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Top 5 strengthening exercises to prevent injuries in Football

With footballers side-lined for the foreseeable future due to Covid-19, it’s a great time to work on your strength and flexibility in preparation for when the season restarts.

As a footballer myself I know the struggles of getting persistent hamstring injuries, or those calf strains, which show their head at key moments of the season. But there are things you can do to reduce the risk of sustaining these problematic soft tissue injuries. Professional and semi-professional clubs now encourage all their players to actively engage in workouts specifically designed to help prevent and lower the risk of injuries. 4 of the most common injuries footballers sustain include; ankle sprains, hamstring strains, groin strains and anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Of course, some injuries are unavoidable, such as a bad tackle or landing awkwardly, but if we can limit the occurrence of the non-traumatic injuries, we can help players stay fit and continue playing.

Below I have listed 5 exercises that are designed to target areas most at risk of injury.

Split squat:

From a standing position, take a long step forwards as if performing a lunge. The heel of your back foot should be raised. Keeping your torso straight, lower slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, then push back up. Complete all your reps on one leg, then switch to your other leg. Aim to complete 4 sets of 12 reps x2 a week. An alternative to the split squat is the single leg sit to stand as seen below. Slow and controlled up and down. Aim to do 10 x 3 sets.

Calf Raises:

Stand one leg with your toes pointing forward. Raise your heel off the floor as high as you can before slowly lowering back down to the floor. Aim to complete approx. 20 reps on each leg, x1 set. Perform x2 a week.


Research shows that eccentric hamstring work can reduce the risk of hamstring injuries by up to 51%. Perform Nordics x2 a week, 3-4 sets of 6 reps.

Start on your knees hips extended and torso upright. Keeping your hips extended, begin to lower yourself as slowly as possible until you can no longer control the descent. At this point, allow yourself to fall to the floor in a controlled fashion and “catch” yourself with your arms. Give yourself just enough of a push off the floor to get back into a position where you can pull yourself back to the start using your hamstrings.

Side plank/Copenhagens:

Lying on your side with your top knee supported on a chair and elbow on the floor. Raise your hips off the floor to parallel and hold for 20 seconds.

To make the exercise harder, place your top foot on the chair with your legs straight. Aim to hold for 20 seconds and repeat 4 times x2 a week.

Romanian deadlifts:

Load a barbell and stand with your feet shoulder width apart, toes forwards, and the barbell running over your shoelaces. Bend down and grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip and only a slight bend in the knees.

Use your glutes and hamstrings to stand upwards, keeping the barbell close to the body. At the top of the movement, contract the upper back, core, and glutes, standing up tall.

Slowly bending at the hips, keep the bar close to your thighs and back straight. As you bend over you should feel your hamstrings start to tighten, try to avoid over bending at the knees. Hold for 2 seconds at the bottom of the lift before slowly returning to upright.

Alternatively you can use a kettle bell to the same affect.

Matt Cox

Senior Physiotherapist

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