Plyometric Training for Football Players

Posted on: December 6th, 2019 | by Laura Murdoch | No Comments

Every football player wants to be faster. Speed is one of the biggest skills that you’ll want to develop through your training. However, there are often a few misconceptions about how best to improve speed. Many people believe that the key to speed is having fast feet so many players are concentrating on trying to increase their foot speed. Research of athletes shows that players who cover ground the fastest are those who take fewer steps and have a longer ground contact time. Meaning they don’t raise their feet as quickly. There is one simple reason for this: power. The longer your foot is on the ground the more power you can put into it. Strength and power are the keys to getting your speed up so it’s important that your training deals with that. One major area you should be aware of is plyometric training. But what is it?

What is plyometrics?

Plyometric exercise involves using explosive and fast movement to develop power in your muscles. They are exercises that will allow muscles to exert their maximum force in the shortest time possible. It’s an important area for football players as it helps with all aspects of their performance.

When talking about power we’re not talking about strength. Getting power to your legs is not just a case of doing a few more squats now and then. Muscular power is determined by the time it takes to convert strength into speed. Meaning, if you want to move across a football pitch quickly, you need power.

A bodybuilder has a great deal of physical strength and will be able to perform squats when carrying a heavy weight. Although, when it comes to jumping, they might not be able to get as far as someone with less strength. The act of squatting when holding weights is a slow movement. To jump, your muscles need to stretch and contract quickly.

Think about the movement you make when going for a header. This is a plyometric movement. When going into a jump, you start with a downward thrust. You need to bend your knees if you want to get off the ground. That initial dip stretches the muscles that will be contracting to make the jump. The quicker the muscles contract after stretching, the higher the jump will be.

Plyometric movement leg muscles

The 3 stages

All plyometric movements involve three phases. These three phases are collectively known as the stretch-shortening cycle.

  1. The first phase is known as the pre-stretch or eccentric muscle action (preactivation). It is during this stage that elastic energy is generated and stored.
  2. The second phase is the time it takes for the pre-stretch to end and the concentric muscle action (stretch) to start. This transition period is known as the amortization phase. The shorter the second phase is, the more powerful the muscle contraction will be.
  3. The third phase is the muscle contraction (shortening). This is the movement your player wants to make.

Plyometrics for Football Players

Plyometric training will allow a player to condense the time their muscles need to apply the maximum amount of force needed to perform a particular movement. A shorter time will translate into greater power with each contraction of the muscle.

To get a muscle to move, it first has to contract. If that muscle is lengthened first, it will produce more force because it will have stored more elastic energy. Elastic energy is the internal energy that is converted into mechanical energy. This kind of explosive movement is required for many aspects of football. Plyometrics can benefit from rapid changes in direction, sprinting, and kicking. So, it’s a really useful part of any football training programme.

Young football player kicking a ball

Great for young and inexperienced players

Playing a good quality long ball is an important part of a player’s all-round football performance. Players will routinely need to take free kicks and play balls that need to travel a long distance. Attackers will also need to strike high-speed shots. This means kicking velocity and distance really important.

Muscle power is known to be vital when it comes to sprinting, stopping, cutting, and jumping. Research carried out by the University of Nevada Las Vegas also found that players were able to improve kicking distance thanks to low-intensity plyometric training. Their findings showed that young girls who engage in this type of training were able to improve their kicking distance by more than 25%.

The training was low intensity and simple. The first 6 weeks involved single and double leg hops of 6- and 10-inch hurdles, lateral hops and shuffles over 10-inch hurdles and a 12-inch box. During weeks 8-14, training included 10-inch box and depth jumps and cutting drills.

The results show that both kicking distance and vertical jumping ability improved. By week 7, kicking distance had increased by 10% and improved by more than 27% by week 14. In week 7, their vertical jump has increased by 8% and was up by 19% at week 14. During this time, the control group’s kicking distance decreased and their vertical jump stayed the same.

Even a low-intensity and simple programme of plyometric training can have great improvements in young and inexperienced players.

Things to remember

  • Only a relatively small amount of plyometric training is required to help improve performance. There is no need to push your players.
  • Just one or two types of plyometric exercise carried our 1-3 times a week for 6-12 weeks can bring about significant improvements.
  • Only a small volume is required to see positive changes. Aim for between 2-4 sets of 10 repetitions or 4 sets of 8 repetitions.
  • A training programme that combines resistance training and plyometric training can improve power greater than either one on its own.
  • Perform plyometric exercises at the start of your training session so your muscles are fresh.
  • Actions should be performed at high speed with maximum intensity. The aim is maintaining high-quality movements.
  • It is vital to have a good strength base before you start. Plyometric movement converts strength into power, so it needs to be there.
  • Try to do your plyometrics on softer surfaces, such as grass or dirt fields, as it will reduce unnecessary stress on your joints and knees.

Plyometric football training box jump

Example exercises

Jump Running

When running, try to get as much height and distance with each stride as you possibly can.

Agility Ladder Training

The agility ladder helps you improve acceleration, lateral speed and change of direction. It also enhances balance, rhythm and body control. For ideas of how to use them look at our agility ladder drills post.

Hurdle Training

Hurdles are a great piece of equipment for plyometric training. For ideas of how to use them check out our previous hurdle training drills post.

Tuck Jumps

Will improve your agility, strength, and stability. Helps you quickly change direction.

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees and jump up as high as you can. Bring your knees up towards your chest.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Stairway hops

  • Start at the bottom of a staircase.
  • Hop up the stairs on your right leg.
  • Walk back down.
  • Then do the opposite side.

Lateral bounds

This will help with your speed and jumping height. It will help increase your players’ speed.

  • Start in a squat position, balancing on your right leg.
  • Explosively jump as high and far to the left as possible.
  • Land on your left leg in a squat position.
  • Explosively jump as high and far to the right as possible.
  • Land back in the starting position.
  • Do 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.

Box jumps

You’ll something sturdy that you can jump on. It should be about 12 to 36 inches high. Increase the intensity by performing the exercise using one leg.

  • From standing, squat down to jump onto the box with both feet.
  • Lift your arms as you jump to gain momentum.
  • Jump up and backwards off the box, gently landing with bent knees.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

More information

Before setting your players off on a new plyometric programme, it’s always good to find out more about it. Check out the following links for more helpful information.

Get ready for your next training session

To get your players ready for their next match, you want to create a comprehensive training programme. Having a good supply of great quality training equipment is only going to help your efforts. Be sure to check out Pendle’s range of training equipment so you have everything you need to help your players develop their skills.

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