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How to prepare for pre-season

So, you’ve spent the last nine months waking up early on a Sunday morning to haul yourself around a football pitch for 90 minutes, but what are you supposed to do to maintain your hard earned fitness now it’s all over for two months?

Premier League footballers can call upon a team of sports scientists and nutrition experts to provide them with a training schedule and diet plan to ensure they return for pre-season training in good physical condition – and you can too.

We’ve teamed up with fitness expert Chris Barnes, who has worked with numerous Premier League and Football League clubs, to give you elite level advice so you can rest and rebuild during pre-season and then return fitter than ever next season.

Eight or nine months of football takes its toll on the body, so I always advise players to have a couple of weeks off. Top end fitness, your ability to perform repeated sprints, will drop significantly during this period, but you plan for that when pre-season begins. At the end of the two weeks I try to prescribe low intensity activities that will maintain a base level of fitness.

To begin with, try light running, tennis and cycling. Stress free enjoyment is key. When players start exercising again there are various different philosophies. The German approach still uses a lot of low-level endurance running, which is very effective in maintaining cardiovascular fitness. A lot of people in the English game will go about that by doing shorter, high intensity repeated activities. Different approaches will suit different players at different times.

The steady runs are pretty standard. They’ve worked for years. Generally speaking the limit of the steady state runs are if you can hold a conversation. These runs are typically 20-30 minutes. Try doing a week or two weeks of 3-4 sessions. As you progress, bring the distance down and raise the intensity. For intervals, use a pitch. You might be doing a pitch length run. A typical prescription would be 15 to 17 seconds to complete the run, then rest for 30 seconds. Eight of these would be really taxing on the cardiovascular fitness. It’s a 1:2 work to rest ratio. That really challenges your recovery mechanisms. 

If you’ve got six weeks you’ll start off by looking off at each week individually and having a theme or goal for each week. The last week will be all about getting yourself to the first game and should be structured exactly the same as any in-season week would be. You need a good balance between the physical, technical and tactical work, with sufficient rest days built in.

You need to understand how you want your team to play and then train according that. You need to build athletes capable of carrying out your tactical demands. I’m working at Brondby and Alex the coach is a huge advocate of the game being played at a really high intensity. It’s so demanding. Some of the figures are incredible. In England, your 10 outfield players will cover 115-18km. At Brondby, the 10 outfield players are covering 135 km. In the Premier League, individually players cover 11-12.5km, but some of the Brondby players are covering over 14km. I’ve never witnessed it before. 

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