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Fuel For Football is a football performance  company, based in the United Kingdom, that focuses on aiding footballers worldwide to reach their greatest potential.

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While it is one of the more obvious elements of training to be an elite footballer, we cannot understate the importance of gym work in football. From aerial contests to shielding, or shot power to 1v1s, correct use of the gym can have a major impact on your game. At Fuel For Football we have a great understanding of footballer's needs building in-game strength, power and speed. While we have separated exercises into different categories, it is important to understand why and when we train certain muscle groups. Use our tips online along with the daily informational posts across our social media to improve your knowledge further. To get the most from Fuel For Football consider training with  s in-person, or acquiring physical programming. An inital consltation is free and available via the button above!

Power

As football is a team sport against other players in a time restricted environment, the game is often won or lost on split second decisions and the execution of these decisions. While strength is the ultimate foundation to develop all athletic skills, power is the most important physical attribute, as it transfers the force a player can produce with velocity.  Being able to produce force quickly, in combination with locomotive game-specific speed, will transform your game massively. 

 

As shown in the Force-Velocity curve in figure 1, the heavier the load, the slower the velocity - we must select the appropriate load to illicit the intended response at the correct time. There are varying optimal % loads for different exercises, but with power training, maximal intention to move the weight as fast as possible is imperative always.

 

Depending on what phase of athletic training or intended response from a session; reps, total volume and rest must be manipulated accordingly.  

 

As 100% effort is required, when training for power, players must ensure they have had sufficient recovery time between sets, and keep rep numbers low per set (e.g. 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps). Check the repetitions, sets and intensity section from this page for more information.

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Above: Force-Velocity Graph

Power Endurance

Fitness is as much about muscular endurance as it is lung function. Training muscular endurance may come somewhat naturally from training and matches, but this does not mean you shouldn't look to build it in the gym also.

Depending on what phase of athletic training or intended response from a session; reps, total volume and rest must be manipulated accordingly.  

To train for muscular endurance, players should aim to keep recovery time short between sets and keep rep numbers high per set (over 15 reps). Check the repetitions, sets and intensity section from this page for more information.

When to Train?

Every workout has a different recovery time. For example, an intense strength session would take longer to recover from than a short power endurance session. This means that you would need a longer period of resting time before your next gym or football session after the strength workout than the power endurance.

 

Recovery times are different for every player due to genetics, conditioning, and lifestyle. There are several ways to speed up recovery times which can be found on our recovery page. It is important to learn through your own experiences, how much recovery time you need, and how/when you can add physical training to your schedule. With that in mind, certain exercises and workouts that are great in the off-season or during longer periods without training sessions, need greater time management in-season.

There are some general rules that apply to every player, regardless of varying recovery times. Firstly,physical training the day of a game should be avoided, unless it is of low enough intensity so as not to cause muscle damage or fatigue, which would surely affect your performance. On the day of a game it is important that you rest and completely avoid physical training, outside of a short, sharp muscle activation session. This will ensure you don't over-exert yourself consuming energy prior to a a match.

A second rule you should adhere to is avoiding all training within the first 24-36 hours after a match. While the lower boundary is imperative for every match, you should assess muscle soreness and fatigue after the initial 24-hour period. If your muscles are sore or fatigued, you should complete the full 36 hours before returning to any form of physical training. It is important to note that this period also includes not performing low-intensity training. Any form of training can hinder recovery and prolong time for TCR (Total Complete Recovery).

 

With tight training schedules many players struggle to fit in extra physical training during the season. Long recovery time workouts, such as intense strength sessions involving the lower body, are very hard to schedule and should be worked on predominantly in the off-season.

 

Research has shown: for adequate recovery following football training sessions, you need only an 8-hour buffer between training on the pitch and in the gym. This is because the effects of peripheral and central fatigue rarely take longer than this to recover. For players training in the evening this would mean that training the next morning is a possibility. For those training during the daytime, it is possible to work out the same evening. This time-frame should only be a guideline as recovery time is different for every player, while varying session lengths and intensity will have different effects. The effects of muscle damage often last much longer than 8 hours so do not confuse this with the concept of fatigue 

If you are struggling to know which workouts you can perform as part of your schedule, a plan with the 15 best workouts for footballers, with guidelines on when to use each workout is available here. The plan takes a lot of the thinking away from which workout to do and when, as well as providing the most effective training for football-specific strength and power.

Muscle Fibre Types

Skeletal muscle is made up of bundles of individual muscle fibres called myocytes. Every myocyte contains many myofibrils, which are strands of proteins (actin and myosin) that can grab on to each other and pull. It is this that shortens the muscle and causes muscle contraction.

It is generally accepted that muscle fibre types can be broken down into two main types: slow twitch (Type 1) muscle fibres and fast twitch (Type 2) muscle fibres. Fast twitch fibres can be further categorised into Type 2a and Type 2b fibres.

These differences seem to influence how muscles respond in both football and gym work. Each fibre type is unique in its ability to contract in a certain way. Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fibre types. On average, we have about 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch fibres in most of the muscles used for movement. However, there is some evidence that training affects the distribution of these fibres.

