Resistance training is an important part of any football player’s development. Getting stronger can make you faster, more powerful and increase your athleticism. While many football players use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and machines in their lifting program, calisthenics, or body-weight exercises can be just as effective, provided you implement and program them correctly.
Pushups and pullups should be part of your upper-body calisthenics routine. As a conditioned athlete, you may find regular pushups too easy, so strength coach Zach Even-Esh recommends trying one-arm pushups or handstand pushups. Alternatively, shoot for a higher number of reps — Even-Esh suggests doing 100 consecutively. As for pullups, not only do they build your back and biceps and have a large carryover to total upper-body strength, they also help prevent injuries by developing these areas, notes trainer Adam Copeland on the Elite Fitness Systems website. Use different grips for your pullups to make them more challenging and to add variety to your routine.
Regular squats and lunges are fine for working your lower body, but they can get a little tedious and probably won’t be too challenging after a while. Instead, try Bulgarian split squats, which you do with your back leg on a bench and front leg on the floor. These strengthen your glutes while improving hip flexibility, which will help you jump further, claims strength coach Joe DeFranco. Plyometric lower-body exercises are also vital for boosting strength and power, so add squat jumps, box jumps, jump lunges and lateral and broad jumps into your workouts.
The best time to make strength gains is during your off-season, when you don’t have the demands of regular games. In “Complete Conditioning for Football,” authors Pat Ivey and Josh Stoner prescribe three body weight calisthenic circuits. The first involves two sets of 20 reps for pushups, split squats and body weight squats. The second one consists of two sets of 20 split jumps, six 15-yard dashes while pushing a weight plate and 20 total pull-ups. The final circuit consists of pushups, squats and inverted rows, which are like a pull-up except you use a bar at chest height and your feet are positioned straight out in front of you on the floor. Do 20 reps of each exercise in two sets.
If these workouts become too easy, there are plenty of ways you can progress your calisthenic workouts. Try adding a sprint after each circuit, or jumping rope instead of taking a complete rest. You can add more exercises, increase your reps or try more advanced movement variations. This could involve holding the squats for three seconds in the bottom position, performing one-and-a-half reps on split squats by going all the way down, halfway up, all the way down again, then all the way up for one rep. Pushups can be made more challenging by using a narrow grip or raising your feet on a box. For chin-ups, take five seconds to lower yourself for each rep.
Any sport that depends on movement and strength uses the hamstrings to provide speed, quickness and power, but there are some sports where the impact of the hamstring muscle — located in the back of the thigh and running from the buttocks to just above the knee — is dramatic.
While all runners depend on their hamstrings, the sprinter’s success depends largely on the health and strength of this muscle. The hamstring is put to the test at the start of any sprint race because of the explosive strength that is needed to propel the runner out of the starting blocks. Then the athlete must accelerate and maintain that speed throughout the race. The sprinter will build strength in hamstring muscles with weight training and maintain flexibility through stretching exercises.
Football players need the ability to accelerate and reach top speed. They also need to change directions quickly, jump high to catch passes and absorb powerful hits, and then do it all over again. This means they are dependent on the health and viability of their hamstrings. For a running back to have success, he must accelerate past tacklers and get into the open field to make big plays. Former Detroit Lion Barry Sanders is recognized as one of the most dangerous running backs in football history because of his ability to break the big play. His overall leg strength allowed him to jump out of potential tackles and his powerful hamstrings gave him the ability to make long runs.
The freestyle stroke in swimming is dependent on the hamstring muscle with every kick. The hamstring muscle must be sufficiently warmed up when you get in the pool or you will put yourself at risk for cramps or hamstring pulls. Once you are warmed up and ready to train or race in an event, swimming itself helps to strengthen the hamstring muscle. Many athletes in other sports use swimming to help condition or strengthen hamstring muscles.
The explosive jumping that results in a basketball dunk, a blocked shot or coming up with a key rebound often is the result of hamstring strength. When basketball players leap off one foot, they are using an explosive movement powered by the hamstring; However, when a basketball player is using the two-foot jump — usually when the player is planted under the basket — the quads, glutes and back muscles take over. A player must build strength and flexibility in the hamstrings when executing the one-foot jump that is so common when the player is sprinting up the court toward the rim.
