What does it take to be a Premier League footballer?
Whilst you might think that being a Professional Footballer at a Premier League club might involve a couple of training sessions between matches, I bet you didn’t know just how hard they’re worked physically. Head of Sport Science Jonny Northeast Swansea City AFC gives BBC iWonder the lowdown…!
1.Putting the boot in
They earn more in a week than most of us make in a year, with million pound mansions and celebrity lifestyles to match but you might be surprised to learn just how hard Premier League footballers have to train in order to fulfil their soccer dreams.
Let’s face it – you’ve got to be pretty fit to run after a ball for 90 minutes. Sports Illustrated magazine recently named Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the second fittest person in the world in its Fittest 50 list.
So how do coaches whip their players into shape and get them fit enough to play week in, week out at the highest level?
2.Train like a pro
Some players can cover up to nine miles per game and reach speeds of up to 22mph. Over a nine-month season this amounts to some serious mileage, so they need to train hard in pre-season as well as before and after their Premier League games.
Sport scientists and coaches devise structured workouts for their players to improve their speed, strength, stamina and agility. Over the years, player fitness has improved dramatically thanks to better nutrition and training techniques. Football is now about running less distance but sprinting more. In the last six years, sprints have increased by 80%, total distance has fallen by 2% and high speed actions are up by 30%.
Football is an incredibly demanding sport. Players are constantly on the move – running, jumping, diving and twisting with rapid directional changes that can burn up to 1,000 calories per game, all of which requires energy.
The food we eat is used as fuel for reactions in our bodies. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are used for muscle actions by converting them into something called adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). Our muscle cells have several ways to create it which can be enhanced by training.
Footballers’ training uses a variety of drills to target aerobic, immediate anaerobic and short-term anaerobic energy systems in order to increase their energy levels during a game.
These allow players to tap into different energy reserves when their bodies demand it – whether it’s for a high-intensity activity such as attacking or defending a goal or for basic covering work on the pitch.
4.Food for sport
Premier League football is a dynamic, powerful sport, so footballers need to eat the right foods. Players need to be lean and athletic, so they eat a balanced diet with a healthy mixture of vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates.
Before a match, most players will load up with carbohydrates such as potatoes, brown bread, brown rice, cereals and pasta, which provide long-lasting energy. The brain is nearly 60% fat, and fatty acids are key to its performance. So for concentration, oily fish such as salmon and good fats such as nuts and seeds are ideal. After exercise, carbs will also replace lost energy. Wholegrain versions of food are best as they release energy more gradually, as do potatoes when eaten in their skins. Protein-rich foods such as milk can help with post-match niggles and help to rebuild damaged muscle tissue.
5.How does football compare?
Football players from the bottom of the league table tend to run a lot each game. Wealthier clubs with better players tend to retain more possession, have greater passing accuracy and therefore run less. Similarly, a good tennis player will force a weaker opponent to run more. Unlike football, however, tennis has far more short, sharp and bone-jarring directional changes, but over a smaller area.
6.Tracking the action
When it comes to big game performances, nothing is left to chance. Clubs monitor everything and use the latest GPS technology to keep track of its players’ fitness during training and games following the Football League’s decision to allow their use in competitions.
Small GPS systems worn under players’ shirts gather invaluable data such as speed, acceleration, distance and heart rate, which is reviewed by the coaching staff monitoring the performances of every player.
This data can even alert the coaches to any injury niggles, particularly if a player’s work rate begins to drop. It can also help to structure pre-season training and be used to customise an individual player’s training requirements, such as targeting specific muscle groups that might need strengthening.
7.Making it to the top
The jump from Sunday League to the Premier League isn’t just about scoring more goals. You also need to possess some of these qualities:
- Nutrition – Before a match, players load up with carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy for the game. But also need to manage their diets on a daily basis.
- Fitness – Interval training is used to get the players fitter. During the season, players train three to four times a week and play a game (sometimes two) each week.
- Attitude – If you’ve got a good mental attitude and are prepared to put in the work then you stand a much better chance of becoming a professional footballer.
- Ball Skills – Footballers love to have a ball at their feet. Aside from gym and interval training, a lot of time is spent on the ball, so practice your skills regularly.
If you think you can keep up with the physical and technical demands required from a Professional Footballer, you should check out our football pathways that we have on offer in our Sport courses. For more information, please click this link!