This summer we have been working closely with Cambridge United’s medical team to get their squad prepared for the new league campaign. Working alongside strength and conditioning coaches and physiotherapists, our role is to help injury prevention and get players in the best shape possible in time for kick-off in late August.
For a brief period during the summer, football takes a break from the limelight. But the months of July and August can, in fact, mean the difference between promotion and relegation.
Here are just a few reasons why a productive pre-season is a formula for success on the pitch.
The proof lies in pre-season
Making time for dedicated training blocks is an integral part of any athletes’ fitness regimen. In fact, ask a professional footballer and they will tell you that putting in the hard yards during pre-season can influence performances right through to the very end of a hard league campaign.
Constant knocks and niggles build up during a season, just as the lack of rest between matches gradually depletes energy reserves. When the body begins to struggle against the workload, only the base level of fitness and conditioning keeps players functioning at a high level.
Pre-season is hard work for professional athletes. At Cambridge United, the players will be put through an array of gruelling tests and drills with the aim of increasing fitness and preparing the body for the rigors of intense 90-minute matches once or even twice a week.
Contrary to the way footballers trained 20 years ago, most football clubs today take a more scientific and calculated approach to achieving these fitness goals, however. This means measuring improvements and doing only as much as is safe without risking injuries – injuries that could set a player back weeks if not months in their progression.
Here are just a few guidelines that many coaches and trainers follow with the benefit of modern sports science.
The 10% rule
All competitive individuals like to see improvements. But during training camps it is important to push the body gradually rather than shocking it into submission. Typically this means increasing difficulty by no more than 10% per week.
Upping the difficulty at a faster rate than this – for example, during heavy weights sessions in the gym – dramatically increases the likelihood of the body becoming too stressed. This in turn makes it harder to recover and repair between sessions, and can even lead to muscle tears or ligament damage.
As a general rule of thumb, pre-season blocks are designed to bring players to peak fitness over the course of six to eight weeks. For young athletes who are still growing, this controlled approach is even more important than for those whose bodies are no longer developing.
Creating a stable base
Developing bulging biceps and increasing top speed may grab more attention during training, but setting aside time to focus on balance and core stability is just as important – if not more so.
A well-balanced body and solid core is crucial to controlling the body’s overall movement. From the spine to the limbs, stability can help retain alignment and prevent injury.
Off-season training prevents in-season injuries
Studies have shown that a successful strength and conditioning programme can significantly reduce the number of short and long-term injuries an athlete will suffer during the course of a league campaign.
By improving basic fitness levels in July and August coaches can allocate more time for rest and tactical sessions during the season itself. This enables players to approach games refreshed and, as a result, perform at their optimum levels.
Dynamic stretching is best
For years it was thought that static stretching held the key to injury prevention and exercise-ready muscles. Today, however, research has shown that static stretching before explosive exercise can actually decrease athletic performance.
Instead, sports teams have correctly moved towards dynamic stretching and plyometric exercises to get the body warm and match-ready. And this approach is as important during intense pre-season sessions as it is on game day.
Medical support helps make gains
At Cambridge United, the experienced medical team includes talented physiotherapists such as Lead Physio, Greg Reid, and our very own Head Chiropractor, Jasper Hulscher.
Chiropractic can play a crucial role in pre-season preparation, and therefore have a significant bearing on the way a team performs during the course of the year.
Jasper’s role in pre-season begins with Functional Movement Assessments on players. This is a process that is utilized amongst Europe’s elite clubs, with the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich employing dedicated teams to monitor a squad.
“By screening the players individually we are able to assess their strengths and weaknesses in detail. No player is built the same and none react to exercise in exactly the same way. Only by building up a clear picture of a squad member’s physiology can we tailor the right training and treatment programme for them.
“Based on the outcome of the tests we put together an individual rehabilitation plan. This is intended to mobilise, strengthen or stabilize areas we have identified as needing extra work. In turn, this helps to minimize potential injuries in players.”
If you want to find out how chiropractic can help you during pre-season and prepare you for an injury-free year, why not book an initial consultation online today.