Outdoor recreation is enjoyable for men, women and children of all ages. Performing physical exercise while outdoors provides a way to get outside and enjoy your natural surroundings. Aside from breathing fresh air and discovering nature’s many wonders, the outdoors provides various activities to keep you wanting to go back outside for more. The benefits of outdoor recreation are endless and will help keep you and your family physically and mentally healthy.
Outdoor recreation provides a multitude of advantageous physical activities that may be performed in solitude, with several friends and family members, or with your local recreational sports team. Sports such as hiking, canoeing, swimming, racket and ball sports and numerous other physical activities give you more choices for enjoyable exercise, which is likely to keep you motivated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense activity every week.
Adults and children alike benefit socially from outdoor physical activity. Participating in sports and recreation provides kids to seniors with an opportunity to meet and build relationships with others. Participating on a team will help you to form lasting friendships with people who share your passion for outdoor recreation.
Physical activity helps reduce stress and prevents some cases of depression. Exercise reduces anxiety, and consistent activity provides more relief for anxiety and depression. Better self-esteem often results from consistent recreation, partially due to a decrease in stress and to the overall feeling of well-being that occurs from regular aerobic exercise. Breathing fresh air in a natural, serene environment also helps many people to relax and reduce stress and anxiety.
Studies show that people who exercise regularly experience longer, deeper, more restful sleep. Better sleep results in more energy and alertness the following day, allowing better concentration and ability to think on higher levels. Along with better rest and rejuvenation for your body during the night, regular physical activity that reduces stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression will help you to concentrate more during the day.
Speed is a vital component in most sports — most obviously during track and road races but also in sports as diverse as soccer, baseball and tennis. Increasing your speed can give you an edge on your opponents, whether you¡¯re racing them to the finish line or chasing a loose ball on the field. Several activities can help you improve your foot speed, and you can vary your workouts by trying more than one method.
Ordinary running is a fairly natural motion, but you must use correct form to maximize your speed. ABC drills are classic running exercises that work on different aspects of your form. To do the ¡°A¡± drill, walk or skip forward while lifting your front knee to about hip level. Pump your opposite arm forward and bend your elbow 90 degrees. The ¡°B¡± drill is similar, but instead of simply lifting your bent knee, you extend your calf forward until your entire leg is nearly parallel with the floor — without locking the knee — and then you bring your lead foot down directly below your body. Do the ¡°C¡± drill by kicking your heels up toward your butt with every stride. Do each drill for five minutes, twice per week.
Running a series of sprints is a common way to increase speed. Run as hard as you can for 30 to 50 yards, rest for three minutes and then run another sprint. Work up to 10 repetitions, and focus on running with your knees high and your arms pumping in straight lines, forward and backward, rather than crossing in front of your chest.
Running up hills is a functional form of strength training as you work your muscles against gravity while also improving your stride length and frequency along with your overall coordination. To develop speed, run up short hills, emphasizing a high-knees running style while you pump your arms aggressively. Find a hill you can climb in about 30 seconds or less with a slope of 5 to 15 degrees. Run up the hill and walk down to complete one repetition, and perform eight to 10 reps. Sprinters should run shorter distances — about 50 yards — while distance runners should climb 150 to 200 yards.
Strengthening your running muscles — the quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and core — can increase your speed. Perform exercises such as bodyweight squats, single-leg squats and deadlifts, planks, torso rotations, leg presses, body-weight dips and bench presses. Fitness author Wayne Westcott recommends doing 12 to 16 reps of each exercise. Use 60 to 70 percent of your one-rep max — the most weight you can lift one time — for weighted exercises. Perform two to three strength workouts weekly, but not on consecutive days. (refs 3, 5-7)
Plyometric exercises involve explosive movements to develop strength and improve your athletic performance. Activities such as box or hurdle jumps, lunge jumps and bounds can improve your speed. To perform forward bounds, for example, push off with your left foot as you extend your right leg forward, land on your right leg and immediately bound forward again, pushing off with your right foot while extending your left leg. Continue for 30 to 40 yards, and repeat the exercise two more times.
In flag football, players wear four or more flags attached to a belt. Ball carriers are not tackled; they are “down” when one of these flags is pulled off. Flag football fields measure 70 yards by 30 yards for youth and 80 yards by 40 yards for older players. Starting from a team’s five-yard line, players have three downs to cross midfield or score. Three extra downs are awarded once midfield is crossed. The ball changes hands when teams fail to cross midfield or score.
