The fastest way to stay in shape

Keep on top with small-sided games, says Brentford strength and conditioning coach Matt Springham

1 It’s like the real thing
“There’s a simple reason why small-sided games are the best way to stay in shape: they replicate all the movements and demands of a full game. Normal running drills – where you might sprint or jog in straight lines – don’t require the little movements that you need in a game, like turning, diagonal running or running backwards.

2 Format for fitness
If you’re out to improve endurance you may want to do something like a four vs four in a 20x20m area, focusing on keeping possession and working at a constant pace. When doing this you’ll need to make sure you’re properly hydrated with Powerade ION 4. Not only does it contain four of the essential minerals lost in sweat, the sodium in Powerade ION 4 will help offset dehydration, while 19.5g of carbs will see you through the session.

More after the break

3 Change it up
There is a lot you can change depending on your goals. You can improve first touch as well as fitness by restricting it to two-touch games. Another way to improve your touch is to make the area you’re playing in even smaller so you have less space to move in and out of. If you want to improve your strength and touch – and maybe your defending – you can introduce man-marking.

4 Train tired minds (and legs)
Possibly one of the best things about small-sided games is that they test your technical capacity – your touch, control, passing and movement – when you’re tired. This is key as it’s one thing to be on top of your game when fresh and another to do it when you’re tired. If you can maintain your technique for 90 minutes this will obviously be a big advantage.

5 The complete workout
The dynamic movements – running, jumping, landing, turning, working backwards, accelerating, decelerating – will give you a whole body workout. This will work your core muscles, while your chest and arms will work as you hold off players to retain possession.

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