Avoid heavy & tired legs on the football pitch - part 2

Jacob Strøm

Jacob Strøm

Performance specialist. Cand.scient. Sports Science. 25+ certificates from EXOS, Barca Innovation Hub etc.

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If you want to be faster on the track and avoid heavy and tired legs, it is crucial that you don't fall into the classic mistake of doing traditional strength training. Traditional strength training is built around making you stronger and more muscular, not faster and more explosive on the football field.
Sanne troelsgaard - avoid tired legs

In this part 2 of "Avoid heavy and tired legs on the football pitch" we will look at how to adjust intensity and volume to avoid heavy and tired legs.

Adjusting intensity and volume

One of the most important things is not to train to failure and do too many repetitions, as we talked more about in "Avoiding heavy and tired legs on the football pitch - part 1".

If you follow a traditional strength programme where the goal is to increase muscle mass, you will find that your legs (and body in general) get tired after your workout - which is fine if the goal is to increase muscle mass. But if we want to become faster and more explosive, we need to train for something completely different - and we need to remember that we also need to be fresh for our football training.

Therefore, it becomes very important that we choose the right intensity and the right volume.

Theintensity concept is very misunderstood. 100% intensity is when you give yourself ALL OUT. And you can only do that for a short period of time. 100% intensity would be equivalent to 1RM in squat e.g. 1 jump, a 10 m sprint and similar very short actions. The longer our activity takes, the lower the intensity.

Intensity therefore does not describe how hard something is, but how close to our maximum power development we are.

Volume is the total amount of training, which can be calculated in different ways. Many people use "tonnage" where you multiply sets, reps and kg to work out how many tonnes you are lifting. This typically makes sense if the goal is strength or muscle mass, where you want to lift more over time.

As a footballer, for most, it is more crucial to be able to perform things faster. So rather than taking your squat from 100-120kg, it might be better to be able to increase the speed of your 100kg squat. So you go from using 1 second to using 0.7 seconds per repetition for example.

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How high intensity and how much volume we can handle is very individual and depends on training experience, recovery capacity, football training, work, sleep etc. It is therefore very difficult to give an exact estimate of how much you can handle.

In addition, it depends on where in the year we are. Obviously in season, we have a lot of training from our football, so we will have to cut down on the amount of performance training and vice versa.

At the same time, it is extremely important that we spend the off-season improving our work capacity so that our bodies can withstand a long and hard season.

How we build our programmes

"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect".

If it was just about who trained the most, you could be the best if you just spent more hours than your opponents. BUT it's even more about doing it right. Again, quality beats quantity.

One mistake many people make with their strength or performance training is that they train at too low a frequency. To learn something new or get better at it, you need to repeat it often and frequently.

Therefore, our goal is to do our performance training 2 or 3 times a week, maybe even 4 times in the off-season. For that to happen, we need to build our training properly so we can recover between our training sessions.

Therefore, we build our programmes according to the model in Figure 1.

Day 1 is typically what we call "dynamic effort" and contains a lot of jumps, landings, etc. combined with an okay amount of strength exercises (still focusing on speed). Here we have an okay high volume and intensity, and therefore requires the most recovery, which is why it is at the beginning of the week.

Day 2 is our "heavy" day with high intensity and low volume and is our "max effort" day. Here the goal, overall, is more to increase our strength and/or power development. Even longer break, but still some jumps, but fewer than day 1. Because of the low volume, the recovery demand is not as high as after day 1. However, the high intensity will take its toll.

Day 3 is the one we typically choose from in-season, but is our capacity day. On this day the intensity is significantly lower, however the volume is relatively high. Here we typically have shorter breaks, and work a lot on technique in agility but also strength. This day will act as a kind of "active recovery".

Remember that all these three days are relative to. to where we are in our periodization and how much training experience you have.

Conclusion

It is extremely important that you do not fall into the classic trap of doing traditional strength training. If you want to avoid heavy and tired legs, it is important that your strength training becomes performance training, where both exercises, intensity and volume are adapted.

This way you ensure that you become faster and more explosive, but also avoid getting tired legs.

Remember that quality beats quantity, and it is much better to do a few "heavy" and fast reps than many bad ones at low speed.

After all, speed is what you need in football.

Therefore, your training should consist of fewer reps, typically less than 5. Choose a weight around 60-80% of 1RM most of the time. Take long breaks so you can reproduce high power - typically 2-4 minutes. And finally, choose exercises that are highly transferable to your game on the court.

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