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Turn a park into a gym


Stand in front of a park bench, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Interlock your hands behind your head. Push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering yourself down, until your backside brushes the bench. Pause and return to the start position. Do this for 30 seconds. “Your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves will all benefit from this,” explains Michael Watts, head of performance at Aston Villa. Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise.


If you’ve got a dog that likes to play football, take it out to the park and simply dribble the ball with the dog chasing you. Make sure you dart away with the ball and throw lots of twists and turns in there. Do this at maximum intensity for two minutes. “This will replicate the chaotic demands of football – sprinting, changing direction and keeping control of the ball under pressure,” says Watts. “And your dog gets a workout to boot.” Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise.


Find a park bench and stand in front of it in a staggered position. Place the instep of your left foot on the bench. Brace your core and sink down until your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Pause, then explosively drive yourself back up to the starting position. Do 10 reps on each leg. “This exercise targets the glutes – one of the most important muscles for a footballers,” explains Watts. “It will help power your sprinting, kicking and jumping.” Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise


Find a hill that takes around 20 seconds to run up. Now sprint up it, digging in your feet, powering off your toes and pumping your arms. Walk back down within 40 seconds and repeat this five times. “Hill runs are going to make your legs burn,” warns Watts. “But they’ll help you build stronger legs and a tireless engine for football.” Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise


Find two points – a tree and a bin, for example – that are about 25 metres apart. Run to the bin and back to the tree in 10 seconds then rest for 20. Repeat eight times. “The dreaded doggie runs are tough, but well worth the effort,” insists Watts. “Football is all about being able to perform repeated sprints throughout the game.”


Find a seesaw and place hands on the lower to mid-point of one side so the seesaw is in a fixed position. The seat on the side you’re holding must be touching the ground. Position your legs to one side of the plank, keeping your hands held in place. Jump both feet over to the other side. Repeat explosively for 20 repetitions. “Building power in your legs will boost your acceleration and enable you to out-jump oppostion defenders,” says Watts.



Grab one of the bars with an underhand grip, with your hands more than shoulder-width apart. Hang so your arms are straight and cross your feet behind you. Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Hold, and then lower your body to the start position. Walk your hands to the next bar and repeat. Try to do 6 reps on each bar. “If you want to withstand shoulder barges and out-muscle defenders in the air you’re going to need upper body strength,” explains Watts. “This exercise is ideal.”



Stand in front of a swing and get in a press-up position, putting your elbows on the seat, with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your feet together, on the floor, with your weight resting on your forearms. Hold for 30 seconds. “Performing a plank on the swing seat – an unstable surface – will really challenge your core muscles,” says Watts. “Your power and strength come from your core.” Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise.


Assume a push-up position, with your hands on the floor and your feet on the seat of a swing. Brace your abdominal muscles and core and bring your knees to your torso, maintaining a straight back. Pause, then straighten your legs and return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps. “This is another excellent exercise for your core,” says Watts. “A strong core will help you hold off defenders trying to knock you off the ball.” Complete three times, rest for 90 seconds, move on to next exercise.

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