 

Slow Twitch Muscle Fibres (Type 1)

Slow twitch muscle fibres have greater efficiency at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibres and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, they are used a lot over the 90 minutes of a match.

Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres (Type 2)

Since fast twitch fibres use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel, they are better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibres generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibres can be an asset to most players since speed is such a prized asset in football.

Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres (Type 2a)

These fast twitch muscle fibres are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibres. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibres.

Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres (Type 2b)

These fast twitch fibres use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the fast twitch muscle fibres that excel in producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. This muscle fibre has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fibre types, but it also has a faster rate of fatigue and cannot last as long before it needs rest.

Every player's needs are different, but for the majority of players it is fast twitch muscle fibres (especially type 2a) that need to be targeted in gym work. There are a few different ways in which we target these fibres, which should help to create faster, more powerful players. The first principle is using heavy weights in the gym. Your body recruits muscle fibres based on the force demands placed upon it. If the force demands from an exercise are less, you will use more slow-twitch fibres. The greater the intensity—meaning percentage of your one-rep max, not just how strenuous an exercise feels—the more you will tap into fast-twitch fibres. This is why we suggest 6-8 reps per set on most lower body exercises.

In-Season Vs Off-Season

During the season hard training schedules and matches can make it difficult to fit in intense sessions. On a typical week you would be expected to work out with high intensity only once, with a session comprising of compound movements and upper body strength. This fits in alongside 1-2 gym sessions working on conditioning; comprising of low loads and body weight exercises. Focus should mostly be on core strength. Lower-body-specific workouts using high loads are likely to be few and far between in-season due to the extensive recovery period needed post-workout. As a substitute you can use sprint training to maintain lower body strength, speed and acceleration during the season.⠀

During the off-season gym work can be split into three separate phases: strength, power and conditioning. During the first phase (strength) you should use high loads. For most exercises, this training will use the maximum mass that you can lift for 4 sets of 5 reps. Each week you should train your lower body 2-3 times. Focus on compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. Also ensure that you train both unilaterally and bilaterally. For the second phase of training (power) you should use explosive concentric movements such as frog jumps. Here you can also begin sprint training, every exercise you do should have a power-related focus to it. During the final phase (conditioning) your gym work should turn towards improving cardiovascular fitness and power endurance. Training should include bicycles, swimming and fitness-based sprints. Agility courses would also be beneficial. Each phase should take up an equal length of your off-season (likely 3-4 weeks each).⠀

Repetitions, Sets, Intensity

Immediately after a workout, our strength is reduced because of the fatigue that we experience during the repeated muscular contractions, in addition to the muscle damage that is caused.⠀

The fatigue can be split into peripheral fatigue and central fatigue. The former involves an increase in metabolites and decrease in muscular glycogen. The latter involves an impairment in the ability to activate a muscle voluntarily. Both last only a matter of hours except for when central fatigue is caused by muscle damage.⠀

Muscle damage is commonly observed after workouts involving eccentric contractions, although isometric contractions at long muscle lengths can also easily cause damage. Some research shows that concentrics can cause damage too. Reductions in strength can lasts for days to weeks. It is muscle damage which we must consider when planning a session’s exercises or number of sets and reps.⠀

These factors all increase muscle damage:⠀

• Higher Volumes

• Heavier Loads

• Larger Ranges Of Motion

• Longer Muscle Lengths At End Range Of Motion

• Closer Proximity To Muscle Failure

• Longer Duration (Isometric) Contractions

• Constant Loads (Not Accommodating Resistance)⠀

It is important that your body recovers its strength in time for training and certainly matches, therefore controlling muscle damage is very important. You should consider each factor closely. If you have a match the next day for example, it is best to work out with a low load and low volume and also focus on exercises following the factors above. It is expected that you alter each workout during the season based on your training schedule. If this is something you struggle with, please feel free to contact us.⠀

In summary, strength recovery is affected by three factors (peripheral fatigue, central fatigue and muscle damage), but the amount of muscle damage is probably the key element. Managing the degree of muscle damage that occurs in a workout is the key factor for ensuring that recovery occurs in time for the next training session or match, or for increasing workout frequency.⠀

These are some general guidelines for Strength and Conditioning based off several references. All are influenced by training experience (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and time of the season (off-season, pre-season, in-season). The decision on which type of session is appropriate at any given time during the season should be based upon the principles aforementioned. Check out footballscience.net for greater depth on the table's compilation.

Strength is an important attribute in many areas of football. It is not to be mistaken for size, a common misconception that even coaches fall into. Players should look to develop strength while maintaining their speed and power - ie greater strength at a lower weight.  Consider Lionel Messi, who rarely gets shrugged off the ball. Despite his slight frame, he has incredible strength to combine with his power and speed. Often 'bodybuilder' regimes run on a cycle of bulking and cutting which isn't effective for football performance. It is a much better idea to educate yourself on football-specific training than following such workouts, without knowing their benefits.

Depending on what phase of athletic training or intended response from a session; reps, total volume and rest must be manipulated accordingly.  

To train for strength, players must ensure they have had sufficient recovery time between sets (2 to 5 minutes), and keep rep numbers low per set (under 6 reps). Check the repetitions, sets and intensity section from this page for more information.

Strength

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