One question we often hear is what we think about upper body strengthening programs for football players. The short answer is we’re all for it and encourage it, but we need to clarify a few things first.
Football players don’t need to be huge, as adding lean mass will only have so many benefits for football. Beyond a certain point, the extra weight will require more effort throughout the match to move around the pitch and a certain amount of flexibility may be lost.
The reason we begin by stating this is because we want to make it clear that when we say “strengthening” or “resistance training”, we do not mean “powerlifting”, or even substantial “weightlifting”.
So how does a football player go about increasing their muscle strength, particularly in the upper body, without adding weight and losing flexibility? There are a few techniques that usually work, some more conventional than others, so please allow us to briefly discuss some of our favorites, in hopes this will help spark an idea that will work for you and your training regime.
One way to improve upper body strength without lifting heavy weights is through the use of elastic bands, for example Thera-Band, or similar elastic tubing. If you have ever been to see a physiotherapist, chances are you have seen or used these for rehabilitation of an injury.
These types of resistance bands can come in many different degrees of resistance, and lengthening or shortening can provide further adjustability in resistance. In this case, it’s much easier to focus on performing lots of repetitions at a lower weight, but as you reach the end of your range of motion, the resistance increases due to the stretching of the band. This really allows you to push for the extra “squeeze” at the end of your range of motion, encouraging you to cover the entire range of motion, which minimizes the risk of losing flexibility, especially if you stretch after.
In terms of knowing what types of exercises to do, you can perform basically the exact same exercises as you would with weights, you just need to be a little more creative. For example, you may need to wrap the band around a bar, loop it under a bench, etc. Much of this can even be done at home, which is another benefit.
We know this sounds weird, but boxing is actually in incredible way to supplement your football training regime. Boxing is incredibly exhausting on the cardiovascular system, but it employs a more interval style of training rather than constant running, so it even fills a potential void that you may have in your cardio training.
Boxing is also an incredible workout in terms of muscle strength. Most training programs in boxing avoid the use of weights, at least heavy weights, and usually focus on your own body weight instead. However, the intense nature of the training program and focus on the upper body provides an excellent way to increase muscle strength while also cutting down on fat.
Another benefit of boxing when it comes to adding to your football training is the affordability. You don’t need much equipment to get started, and you can do it at home. If you would rather sign up at a local gym, there are tons in and around the London area, so you should be able to find something close to you.
These are our two favorite ways to increase muscle strength and endurance while still focusing on a cardio workout and not adding any (or much) more weight. These aren’t the only ways, so be sure to take a look around and explore. Whatever you find fun will likely be what you stick to, especially since it isn’t the primary sport.