PT National was invited for a second consecutive year to design and deliver a football training camp to educate players on the importance on trunk stability in specific facets of the game including agility, cardiovascular fitness, and musculoskeletal strength.
The team has gone from strength to strength as numbers have increased, resulting in two squads. The initial aspect of the workshop was to support the players in learning how to activate their transverse abdominis and pelvic floor, which is commonly not considered unless in the presence of lumbar injuries or pain.
Prevention is better than cure and aligned with Swiss ball dead bugs, this exercises targets the cross myofascial patterns and “slings” of the body. If we consider the kicking movement pattern of a football we can recognise that the fascia of the foot can be carried through the body as it exits the hands. It is here where we adopt a “web” like approach to functional training and is recommended for coaches to adopt for their players.
Trainers may further support coaches in educating them on adductor to oblique slings, which would help minimise groin and lower back strains when kicking across the midline of the body.
Turning the body over and into a yoga four-point position is a great way to educate players on the posterior chain of the body and repeat the dead bug movement using alternate hand and leg extension, ensuring that the pelvis remains in the neutral position and parallel with the floor so that their Gluteals are not over activated. This key movement is designed to highlight to players that shoulder and upper limb strength is just as important in football as their lower limbs for balance, stability and strength; all attributing facets to kicking power.
The final aspect of the warm-up conditioning phase of the workshop is to raise the awareness of gluteal activation prior to playing football. However, it is not a matter of performing the same amount of repetitions on both side of the body. This is counterintuitive particularly when athletes with Cerebral Palsy will have a CP side of the body.
Once the players recognise their weaker side, they can then pre-exhaust this side by placing a resistance band around both knees and performing lateral walks or side steps. Please spend close attention to this movement, as both feet need to remain parallel through each step with the knees aligned with the hips, and hip and knees in slight flexion. This will particularly focus on Glute Minimis, which is commonly weaker when compared to glute maximus in athletes.
Once the pelvis has adopted the neuromuscular attention it deserves it is now that you can break up into groups including agility, cardiovascular fitness, and strength.
Agility is the ability to think and move with speed into varying positions in space. Electronic markers and apps are on the market or simply you may choose to use domes. Markers are a great way to time and create a level of friendly competition amongst players. Football is a great opportunity to try the Illinois agility test or simply any layout that requires change in direction that mimics the game.
We enjoy including cardiovascular to incite conversation and enjoyment when working as a team. Time-bound exercise has targets and an end in mind, particularly when working at full capacity using Tabatas and promoting lactate threshold with increased training intensity.
Tabatas require players to exercise at high intensity for 20 seconds with a 10 second recovery for a total period of 4 minutes. You may choose to vary the intervals depending on the ability of the team which may include 40:20 for example.
Most players will go to the gymnasium to further their strength training for football. Education is key in demonstrating correct form that must include the deadlift and squat. Whether you choose to vary the movement with dumbbells, barbell, or trap bar these are fundamental considerations.
Firstly, no child under the age of 16 years of age is permitted to perform the barbell deadlift or barbell back squat. This places direct load or stress onto the intervertebral discs that have not fully solidified until adulthood. Single dumbbell deadlifts and goblets squats would suffice and are very effective exercises that prevent direct loading of the spine.
Simple rules including chest up and chin down. This ensures correct postural alignment of the head and neck for the thoracic spine, which will further promote correct hip and knee flexion in this particular sequence. Always breathing in on the downward phase of the movement to protect the thoracic cavity and spine and exhaling on the upward or exertion phase.
Education closely aligned with demonstration and mirroring techniques to observe player form is a must, particularly in the group setting. Collective participation will remind players that each of them experience the same difficulties when perming these exercises that can be carried out of the workshop to other team mates and family members.
Congratulations to the NSW Football teams who were awarded with 1st and 3rd place wins and to the coaching staff who value the importance of safe movement patterns for activities form performance on and beyond the football field.
Author – Eric Said
Movement Specialist/PT National Educator