In this blog I am going to give you some tips to improve your sports performance or your clients’ sports performance. I will base the majority of this article around football as this is the sport I have the most experience in, having played it all my life and coached at two professional clubs. However the fundamentals can be applied to any sport.
1. Identify the most important fitness components for your sport.
The first thing to do is to identify the three most important fitness components for your chosen sport. This will vary from sport to sport also if it is a team sport it may vary depending on what position you play. Let’s use football as an example, in my opinion the three most important fitness components for a footballer are:
People may argue that others are equally as important but I believe that without these three components you will not be as successful. Put it this way…you could have really good flexibility or speed or agility but if you can’t get around a pitch for 90 mins and beat your opponent in strength ,the other components seem less important.
2. Analyse your performance
Most people nowadays have a video phone. Get your coach, friend or family member to video you playing in a competitive match, even for just a few minutes. Watch it back and look for common movement patterns that you perform. For example, a striker in football may:
– make a lot of short sprint
– hold up the ball
– head the ball
You could also give your coach a list of these movements and get him to score you out of 5 (5 being excellent & 1 being poor) on each of them. This gives you a measurement for your performance.
3. Train the components and movements
Once you have identified the three most important components and the movements you commonly perform from video analysis, it would then make sense to focus your training around those components and movement patterns (see my previous article on functional training).
From my experience a lot of sports clubs run and run, and do a few weights for strength and power and this makes up their training for performance. I would say to take your common movement patterns, your important fitness components and incorporate them into your training.
For example, if we look at heading for a striker they are very rarely going to take off and land on two feet to jump for a header, so you might want to do some hopping (1 leg), or jopping (2 legs to 1 leg or 1 leg to 2 legs). With this exercise there are so many variables you can change to hit your fitness components that you’ve identified. For example you could do 1 min hopping for as many sets as you desire, to improve endurance or hop with weight to improve strength and power. This idea can be applied for whatever movement or sport you are training for. You can also use any equipment to make it specific to the sport. For example you might want to improve your tennis back hand so you could perform the movement in different foot positions whilst holding a racket, or weight.
4. Warm up and cool down
This is more apparent in elite performance but at amateur and semi professional levels warm ups and cool downs are often neglected. I believe the warm up should act as a mobilizer and pulse raiser. Again, mobilise the muscles that are going to be used within your chosen sport and perform movements that replicate your sport. The cool down should bring the heart rate down, and it’s worth performing some typical stretches but driving movement with the hips and arms to stretch the muscles in three planes. For example perform a typical hip flexor stretch but drive your arms in the Sagital plane (forward and back), the frontal plane (side to side) and the transverse plane (twisting/rotating).
5. Make yourself bullet proof
When I say bullet proof what I mean is injury proof. For example in football the most common injuries are groin strains, hamstring strains, ankle sprains and knee ligament or cartilage problems. This is usually down to faulty bio mechanics or instability in the hips and/or foot. So keep your feet and hips mobile and stable, and if you are unsure if you have faulty mechanics go and see a movement specialist. Additionally, get a regular sports massage and use a foam roller to keep your muscles and fascia free of’knots’ and ‘gunk’.
Lack of optimal hydration when participating in sport can effect physical and mental performance, especially if the exercise is sustained over a period of time. I often recommend sports players and runners to drink water containing electrolytes to re hydrate. Sodium is an electrolyte that in particular is decreased during sustained exercise, therefore fluids with electrolytes in can be really effective. An easy way to test hydration levels is the urine test. You can monitor this by urine frequency, volume, colour or all three. If you are well hydrated trips to the toilet should be frequent and urine should be clear in colour.
Well those are my simple tips to help improve your sports performance. Obviously there are many other things you could add to the list and you could probably argue there are key points I have missed. However I believe if you work on the tips above your performance will undoubtedly improve.