The best gym exercises for football players

The best football players don’t limit their exercise to the pitch. Skilled players take advantage of gym machines and workouts to help prepare for matches and improve their overall performance, often undertaking strict and intensive training regimes. If you’re struggling to see progress in your skills, or you aren’t able to play football as often as you’d like, it may be worth utilising the gym to help you reach your goals.

However, there are some exercises that are more beneficial than others when it comes to improving football skills. Therefore, it is good to have a tailored training plan that incorporates various types of movements to target different muscle groups. Keep reading as we discuss some of the best exercises for football players, including speed, agility, and endurance training.

Exercises for Speed

Speed is a critical skill for football players, especially those in defensive positions. However, this isn’t always an easy skill to train and will require muscle building to improve acceleration and power. Below are two exercises that you can complete in the gym to improve your speed by improving muscle and stability in your legs.

Dumbbell calf raise

Your calves are responsible for pushing you off the ground and these muscles use explosive power to gain momentum and speed. Proper training of these muscles can also help reduce the risk of injury in the calves, as well as strengthen the ligaments and stability of the ankles.

How to do a dumbbell calf raise

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and make sure to choose an appropriate weight for your fitness level. Keep your arms by your sides and stand your feet about shoulder width apart. Raise onto the balls of your feet and slowly control the movement back to the starting position.

Weighted sled drags

Whilst weighted sled training may sound like it would slow you down, it can help you to increase your sprint speed by improving your acceleration. This is an essential skill for football players who need to quickly sprint to, or with the ball to gain possession for the team.

How to do weighted sled drags

To improve your speed, you’ll need to start with shorter distances and the weight added should be between 30-50% of your body weight. Make sure that the belt is attached securely and that you’re in an appropriate position before accelerating as fast as possible.

What to wear for speed exercises

Track pants are essential for speed exercises, initially designed for running, they provide comfort and flexibility to help you perform at your best. Our selection of track pants works to keep you cool by encouraging excess moisture to move away from the body, making them ideal for a gym workout.

Exercises for agility

Agility is the key to remaining one step ahead of your opponents, this skill will allow you to evade oncoming opposition, defend shots and move efficiently with or without the ball. There are numerous ways to improve agility in the gym, however, the two beginner-friendly exercises listed below are some of the most effective. 

Box Jumps

Box jumps are a plyometric exercise and they target varied aspects of fitness such as agility, mobility and balance. They’re an excellent way for footballers to build muscular endurance and build explosive power. Box jumps primarily help players improve the muscles in their legs, however, they may also benefit from an increased jumping range which can be beneficial when performing headers.

How to do box jumps

Stand in front of the box with your feet slightly apart. Push your hips back and swing your arms to help create momentum. Jump onto the box, landing with soft knees in one swift movement, and step back into the starting position. Increase the box height as you progress.

Agility ladder drills

The agility ladder is a versatile piece of equipment with plenty of movement patterns to choose from. When used correctly, the agility ladder helps players improve their footwork skills and become more nimble. It also helps players to hone in on their acceleration, deceleration, stabilisation and changing directions quickly.

How to use the agility ladder

Whilst there are many different ways to use the ladder, our favourite beginner exercise is the side shuffle. Standing side-on to the first box of the ladder, keep your knees and hips slightly bent and shuffle both feet into the box before moving on to the next. Increase your speed gradually, keep looking straight ahead and do not rotate your torso. 

What to wear for agility exercises

We recommend wearing muscle-fit or compression clothes, as these help to increase blood supply to working muscles, improving endurance. These types of clothes can also be used as base layers if your gym has outdoor equipment or you need warmth indoors. The BodyFit collection has a wide range of styles and colours suitable for gym wear and can help you to enhance your performance. 

Exercises for endurance

Football matches are long, especially when extra time is added. Therefore improving endurance is essential to players who want to perform at their best until the very last minute. The two exercises listed below are great for footballers who feel they could improve their aerobic or muscular endurance.

Single-leg dumbbell RDL

A single-leg dumbbell RDL (Romanian deadlift) will engage your hamstrings and glutes, improve hip mobility as well as muscular endurance and help to eliminate strength imbalances or movements on each side of your body. This type of exercise will also help to build muscle mass and core strength, which will translate into increased endurance.

How to do a single-leg dumbbell RDL

Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and raise your right leg (or vice versa). Lean forward whilst bringing the leg up behind you and make sure that the movement is slow and controlled. You can also choose to hold a dumbbell in both hands if this adds stability. Bring the weights as close to the floor as you can without rounding your back or rotating your hips. Then slowly bring the movement back up to the starting position and repeat, making sure to alternate legs after each rep.

HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps to build aerobic and anaerobic endurance. With football games lasting at least 90 minutes, it’s important that players seek to optimise these areas as well as cardiovascular fitness to ensure that they can perform their best throughout the game. These exercises aren’t for building strength but for increasing VO2 Max.

How to do a HIIT workout

There is no set way to do a HIIT workout, however, exercises that would be beneficial for football players to include in their regime would be burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers, and jumping lunges.

What to wear for endurance exercises

Despite sometimes looking like the easiest form of exercise, endurance training can make you work up a sweat. We recommend opting for shorts that allow for flexibility, and a short-sleeved tee to keep you cool.

Complete your gym workout with Avec Sport

Train like a professional and swap out your football kit for some gym-friendly sportswear. Our performance-enhancing track pants and t-shirts are the ideal addition to your workout wardrobe allowing you to look and feel your best when you’re off the pitch.