in the mirror, the performance outcomes from strength training are far more impressive!

The initial adaptations that occur with strength training are within the nervous system. Nervous system adaptations will enable your body to be better at activating and coordinating the muscle groups needed to produce movements, whilst also giving you the ability to produce more force.

Yes strength training can increase the size of your muscle but this is a positive thing!

Larger muscles have the potential to generate greater strength than smaller muscles. By adding lean muscle, you can become a more powerful, explosive player.

A lot of players are concerned that the potential ‘bulk’ gained from strength training will slow them down, when actually it’s a high bodyfat % and not conditioning new muscle to be explosive that causes this.

Strength training programmes can come in many shapes and forms. Different types of strength training produce different adaptations within the neuromuscular system. 

If you’re developing your own strength programme for football, you shouldn’t just choose the most popular exercises from a fitness magazine and hope that it will produce the performance outcomes you desire.

You need to make a plan which gets you started and then can be built on further, otherwise you’ll be stop-start with your training and end up wasting weeks wondering around the gym making up workouts as you go along.

To gain optimal transfer from strength and power training to football you should make the exercises specific to football by mimicking the movements which actually occur on the pitch wherever possible and by adjusting the speed at which the exercise is being performed depending on the outcome you want.

Compound exercises (multi-joint, whole body movements) allow for greater transfer of strength and power to football compared to isolated exercises (single joint movements such as a bicep curl).

By being specific with your strength training you’ll become a functionally strong player rather than just a strong player!

As a functionally strong player you can dynamically produce force through a full range of motion with speed and control. The result is smooth, coordinated athletic movements.

When you’re functionally strong, you may not be able to lift more than everyone in the gym but you’ll be able to move, explode and perform on the pitch with optimal efficiency. And that’s what it’s all about!

Without doubt excessive body fat will decrease your athletic performance. Your speed, endurance, jumping and agility will all be negatively affected by excess body fat. For male players you want to be aiming around 8-14% body fat and female players 12-20%.

Have a think about the adjustments you could make to your training to have a better transfer over to your performance on the pitch! 

Previous article Using Cold, Hot & Contrast Baths To Boost Recovery
Next article Plyometrics For Football Explained