To truly excel at football, your fitness levels and physical conditioning are incredibly important. You can be a great finisher, tackler, or passer, but if you lack speed, strength, and endurance, your game will hit a ceiling. To help you flourish on the field come game time, we have put together this guide, highlighting a number of helpful football workouts. If you are serious about your game, read on and try a few of these football exercises.
If you are wondering how to improve your fitness for football, interval sprints will be a great addition to your regime. Interval training is a popular training method for many types of athletes, and it's great for helping footballers improve their endurance and VO2 Max (the rate at which your body uses oxygen when exercising as hard as you can).
Football involves a lot of running and short bursts of speed, little sprints up and down the pitch. Interval sprints can improve your stamina by participating in short periods of explosive exercise.
Start by sprinting a short distance, such as 50 metres, (eventually advancing to 100 metres). Then decide on the duration of your rest periods. For beginners, a common ratio is 1:3, meaning you sprint for 20 seconds and then rest for 60 seconds. Progress until you are sprinting for the same amount of time that you are resting. Resting can consist of walking or jogging.
Lateral high knees
Lateral high knees are the perfect football fitness drill for improving agility, speed, and footwork. It’s a very simple exercise but will result in sharpening some core areas of your game. If you’ve ever wanted more agility on the pitch or faster footwork, this is the workout to try.
All you need is a flat piece of ground, such as a training pitch or local park, and a football ladder. Football ladders are a versatile piece of kit and could be used for a number of different football fitness drills, including lateral high knees.
To perform the exercise, lay the ladder down and stand sideways at one end. Lift your right foot so your knee is waist high and place it down inside the first box of the ladder. Do the same with your left foot and knee, placing your foot inside the first box. The idea is to do this quickly and repeat the process as soon as the second foot touches the ground, making your way along the length of the ladder.
For extra conditioning why not place resistance bands mid-thigh to really activate those muscles?
It’s not only wingers and strikers who need to be quick these days. In today’s modern, fast-paced game, every player on the pitch needs to be speedy. Even goalkeepers need to be quick off the line. Adding that extra pace can really make all the difference.
A great football fitness workout to include in your training programme are sled pulls, an exercise that is designed to improve your sprinting prowess. The idea is simple, by sprinting with a chord around your waste attached to a weighted sled, you will build up the strength of your quads and hamstrings, allowing you to fly down the pitch.
If you can learn to run fast with the resistance of the sled dragging behind you, think of the benefits it will reap once you are running unencumbered during a match. You can increase the weight on the sled as you get stronger, while also increasing the number of sets you perform as your speed endurance increases.
Lateral hurdle sprints
Agility is very important, allowing you to compete all over the pitch, dodging tackles, darting past defenders, and tracking nimble forwards. A great footballer workout to improve agility comes in the form of lateral hurdle sprints.
This exercise involves stepping over mini football hurdles with each leg, moving from one side to the other in quick succession. This drill not only helps with speedy footwork but also helps you keep momentum despite obstacles.
Simply place a mini hurdle on either side of your body, lift your right leg and quickly step over the hurdle before bringing your left leg over to join it. Then, move your left leg back over the hurdle to the middle, following with your right leg. Perform this drill in rapid bursts, moving from one hurdle to the next.
Many of the best players possess a great deal of explosive power, helping them to jump higher and accelerate quicker. This isn’t an easy attribute to obtain, and some are more naturally gifted than others, but there is training you can do to improve your explosive power.
Box jumps are a great place to start, as are other plyometric exercises, such as squat thrusts. To perform this drill, place a suitably sized exercise box in front of you and then perform four or five sets of jumps up and down with a hip-wide stance.
As you advance, you can increase the height of the box to provide more of a challenge and further enhance the power in your legs. You can even move onto single-leg box jumps for some variety.
If you would like to improve your dribbling skills, there is no substitute for the real thing. But you can simulate scenarios on the training field and improve a footballer’s fitness in the process. Slalom runs between obstacles with the ball at your feet is an easy exercise to set up and can be done alone or in groups.
Simply set up a maze of football cones or football poles and dribble the ball as quickly and accurately as you can between them. The more intricate the path, the harder it will become, but the more proficient you get at advanced runs will be to your benefit come match time.
To add an extra endurance angle to the drill, once you reach the end of the run, turn around and go back the other way. Perform the exercise in sets with breaks in between, and you can even time yourself to set a future mark to beat. The idea isn’t to sacrifice ball control for speed but to combine both attributes to take your dribbling to the next level.
Exercises for footballers
- Interval sprints
- Lateral high knees
- Sled pulls
- Lateral hurdle sprints
- Box jumps
- Slalom runs
We hope this guide has been helpful and that you attempt to incorporate a few of these workouts into your football fitness training.