When English student William Ebb Ellis picked up a soccer ball in 1823 and ran with it, he broke all the rules of an Ancient Greek game, “harpaston.” He also planted the seeds for modern British football. Later in the same century, British football splintered into rugby and soccer. In the U.S., a rougher game was played on college campuses after the Civil War. This rugby-like game became the forerunner of American football. The first organized flag football is thought to have been played in the 1930s. The sport became popular on military bases in the 1940s, and recreational leagues followed shortly thereafter.
NFL Flag Football is a youth football league for boys and girls that are 5 to 17 years of age. The NFL launched a flag football program in 1996 to educate kids about football while emphasizing sportsmanship and teamwork. Teams must field a minimum of four players during regular play and five players during tournaments. Touchdowns are worth six points and extra point conversions score one or two points. Teams may be co-ed, all boys or all girls. The point values for scores do not vary by gender.
The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association is the governing body for recreational sports at U.S. colleges. NIRSA rules for flag football indicate that teams can be co-ed or single-gendered. They require anywhere from four to eight players. Flag football rules from Indiana University South Bend state that teams must have at least five players and are allowed seven, one of whom must be female. If a team can’t field a woman, only six players are allowed to take the field. The number of points earned depends on gender. A touchdown by a female scores nine points, while males’ touchdowns earn six points. Female conversions are worth twice as many points as males’ conversions.
The U.S. Flag Touch Football League was formed in 1988 and hosts the largest non-college tournament in the nation. It drew 175 teams and crowned 11 national champions its first year. A semi-pro league was formed in the early 1990s and joined up with other organizations to form the Professional Flag Football League, Inc. in 1997. The PFFL played the first pro travel schedule in 1999, with teams in Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Indianapolis. The league folded shortly after its inception. In 2011, FlagFootball.org reports that more than 20 million players participate in flag football leagues.
Flag football is played worldwide, and the International Flag Football Federation is the national governing body for flag football. The 2009 IFFF World Cup included 15 countries. The NFL FLAG National Tournament of Champions for youths is also held annually. The 2011 championship drew more than 300 athletes playing for 24 U.S. and 8 Mexican teams.
Playing defense in a flag football game can be challenging. The difficult part comes when a receiver has caught the ball in the open field. The rules of the game prevent you from bringing your opponent down to stop him. The only thing you can do is pull one of the two small flags that hang from his waistband. This can be a difficult maneuver because you can’t get physical with your opponent. You can hold him up in an attempt to grab the flags, but there can be no physical punishment administered.
Put your best athletes at the linebacker spot. Unlike touch football, offenses will try to put together a decent running game in flag football. But the majority of the running plays will go to the outside. Linebackers with speed can chase the running backs to the sidelines or pull the flags to prevent big plays.
Keep your hands up when rushing the quarterback. In tackle football, pass rushers want to sack the quarterback. When rushing the quarterback in flag football, reaching down with your hands to pull a flag may give the quarterback a clear throwing lane. Keep your hands up once you get past your blocker so you can obscure the quarterback’s vision. If the quarterback is right-handed, keep your left hand up in front of his passing arm, then attempt to pull the flag with your right hand.
Keep the receiver in front of you when you are in pass coverage. Trying to catch a receiver from behind so you can pull the flag is very difficult. But if you can keep the receiver in front of you, you can wrap him up with your arm and shoulder, then grab the flag and pull it.
Read the quarterback’s eyes if you are in coverage. In flag football, most quarterbacks will stare down their receivers before throwing it. A smart defensive player will be able to take advantage of that by jumping the pass route and intercepting the pass whenever possible.
Pull the flag on the opposing ball carrier but do not take the man down. If you inadvertently trip somebody while diving to pull out the flag, the referee will likely let that go with a warning on the first offense. If the referee sees your play as too aggressive, you will get an unnecessary roughness penalty called that will be either 5 or 10 yards. If the referee believes you are reckless or trying to cause physical punishment by tackling, you will be ejected from the game and written up by the official. Players who are written up normally are not allowed to play the next game.
A fractured rib can be excruciatingly painful, interfering with something as basic as the ability to breathe. Severe fractures can even lead to a collapsed lung. While exercise can help you recover from injuries more quickly, you should not exercise until you get the go-ahead from your doctor, who may recommend specific exercises. If you don’t get a plan from your doctor, though, focus on slowly and steadily increasing the intensity of your workouts over several weeks.
