Jo Williams provides some advice on the level of fitness required for any aspiring professional football player.
For any young child who has the dreams of being a professional football player, besides needing incredible footwork and skill, your cardiovascular endurance plays a major component in this as well. While it is true that some positions in football run quite a bit more than others, every player must be in tip-top shape to play the full 90 minutes in each game.
While there are many tests to see where you stand against other footballers in your age group, we will discuss below a few ways to get the best possible cardio, while maintaining enough muscle to battle your oppositions physical tackles and to make sure those soccer t-shirts fit your body nice and snug.
Basics about training your cardiovascular endurance
Every football hopeful needs to be able to judge where he or she is at while they are training. While I do not like standardized tests across the board for something like running a certain distance under a certain time, the facts are that this is still a very effective way to measure yourself up against the competition.
The first cardio test that many high school players use is called the "Cooper Test." To pass this test you simply have to run 2 miles in 12 minutes which means you have a VO2 max above 60 ml/kg/min. Some coaches take this test to the extreme and cut anyone who is above the 12-minute mark, which is the main reason I do not like tests across the board for all positions. While this test may not be a problem for a midfielder, you cannot tell me that a pudgy goalie who can barely fit into his soccer t-shirts and a left-winger is in equal shape when it comes to cardio. But by being able to pass this test at a young age, it does shed some light that you possess at least the basic cardio required to excel in a game like football.
How to boost my speed and endurance?
Many athletes look for ways to boost the necessary skills to excel in their particular sport, especially during the off-season. While there are many different approaches one can take to increase their cardiovascular endurance, in the next paragraph I explain which method I believe is best, especially for high school athletes.
While many football players turn to Cross Country as their sport in the off-season I would encourage players to go a different route. While you will build up some endurance by running long distances every day, try to remember that football is a unique combination of running at a certain pace and exploding into an acceleration on a moment's notice. If you only run long distance in the off-season, you are not training everything needed to be the best!
This is where I would recommend Track and Field as the #1 choice for footballers in the off-season. By running races like the 800 metres, 400 metres and the 100 metres sprint, this allows you to work on every aspect of speed and endurance that would be necessary for a footballer's conditioning. You have the 100m sprint where it works breaking away from a defender or beating an opponent to a loose ball. Then you have the 400m and 800m races that require a fast, yet steady pace that helps its runners learn to control their breathing while building up their endurance significantly.
What about increasing the endurance in advanced athletes?
I thought you would never ask! I do have a very special training technique that I will share with you today, but this training exercise must be done while under adult supervision. This is recommended only for those athletes who can run the 2 miles in under 12 minutes with relative ease!
Everyone who has played football has heard of running ladders or "the ivory coast." What happens is that you start on your end line and run to your 6-yard box, your 18-yard box, to half field, then to the opponents 18-yard box, to the opponents 6-yard box, and the opponents end line, all under a set time. You then get to rest for about a minute, then do it all over again, as many times as your coach demands it.
This is where things get tough. Take a shot glass and draw a line around the outside of it at about ¾ of the glass. Then fill it up to the top with water. Proceed to drink the shot glass, and keep the water HELD in your mouth as you proceed to run the ladder. After the run, spit the water back into the shot glass and if the water does not hit at least the ¾ mark, you have a down and back (to the opponents end line and back) before the rest is up, and you start the Ivory Coast again! This training method forces you to breathe through your nose and helps you take your endurance to the next level!
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About the Author
Jo Williamson was a personal trainer and Yoga instructor for nearly a decade. She works as a freelance consultant helping businesses and even individuals setup health clubs and gyms.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: