The term pre-season is defunct in the modern game to some degree, with elite sportsmen and women keeping a solid fitness base all-year long; downtime may well have been a feature of the sport years ago, but it is not today.
With summer international tournaments, pre and post-season tours and European qualifying fixtures filling the void between domestic campaigns, the period between one season finishing and another starting is also less than it once was.
As such, elite players have a requirement, desire and need to remain in tip-top physical condition the year round, with a number of telling elements ensuring that the game’s best are ready to perform over a consistent period of time.
Training for the game of yesteryear involved five-a-side games and long runs, but there is a fine science behind the conditioning and preparation of the current crop of footballers.
Throughout different periods of the season, contrasting techniques are used to hone players’ fitness levels and ensure they are ready and able to deal with the demands of the sport. In pre-season, there is an emphasis on building fitness, with interval sessions adopted to replicate the stop-start demands of the sport at the highest level.
The common day Premier League footballer will undertake short-sharp bursts followed by rest periods to simulate the sprint requirements of playing the game.
These sessions, which can take place up to three times per day, are high-intensity and have the goal of boosting both aerobic and anaerobic fitness for the participants.
When the competitive action is underway, hardcore fitness sessions are less of a commodity, with the actual exertions of playing football excellent in themselves for building stamina and conditioning. The term ‘match-fit’ is coined for a reason, with regular time on the pitch meaning that there is a significantly reduced need for players to be run into the ground.
Weight training and conditioning
While Pele or Diego Maradona may well never have undertaken a training session in a gym during their days in the game, the modern crop are reliant on strength and conditioning work away from the game.
Even the most gifted technical players are not able to solely rely on their ability with the ball or mental reading of the game; the physical confrontations of the modern game dictate that conditioning is key. The finest margins decide which of two players will win a sprint to a loose ball or whether a striker can maintain his balance to convert a chance.
As such, regular weight training in the gym is necessary to build the core strength and condition the player’s muscles to be able to deal with the significant exertions of a game at the highest level.
Today’s best players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale are all physically superior to the stars from even ten years ago, and can perform better as a result. Strength training also plays its part in reducing the potential for injuries and keeping players ready to play the next game.
When Pep Guardiola took over as coach of Barcelona, one of the most astute and important changes he made was to Lionel Messi’s diet.
The Argentina international was fond of pizza and soft drinks, with the gifted attacker allowed a level of leniency in his diet due to his stellar technical abilities. However, Guardiola focussed on Messi’s food intake and took him from an excellent player to the best on the planet by altering what the South American put in his body.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner also employed Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser in 2014 to manage his foot intake, with Messi becoming leaner and stronger as a result – which played a significant role in Barcelona’s momentous treble last season.
All top professionals now have their diets strictly monitored, with what they eat and drink just as important as their effort on the training field. The fuel required to play such a physically demanding sport needs to be in place, just as eating the right things after a game and hydrating helps the players to recoup.
Although players must be careful in what products they must take, boosting endurance and stamina through the use of supplements is commonplace. Simple water does not suffice, with the elite sportsman assisted in going that extra mile through the consumption of sports-science tested aids.
Pre workout supplements for soccer players from Supps R Us are commonplace for elite athletes, with this element to the game specifically important in tough training sessions and towards the conclusion of an end-to-end game.
Specifically designed supplements for football are totally different to other sports and typically include complex carbohydrates and proteins to help the body deal with the constraints of the game and help it to recover in the aftermath.
With players regularly running over 10km per match in sharp bursts, participants can become fatigued physically, metabolically and mentally after the game.
Rehydration and the restoration of carbohydrates are essential to get the modern-day athlete fit and firing in as short a time as possible, with another fixture to play in as little as three days on some occasions. Stretching, massage and warm-down routines now rule the roost, with condition and sports science coaches essential members of any club’s make up.
The contrast between hot showers and ice baths also help depleted muscles to regenerate and reduce the respective time before a player is fit and ready to play again.
Although the technology, sports science and nutrition based around all sports, including football, has been enhanced considerably in recent years, players are now also approaching the game differently too from a personal perspective.
Being a football player is not about turning up for a match and partaking in training a couple of times a week; there is an all-encompassing mentality and focus that is required to make it at the top level. The margins in elite sport are so fine that plenty of seemingly small attributes can become the difference between success and failure.
As such, not only are players at the peak of their fitness virtually all-year round, but they are indoctrinated by those in the know about what to eat, drink and when, down to the nth degree.
Being a professional football requires sacrifice and untold dedication, with those in question having to demonstrate much more than just their ability to kick a ball if they are to be successful.