Deep-breathing exercises can help prevent a collapsed lung in the first few days after your injury. Every two hours — or according to the schedule advised by your physician — breathe in slowly and deeply, filling your lungs. Exhale slowly, and continue breathing deeply for two to three minutes. Next, gently cough several times, then breathe deeply again. If the routine is too painful, ask your doctor for pain medication, or hold a pillow or towel over your fractured rib.
Cardiovascular exercise helps keep your heart healthy, but it also increases your rate of breathing — a painful proposition for someone with a fractured rib. Try gentle cardio such as walking your dog or cycling at a slow, leisurely pace. As you begin to recover, you can steadily increase the intensity of your routine by picking up your pace and increasing the length of your workout. If you have trouble breathing, talk to your doctor before doing any cardio.
Stretching routines, such as yoga and Pilates, can help loosen up your muscles. This can help you avoid pain from muscle stiffness if your usual injury undermines your usual exercise routine. Stick with stretches that don’t compress your chest, and be sure to tell your instructor you have a broken rib. You can also stretch at home. Try stretching your chest to alleviate pain by bending your elbows and extending them back toward your back. If you experience back pain from your injury, get on all fours and arch your back, holding for 20 seconds. Then push the small of your back down toward the ground and hold for an additional 20 seconds.
Weight training keeps your muscles and bones strong, and regular weight-bearing exercise can increase bone density, preventing future fractures. Steer clear of workout machines such as the chest press that rely on your chest muscles. Instead, try low-intensity weight-bearing exercises such as squats, lunges, bicep curls and leg presses. As your pain subsides and your injuries begin to heal, you can begin incorporating elements of your old routine, but start slowly and avoid any exercises that cause pain in your ribs.
Avoid contact sports for at least six weeks after your rib fracture. A blow to the chest or side can worsen the break and even collapse your lung. Exercise routines that put you at risk of falling, such as jumping on a trampoline, are equally dangerous. You should also avoid starting a new workout routine or increasing the intensity of your current routine while your injury heals.
Flat foot occurs when the arch of your foot flattens, allowing your entire foot to touch the floor. This condition is common and usually painless, but it can impact your ability to participate in athletic activities such as dancing. There is no cure for flat feet, but there are exercises you can do to help your feet stay strong and pain-free when you dance.
Several different factors can cause flat feet. The arches on your feet form as tendons strengthen and tighten; if those tendons are damaged through injury or illness, the arch will fall and create flat foot. Other causes include heredity and abnormalities such as an extra bone in the foot. People who naturally have flat feet will have an easier time adapting to the demands of dance, while those who have injury-induced flat feet will require some foot exercises to adjust to the condition.
Regardless of why you have flat feet, there are exercises to help strengthen your tendons, which will help with the pointing, flexing, and balance involved in all styles of dance. Pick up items with your toes, then see how far you can throw them. Alternately, you can try to stack items using your toes. A clench-and-release exercise ¡ª clenching your foot as if you are trying to make a fist, then releasing it ¡ª will help strengthen the tendons on the bottom for your foot and help with dance movements that require pointed toes. You can also walk on tiptoes to help strengthen your feet.
Overpronation is one of the most common complications that result from flat feet. Overpronation puts immediate stress on your ankles and throws your knees and hips out of alignment. This can put more stress than normal on your body while you are dancing. As a result, if you are a flat-footed dancer, you need to be more aware of how you are stepping and how you are placing your weight with each step.
If you are new to dancing and have flat feet, or if you are developing flat feet due to age, you may experience some initial discomfort until the tendons in your feet become strong enough to support you throughout the dance. But if you experience regular, consistent pain while dancing, there may be a more serious underlying problem. Visit your doctor to determine what may be causing the excess pain and find a suitable treatment for it.
Soccer players, male and female, need a mixture of fitness attributes, including coordination, speed, agility, endurance, strength and power. As Robert G. Price notes in his book “The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Soccer”, kicking, sprinting, jumping and tackling all require different types of strength. Dedicating one or two workouts a week to specific strength training will enhance your performance on the pitch.
Muscular endurance is your ability to perform repeated movements of less than or nearly maximum effort without becoming fatigued. Develop muscular endurance by performing multiple sets of 15 to 20 or more repetitions with short breaks of 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Because your legs have the most-used muscle groups when you play soccer, focus your endurance training on your quadriceps and hamstrings at the front and rear of your thighs, respectively. Body-weight squats, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses and high box step-ups are all good choices for developing muscular endurance.
