There are in fact two muscular systems to take into consideration when implementing an effective core conditioning programme for a football player, and they are Stabilisation and Movement.
Each one is just as important to the other and therefore must be trained in equilibrium to produce total functionality for football.
“Stability is the ability to control movement and force”. In other words important muscle groups of the core which is responsible in the efficient movement of prime mover muscles, such as the hamstrings etc. for the soccer player, must be able to provide sufficient stability and strength to help transmit the power required for effective football moves.
A lack of strength in this area will result in the breakdown of movement patterns and ultimately develop muscle compensations which lead to synergistic dominance and reoccurring injuries.
Stabilization muscles primarily involve the transverse abdominis, internal obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and multifidus
Too often players possess powerful and rapid movement of the limbs, but are unable to produce their maximum potential because of a weak stabilization system.
Therefore building a strong stabilization base is paramount, and can be compared to building a solid foundation before erecting a house, knowing that it will support a complete structure.
The following exercises act as corrective strength drills that activate inactive muscles of the core. These muscles are instrumental for the soccer player when executing more advanced drills and movements to their full potential.
Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten stomach muscle and pull the lower back to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Do 3 to 5 repetitions
Place head and shoulders supported on a ball, raise hips up into a bridge position and in line with shoulders on the ball. (To add more of a challenge, try to lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance without the hips dropping).
Prone Raises (Floor or on Exercise Ball) Lying prone (face down) on the floor and hands by the side of the head. Raise the head and shoulders off the floor, whilst looking down to the floor and keeping the feet in contact with the floor at all times. Raise up, hold for 20 – 30 seconds and lower. Repeat 5x (Alternative Ball option: Lay prone over the ball with your hips on the ball and feet on the floor/For a greater stability challenge, put your feet closer together)
Glute Raise: Place your hips on the ball, with hands on the floor in front of the ball. Keep the head and shoulders in a neutral position. Lift the feet off the floor activating the glutes to raise as high as you can. Hold each rep at the top for a count of 10 and return to the floor. Repeat 5x (This exercise can also be completed on the floor).
Superman: Lying prone over the ball with equal weight between the feet and the hands. Raise the opposite arm to the leg again holding at the top of each movement for a count of 10 before returning to floor and working on the other side. Repeat 5x each side
Side Plank and Side plank Drops
A more dynamic exercise introduces movement of the arms and/or legs to challenge the neutral spine; this exercise is for the hip abductors. Lie on one side with lower arm bent under head and upper arm resting with hand on floor near chest. Bend both knees and flex hips and find neutral spine position. Raise the hips off the floor and hold then slowly raise upper leg 8 to 10 inches and lower. Do 5 repetitions and repeat on opposite side.
An advanced stabilization exercise that introduces unpredictable movement that must be responded to (the movement of the ball). Lay on floor with both feet propped up on the exercise ball with legs straight and arms relaxed to the sides. Find the neutral spine position and hold while slowly tightening the buttock muscle to lift the buttocks off the floor 2 to 3 inches
Once total stabilization in the core has been established, the implementation of movement patterns can then be introduced. Knowing that the communication between both systems will result in a total and flawless distribution of equal power, when executing simple or advanced football moves.
Movement strength drills involve the muscles that ultimately assist in the movement of the lumbo pelvic hip complex, and consist of the hamstrings, latissimus Dorsi, rectus abdominus, erector spinae, adductors, external oblique’s, and iliopsoas muscles. These muscle groups are instrumental in performing twisting, turning, pushing and pulling movements for explosive plays throughout the game.
A football player needs to achieve the ability of moving correctly in to produce great performances, and so it is important to recruit and activate all of these inner and outer unit muscle groups together.
By including the Swiss Ball into your core training program and using a variety of different exercise options like the ones below, will help you significantly.
- Front walkout – Place chest on exercise ball and walk forward on hands as far as possible, rolling exercise ball from chest toward feet, keeping stomach muscles tight to keep lower back flat. Start by moving exercise ball to thighs; to increase difficulty move exercise ball to knees then feet. Walk hands back to starting position. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
- Back walk-out – Sit on exercise ball with arms to sides; walk feet forward as far as possible, rolling exercise ball from buttocks toward neck, keeping stomach muscles tight to keep lower back flat and do not raise head. Start by moving exercise ball to upper back; to increase difficulty move exercise ball to neck. Walk feet back and return to sitting position. Repeat 3 to 5 times. For more difficulty, complete exercise with arms straight overhead; with exercise ball at neck, lift and straighten one leg at a time, 5 times each leg
- Reverse crunch – Place chest on exercise ball and walk forward on hands until ball is at kneecaps, keeping stomach muscles tight to keep lower back flat. Pull the ball up towards arms by bending at hips and knees, then straighten and push the ball back. Repeat 5 times. Walk hands back to starting position.
- Reverse extension – Place chest on exercise ball and walk forward on hands until exercise ball is at kneecaps, keeping stomach muscles tight to keep lower back flat. Roll the ball to thighs by keeping hands in place, moving arms to an overhead position, bringing head and chest down near floor; return arms to perpendicular to body with exercise ball back at knee caps. Repeat 5 times. Walk hands back to starting position.
- Combination – Complete the reverse crunch and reverse extension in one continuous, controlled movement, pulling exercise ball up to chest and extending back 5 times