The art of football training is a broad topic that involves many aspects, although we can break it down into three main branches: Physical, Technical and Tactical.
All three overlap in many ways, but by understanding each of them more clearly, we can see what we need to work on to improve our individual game.
In this article we explore each of these training concepts in a little more depth, to give you a better understanding of what they encompass and how to make the most of them to develop your game.
Physical training is the easiest to explain and exactly what you would expect – training to build your physical fitness to be able to perform for 90 minutes and beyond.
This can be further broken down into skills such as strength, power, endurance, mobility and stability, as well as the ability to recover effectively.
Physical training is a crucial part of being able to perform the technical and tactical work needed to win games (see below). You can have all the skill in the world, but it is worthless if you can’t keep pace for 90 minutes.
Naturally, physical training will be worked on during team sessions (primarily through running, jumping, shooting and so on), although the majority of physical work will be down to the individual player. This is especially true in lower leagues and Sunday league football.
Luckily, physical training is the least complicated training branch and something most players can do without supervision.
For example, you can work on your aerobic fitness (accounting for 90% of total energy consumption during a match) by sticking to the tried and tested – running, cycling and rowing, as well as high-intensity training methods. Ideally, you should mix up your cardio training to include longer sessions of steady-state cardio and shorter sessions of higher-intensity work.
However, footballers should not neglect strength training. This includes performing compound weightlifting (such as barbell squats, deadlifts and bench press) as well as unilateral resistance training – in other words, training each leg separately (lunges, split squats, and so on) to expose and correct weaker muscles.
With such training possibilities, you could find yourself in the gym every day. If you are keen to develop your physical fitness to advance your game, you should consider working with a personal trainer, who can set out a week-by-week plan that includes a sensible schedule for cardio work, strength training and recovery.
On that note, regardless of your schedule, you should always make time to recover properly, through rest and good nutrition. For example, before every training session you should be eating a balanced meal with an appropriate amount of complex carbohydrates to give you the energy you need to train effectively.
When you finish, drinking a recovery supplement such as Recover90® will give your body the protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes it needs to repair and go again the following day.
Get your football cones, agility ladders and bibs ready – technical training is where you work on the football-specific skills that will help you develop your skills on the ball.
Often, technical training is the bulk of what goes on in team training sessions, especially at lower levels. Exercises known as drills are performed repeatedly to make these techniques automatic.
In team training sessions, you may work on drills for improving your passing, tackling, receiving the ball and shooting. You can also practice these skills in small-sided games and larger training games.
In addition to team training, you can also develop some skills alone in your own technical training sessions – in the park or in your garden. While tacking and passing drills are not so easy to do by yourself, you can work on your footwork and agility. There are countless drills for dribbling and ball control, and the keen footballer will take advantage of this.
Click here to read our article about Football Training Drills.
Tactics are the core philosophy of a team. It’s why the word Tiki-Taka is synonymous with Barcelona and the long-ball game comes with any team managed by Big Sam.
Tactical training addresses football-specific decision making – the way both the team and individual player acts and reacts to situations unfolding on the pitch. It also includes aspects of the game such as corners, free-kicks and formations, as well as how the team attacks and defends in given scenarios.
Ultimately, tactical training is the stuff that can win games – the moment you see that killer through-ball or your team scores from a perfectly executed free-kick strategy.
Tactical training is usually worked on as a team as opposed to individually, and can be done both on the training pitch and in a classroom environment (i.e., the changing room for many clubs).
Football teams of all levels can work on tactical training. The higher the level, the more emphasis there tends to be on tactics, including video analysis of a team or individual player in a match, as well as video analysis of the opposition.
No aspect of football training stands alone as the most important – all three branches overlap, and all three must be trained.
Ultimately, you can be as fast and strong as you want, but if you can’t pass accurately or control the ball, you aren’t living up to your potential. Equally, your team could develop a genius free-kick strategy, but if half of the players are still hunched over gasping for breath, chances are it won’t be executed properly!
To reap the rewards of training, be sure to work on all three branches consistently, along with your coach, teammates, personal trainers and – perhaps most crucially – by yourself.
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