Your ability to generate maximal force for a very short period of time is called strength. Strength is important when you’re trying to defend against players who are trying to push you off the ball, either on the ground or in the air. Develop strength by lifting heavy weights at low repetitions. For example, three to five reps with a weight that’s 90 percent of your one-repetition maximum. Free weight exercises such as bench press, squats, dead lifts and shoulder presses are ideally suited to the development of strength. Because of the magnitude of load used in training for strength, always have a spotter present and use good lifting technique to minimize your risk of injury.
Power is strength expressed at speed and is vital for your ability to jump and sprint. Power exercises are performed explosively with weights that you can lift at full speed. Because of the velocity required, only certain movements are suitable for power training. Power exercises include the barbell clean and jerk, the dumbbell snatch, overhead medicine ball throws and squat jumps. Power exercises are advanced and should be attempted only if you have established a good level of basic conditioning and have been working toward power training for a few months.
Soccer players should do the bulk of their strength training during the off-season. Once the season has finished and you have recovered from any injuries, begin to introduce strength training into your workout schedule a couple of times a week. The initial phase should be designed to familiarize you with common exercises and develop your basic conditioning. Muscular endurance training is the ideal format for this phase. After four to eight weeks, you can increase the intensity of your workouts and begin work on developing basic strength. Begin with modest weights and aim to increase the loads lifted during the coming weeks. Focus on compound lifts such as the squat, dead lift and bench press. Finally, as the season approaches, progress to power training. Power training is very demanding in terms of intensity and stress on your body but, after your buildup period, you should be ready. Focus on developing power for the specifics of soccer by performing exercises for your vertical jump and sprinting speed such as squat jumps and power cleans.
Although strength training is an important part of preparation for playing soccer, leave plenty of time on your workout schedule for aerobic training, soccer practices, stretching, core work and rest. Two strength training sessions per week should be sufficient. To maintain your strength during your playing season and allow plenty of time to recover from matches, you can reduce your strength workouts to once a week without worrying about losing your endurance, strength or power.
Your foot and ankle are comprised of many small bones that work together during exercise to help you run, shift your weight and jump. Because exercise places extra pressure on foot and ankle joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons, the feet are subject to injury, swelling and pain. While some extra pain or discomfort can be common after an exercise session, experiencing severe pain or swelling can indicate a more serious injury or need to change the way you exercise to prevent future injuries.
In some instances, foot and ankle pain can be attributed to wearing unsupportive shoes or failing to stretch the muscles properly before exercising. Making these small changes can help relieve pain. Foot pain also can be related to a loss of natural foot padding that occurs with age or even osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle joints. Increasing your exercise duration or intensity by too much may mean your feet and ankles were not prepared to accommodate for the extra intensity. Sudden twisting movements also cause an ankle sprain, a common athletic injury.
Your athletic shoes help to protect you against foot pain and injury by supporting and cushioning the foot. The right shoes for you depend upon what activity you are performing. For example, if you are an athlete who engages in twisting and back-and-forth movements such as those in basketball, football or volleyball, high-top or three-quarter length top shoes are best to protect the ankles from twisting. For other exercise types, focus on comfort and function for activities you commonly perform. If you commonly practice step aerobics, a trail-running shoe that is made to increase traction in dirt would be too heavy and grooved on the bottom for stepping. Also, replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles. If your shoes start showing too much wear on the bottom or the backs start to break down, it¡¯s time to buy new athletic shoes.
While treatment may vary based on the specific ankle and/or foot pain you are experiencing, there are a few techniques you can use to lessen pain. The first is using sports massage techniques to rub the foot and relieve tired and sore muscles after exercise. Icing the foot and elevating it after exercise can help to reduce inflammation that leads to pain. Wearing an ankle brace even after exercising can help stabilize the ankle joint and reduce instability. If the foot continues to hurt for more than a few hours, refrain from exercising at least one additional day or switch to a low-impact exercise like swimming to reduce pressure placed on the foot and ankle.
Some foot and ankle symptoms indicate the need for immediate medical treatment. If the foot does not respond to your self-care techniques after one to two weeks, seek medical evaluation. Symptoms indicating the need for medical treatment include inability to bear weight on your foot, bleeding, deformity or an open sore accompanied by fever. Your physician can evaluate your foot and recommend treatment options, which may include surgery in severe instances.