The complete pre season football training guide

Welcome to the comprehensive guide to pre-season football training, where we delve into the essential elements that can help footballers prepare for success.

As the off-season draws to a close, football players at all levels eagerly anticipate the start of pre-season—a crucial period that sets the stage for the upcoming season's challenges and triumphs. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a passionate amateur, this guide is designed to provide you with valuable insights, training techniques, and expert advice to optimise your performance during this critical phase.

Pre-season training serves as the bridge between the off-season and the regular season, offering a unique opportunity for football players to fine-tune their skills, build strength and endurance, and mentally prepare for the season ahead.

In this guide, we will explore a wide range of topics specifically tailored to pre season football training. From creating a training schedule to focusing on key areas such as conditioning, agility, speed, and strength, we will delve into the strategies and exercises that can help you maximise your potential.

Whether you are an individual player, a coach, or a team seeking to make significant progress before the start of the season, this guide is here to equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve your desired results.

So, lace up your boots and embark on this comprehensive journey that will transform your pre-season preparation and elevate your performance on the football pitch.

How to structure your pre season football training

To experience a smooth transition from the season break (off-season) to your first competitive match of the next season, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you are preparing for. Key considerations to be mindful of that will impact upon your training choices include, but are not limited to, the level of play, fixture schedule, playing positions, team tactics and you or your team’s athletic build. By understanding what point B looks like, it is easier to create a plan of getting there, from point A!

To provide a simple example, if your team has fixtures scheduled twice a week in the competitive season, you better believe that preparing in this way throughout the course of pre-season will be essential. Two high-load “hits” a week interspersed with a few lower-intensity sessions requires athletes to perform and recover in a very different way to one “hit” with differential training days between each competitive match. Therefore, adequately developing the required levels of fitness, robustness and rhythm is key to be able to perform at a high level and minimise your injury risk for the duration of the season!

Simply put, point A is at the bottom of the mountain and point B is at the top! In order to get to the top, we must gradually climb and climb at a suitable pace to get there on time, but not too quickly that we end up risking not even getting half way prior to falling back down with injury!

A second key stakeholder in planning a successful pre-season is to have an understanding of your timeline (number of weeks), the number of sessions planned and therefore amount of work that is suitable to enable you to achieve the improvements that you think are required. As a general rule of thumb, 4 weeks is often viewed as too short, 8 weeks bordering on too long, and 6 weeks being somewhere around ideal. Distributing your training sessions within those weeks is then the following decision to be made. Consecutive training days are important, but too many will increase risk of burnout and injury, whereas too many days off will disturb the training rhythm or leave you “under-cooked” for the in-season period.

The remainder of this article delves a little deeper into the finer details surrounding your athletic training needs this pre-season!

Strength training for football during pre season

Is strength training important for footballers? Yes. Let’s not have this argument here, just trust us… it is.

Improving levels of strength during pre-season is essential to ensure our bodies are sufficiently capable of tolerating high-intensity exercise throughout the season, such as sprinting, changing direction and jumping, repeatedly for 90 minutes, once, twice or even three times a week! We know that stronger athletes perform at a higher level, recover quicker and get injured less frequently than their weaker counterparts - so you better be making room for strength training this pre-season.

Implementing strength training sessions in pre-season can be difficult due to the high pitch-load that players are exposed to during this time, especially when days off are few and far between. However, with close communication to the coaching and medical staff, carefully tailoring sessions on an afternoon prior to a day off or a low-load pitch day is certainly achievable.

Of course, if you’re not particularly accustomed to strength training, it will be very important to gradually introduce this kind of work, but chipping away once (at least) or twice a week during this time will set you in great stead to be able to continue to perform at a high level on the pitch each day!

Power training for football during pre season

Power, or as us geeks prefer to call it, rate of force development and external mechanical power 🤓, underpins high-intensity movements in sport. So if you want to be the fastest in your team, or highest jumper in your league, find time to train your power capabilities!

Power training is sometimes less taxing on the muscles of the body, but more taxing on the tendons. Therefore, we still need to carefully schedule this work in. Power exercises, such as jumps, bounds and explosive medicine ball throws can be completed in the gym prior to training as a primer for the session. Alternatively, post-training acts as a second opportunity to get some additional power work in, but be mindful of how fresh you may or may not be, especially if it is after a difficult pitch session!

Power training once or twice a week, avoiding periods too close to a competitive match will get you there or thereabouts this off-season!

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Cardiovascular training for football during pre season

Football is a 90 minute sport, so of course having a solid “engine” of cardiovascular fitness is going to be key to not gassing out in matches, or even lengthy training sessions! Often, pre-season football sessions are enough to sufficiently improve cardiovascular fitness, with extensive 11 v 11 drills or repetitions of intensive small sided games providing a great stimulus for the heart and lungs!

However, top up “fitness drills” such as steady-state running, or intermittent runs such as the classic box to box runs or position-specific scenarios can be utilised on high-load days to (a) further improve cardiovascular fitness and (b) increase the volume of work that each player completes in a week.

Speed training for football during pre season

We know that modern day football is all about speed! Research and statistics have shown that, and there’s no escaping it! We also know that hamstring strain injuries are the most common soft tissue injury in football, so adequately preparing ourselves to be able to sprint whenever required is key for season-long longevity.

When deciding upon the dosage of sprinting in pre-season, we must take into account several factors such as the position of the athlete, the tactics of the coaching staff and the number of games within a week, to provide a few examples. We must then remind ourselves of what condition the players return to pre-season in, to perhaps sensibly dose sprint exposures, first at lower speeds, distances, volumes and frequencies. Throughout the course of pre-season, football drills such as 11 v 11 exercises provide the environment for players to open up and sprint, but often simple sprint drills, races and top ups at the end of warm ups or other drills are useful. Later on, we can then get extra clever with our speed training and contextualise sprinting in different ways that they occur in football, such as curving our runs, preceding the sprint with a press, or even sprinting whilst dribbling a ball.

As a general rule of thumb, by the time our players reach point B of pre-season, they should typically be exposed to near maximal sprint speeds, twice a week, at a volume that equates to their usual in-season weekly levels (e.g. 200 to 800 m, depending on position and level).

Sprinting enough is one thing, but learning to sprint better, safer and more efficiently is another. Training to sprint better is a skill that requires practice and repetition, and there are certainly opportunities to tap into other tools to assist with this during your pre-season schedule! Drop us a message to find out how!

Agility training for football during pre season

What even is agility? At KPI, we define agility as a change of direction in response to an external stimulus. These happen hundreds of times in competitive matches, all at varying intensities, directions and durations. Decelerating and changing direction places a high amount of stress on the muscular and skeletal system, and the energy requirements to do so are as high if not higher than when sprinting. Therefore, in a similar fashion to sprinting, we must carefully, gradually and progressively increase our exposure to agility movements throughout pre-season.

Small sided games, technical drills and shuttle runs are useful tools to use to expose our athletes to agility-like movements in pre-season. Typically, ticking these types of movements off twice a week will give you enough you need to make sure you are performing well in small-spaces!

Although we get a lot of our “agility” movements from playing football, training to be more agile and actually move more efficiently may provide you with that edge in football training sessions! In a similar way to sprinting, certain tools outside of football training can help you to press, twist and turn and out manoeuvre your opponents - so drop us an email to find out how we can help with this!

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The complete pre season football training guide
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