Prep Your Game: Football

By: David Howatson-Begg

"To develop true skill and acquire the ability to adapt and function in multiple environments, an athlete must develop multiple movement strategies, enabled by subconscious motor learning."
- Steve Powell, PHS Director of UK Training

The rich history surrounding the relationship between elite sports and whole body vibration (WBV) has shaped much of the research, theory and education around Power Plate® over the last decade.

The above quote from Steve Powell beautifully articulates the nature of athletic performance, and in order to successfully construct and program movement, practitioners must constantly create a reference point that accommodates those all important task driven, 'subconscious' elements within all aspects of their methodology.

An unfortunate truth is many of those whom participate in football (being Scottish I can't possibly bring myself to say 'soccer') have their movements shackled, often by coaches or therapists, with best intentions, who may fixate on power and strength, or absolute speed.

The skill or task component of football as it relates to what the World Football Academy describes as “Football Action Theory” should be the backbone that runs throughout every part of sport specific conditioning, from warm-up and preparation, to post-match recovery sessions. If we are playing football, let's make the workout authentic, with movements and positions that mirror the tasks and actions of football.

The value of WBV is that it enables the coach, practitioner and participant to tap into and enhance subconscious motor learning that Powell alludes to. When we want to get our own bodies or our athletes bodies to switch on and fire up pre-game or pre-training, Power Plate allows us to move authentically and subconsciously in a dynamic environment which compels the body to adapt. By adding functional flexibility (task specific), mobility and stability into the preparation we are gathering information on how well the participant can adapt and perform as well as physically warming them up.

For the purpose of this article, our attention is directed toward the facets of football specific mobility and stability in order to provide examples of the type of movement we use to enrich performance. A particularly common phrase we come across in sport, rehabilitation and in general fitness is 'glute activation'. Those of us who are familiar with that expression, may have heard a personal trainer or physiotherapist highlight the importance of strong glute muscles and that our tissues may be underactive due to injury or habitual behaviours such as sitting. The posterior hip is a huge powerhouse of movement, and this muscular might is particularly valuable to footballers who rely on this area to be fully functioning in order to deal with kicking, sprinting, jumping and the multiple changes in direction in both acceleration and deceleration moments during a match.

Relating the actions of the posterior hip or glute to the actions of the player during game time on the pitch is a prime example of the movement manipulation necessary to aid performance. By activating the glutes in three planes of motion with WBV as the stimulus, we add a powerful level of subconscious reaction to the traditional gym based work. Suggested tweaks include driving multiple directions that are replicated on the pitch, challenging dynamic stability by reaching with the arms and legs, preparing our athlete to move in an authentic, upright and functional way.

The movements outlined in the video above are as follows:

Functional Flexibility

Front and back foot kicking focus (front hip)

  • Mobility - Lunge Matrix:
  • Posterior
  • Opposite Side Lateral
  • Opposite Side Rotational
  • Stability - Balance Reach/Tap Matrix:
  • Posterior
  • Opposite Side Lateral
  • Opposite Side Rotational

By David Howatson, Performance Health Systems UK Master Trainer