This is a topic that came about when I looked into solving and improving a footballer’s ability to turn and sprint. The issue that presented itself is that not all positions require the same kind of turn and whilst the movement differences may be very subtle, if trained correctly it could be the difference between scoring and not scoring, making the tackle and not making the tackle and even winning and losing. In this article I’m going to look at how a striker and a full back require different turns and how to train both positions effectively in the gym or even on the training ground.
In the first video below we look at the two turns back to back and whilst they do look pretty similar there are a few subtle differences:
(i) In The first turn, the player rotates earlier and has less of a push off the left leg. The player is more dependent on the momentum generated from traveling backwards and so performs more of a pivot on the left leg than a push off.
(ii) If you look closely the player has already completed most of the turn before the left foot even hits the ground.
(iii) The second has a more powerful push off the left leg and seems to drive through with more force. In this turn the player is more looking to generate the power from pushing off the left leg, there is a much greater need for effective loading on the upper thigh and core muscles.
Now within the game of football, both turns occur frequently but for defenders, the first turn tends to occur more often, and for forwards the second. Imagine a winger bearing down on the defender, twisting and turning inside and out before bursting down the line – the defender must match this and react very quickly to what is happening. The second turn relates more to a centre forward who needs more power in the turn to drive through the challenge of a strong defender and continue running.
In second video, below, I have designed a short workout targeting hip function to improve the turn of a defender. In it I regress the exercise into its most fundamental movements, emphasizing each of the different planes one at a time: transverse, sagittal and frontal (see my blog post on the importance of 3D training).
In this workout I use light dumbbells to further enhance the effect of driving the arms to create motion within the hips. Notice a distinct lack of depth in the exercises, similar to that of the turn, keeping the exercise as close to the function as possible.This trains the body to load the muscles rapidly and without needing them to lengthen too much and thus save time when turning on the field. This workout really enhances the body’s ability to load the hip in the same form as the turn. By turning up the intensity in each plane I can really look for weaknesses within the turn and then add extra emphasis where needed.
In the third video, below, I have designed a short workout for a forward.
Notice how the direction of the arms have changed to create a different motion in the hips. This workout again tweaks all 3 planes of motion within the hips and the arm drivers are again used to exaggerate these movements. Also notice there is a little more depth in the second workout. This is due to the nature of the turn – the forward needs to drop into the hip and load the muscles around his hip with a bit more depth and work the muscles a little more like ‘pumps’ to generate the power needed to push off in the opposite direction, whereas the defender should be training these muscles more like ‘springs’ to be able to just bounce off the ground and react faster to the twists and turns of the winger.
This would appear to break away from the stereotype that defenders need to train to be powerful and strong, when really they need to work more on agility and quickness and forwards need to work more on the power type exercises.
This is just one short workout of how to train one joint to function more efficiently on the pitch (depending on the position you play). It is a good example of how different positions on the pitch require different skills and different training programs to train these skills. To get the most out of the players, teams must recognise this and train their players accordingly. It may not seem like much but sometimes the margins for error in the game are so small that that little bit extra may make the difference between winning and losing.