It is easy to become too occupied with leg power and strength as a footballer, but upper-body strength is equally as important. Strength and conditioning of the shoulders, back and arms is crucial to balance – something that impacts almost every facet of your game. Upper-body strength also affects your ability to protect the ball, or to wrestle opposition players off it. These five relatively simple exercises will develop your own strength – improving your game along the way.
1. Chest presses
Lie flat on your back on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. It’s important not to put your muscles under unnecessary stress, so start with a weight that feels comfortable, and gradually increase the resistance. Lift your legs so your knees are at a 90-degree angle, slowly raise both weights above your chest until your arms lock straight – exhaling as you do. You should slowly turn the palms of your hands inwards as you stretch your arms out, so each palm faces the other when your elbows finally straighten. Slowly return to your original position, turning your palms outwards as you do. Repeat this exercise 15 times to complete a full set.
2. Push-ups with an exercise ball
Using a large medicine ball or stability ball, assume a push-up position so you’re suspended above the ground with your feet resting on the ball. Slowly bend your elbows, exhale and lower yourself to the ground – so your chest comes to rest about once inch above the ground. Inhale as you slowly rise to your starting position. Repeat this exercise 15 times for a full set.
3. Bicep curls
Although incredibly simple, bicep curls are a convenient and relatively easy way to give your biceps, pectoral muscles and shoulders an effective workout. And the beauty of this exercise is that it can be carried out almost anywhere. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettle-bell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Squeeze your bicep and chest as you slowly raise one arm at the elbow. Stop when the kettle-bell reaches your shoulder, but make sure you exhale throughout the lift. You should then slowly lower the weight to its original position – inhaling as you do. Repeat with the other arm and complete 15 repetitions for a great upper-body workout.
4. Plank row
Take a small dumbbell in each hand and assume the push-up position. With your arms fully extended, place your entire weight on the floor, using the dumbbells to support you. Very gently lift one weight off the ground and point your elbow to the ceiling. You’ll be supporting your weight with one arm, so make sure you use a single, smooth motion before bringing your arm back down as quickly as possible. Repeat this exercise with your other arm, and perform 15 repetitions for a great workout for your upper arms, shoulders and back.
5. Backpack push-ups
There will come a time when the upper-body strength you acquire will mean that standard push-ups no longer prove effective. In order to continue strengthening and conditioning your upper-body muscles, wear a backpack containing books and various blunt objects during your push-ups. Increase the weight of contents in your backpack as you continue to become stronger. You can also mix things up a little by altering your position slightly with a universal training bar.
6. Equaliser dips
Use some equaliser bars or parallel handrails to support your weight, and then extend both legs out in front of you. Starting with your arms completely straight, gently lower yourself until your elbow is at a 90-degree angle, inhaling as you do. Then slowly push yourself back up to your starting position, exhaling as you go. This exercise uses your own body weight for resistance, and it gives the shoulders, biceps and triceps an exceptional workout.
Upper-body strength is essential to almost all the physical aspects of your game. By taking the time and effort to strengthen your arms, chest and back muscles, you can become a better all-round footballer.