The old-school way to get fit

Mick Rathbone had a 35-year career as a player and Premier League physio, so who better to explain the advantages of tough old-school training? 

Jump through hoops and avert injury
“This is a great PT (physical training) drill because the whole squad are doing it at once, one after the other, and what stands out with these old exercises is the group dynamic. This strengthens the legs, and the players are learning to fall softly, reducing injury. In the modern game, they could teach it to all those Premier League divers! There’s no current equivalent.” 


Take pole position
“This is a fantastic exercise. It’s increasing flexibility and balance – it’s core stability, 1950s-style. There’s a wonderful co-operative element. If I tried to do this with youngsters now, they’d look at me like I was mad. But there are very real advantages – you are developing trust in your team-mates. Nowadays, core work is done in the gym.” 

More after the break


Prop up the bar
“I’m the king of doing these! I’ve done millions over the years. It’s a timeless exercise for upper 
body strength, which helps you retain the ball, and you can lift your legs into your stomach from 
this position to work the abs. Again, the main difference here is that there are a couple of guys doing it together, pushing each other on.”


Hang ten
“Players couldn’t do this now, because in those days kids grew up wearing thin plimsolls, running around on hard surfaces, and developed much stronger lower skeletons as a result. This would develop leg and foot strength superbly, and toughen you up to avoid injuries. But it’s not something most current players could attempt.” 


Hit the beach
“Sand work is hardcore. I was a good runner, but sand-dune drills could make me sick. You needed them back then, because the pitches looked like this – the picture here could have been taken at Blackburn Rovers! Now, players are too protected to be pushed in this way. We did it at Everton once, and they were shattered.”


Get a grip
“This enhances strength without needing any equipment. We used to do drills where you’d pick up a team-mate and pass them round your body: it was great for leg, ankle, knee and arm power. It 
is also boosting that magic trust and teamwork again. This would be abhorrent nowadays, but I’m going to bring it back!”


Banish the spare tyre
“This increases leg strength, speed, accuracy and balance – it’s another timeless exercise. Today we have the SAQ training hurdles, which are very similar and do the same thing, but these are just as good and don’t cost as much. Again, the distinction here is there are lots of players going through at once – that’s real team spirit.”


Mick Rathbone is the author of  The Smell of Football, available now from Amazon. Follow @MickRathbone

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