Athletic Training in Football – Planning and Execution during Pre-Season

After Fabi has talked about injuries in football in a recent post, we will now follow up in our mini series with a guest post by Tom Geitner, the athletic trainer of the women’s team of the FC Ingolstadt. Have fun reading! If you have any comments or remarks simply post them in the comment section below. Tom will reply as fast as possible.

Planning and controlling the training is a central pillar of athletic training, whether it is during pre-season or during the regular season.
Due to the high stress density in pre-season, it is crucial to have a good planning in order to improve the athletes’ performance while keeping up the balance between stress and recovery (also during the season).

Athletic training in Football - Thomas Geitner #FuncMoveExpert

Before planning the training it is important to know the sport-specific requirements

Football is a leg-heavy sport that is played on unstable surfaces. For maximum acceleration, maximum jumping power, and maximum speed, strength in all of its manifestations constitutes the foundation. The many changes in speed require a good aerobic and anaerobic endurance capacity. And last but not least you need the necessary stability of knees and core due to many changes in direction and lateral movements.

Which exercises should be part of the athletic training primarily?

A functional athletic training should be based on elementary movement patterns, like squats and lunges. This should be complemented with exercises that improve mobility and stability as well as pulling and pushing movements for the upper body.

In the following, a pre-season training can be planned systematically.

Exemplary plan of an 8-week pre-season

1 – 2aerobic training with ball1 – 3
  • hypertrophy training
  • submaximal training
  • mobility and stability
1 – 2
  • agility
  • sprint
3 – 6
  • intensive intervals
  • practice matches
  • repetitive method
4 – 6
  • max power
  • functional athletic training
  • mobility and stability
3 – 6
  • sprint
  • acceleration
  • agility
  • jumping power
7 – 8
  • intensive intervals
  • repetitive method
7 – 8myofascial release e.g. Blackroll7 – 8
  • sprints
  • acceleration
  • agility
  • jumping power

Structure of the endurance and speed training during pre-season

A player runs 11.09 km per game on average. Thus, basic endurance constitutes the foundation and shouldn’t be trained with mindless endurance runs. A modern, adequate training can be done with the ball in 5 vs 2 games or in the form of intensive intervals with short sprints over 6-8 or 10-12 m with appropriate breaks. The advantages here are that with this form of training you not only save a considerable amount of time – in comparison to endurance runs – but also simultaneously train running technique and ball skills.

It is important to know that 96% of all sprints in football are under 30 m and 49% are only 10 m and shorter. Thus, the main focus in training should lie on the anaerobic alactacidic and anaerobic lactacidic system. In order to learn the technical and tactical skills in combination during endurance training, this training should be done with the ball. An example would be to play the ball outwards shortly before reaching accordingly placed hurdles in running speed, running over the hurdles, receiving the ball in a one-two and finally shooting at the goal. Another possibility to train this are slalom runs with a consecutive shot at the goal. This type of training has proven to be much more fun for the players because every player wants to play with the ball. Additionally, the players will perceive the intensity differently because the training is very similar to real game situations.

Athletic Training in Football - Tom Geitner

Training agility and acceleration

Exercises for agility with, e.g., the agility ladder should last about 10 seconds. The important part here is that the movements should be trained in all three dimensions and from all stances – fast, explosively, and powerful. Training topics are deceleration and changes of direction as well as sprints from different starting positions.

Every adjustment process needs time and thus should already be integrated in the first week. The exercises can be realized with coordination ladders, pylones, resistance bands and other equipment.

Starting in week three, acceleration and jumping power training is included into the training topics. Simply sprinting, however, won’t make the players faster. An adjustment has to be triggered by exceeding the speed barrier with supramaximal training and, additionally, you should place some focus on training perception and data processing.

The structure of the strength training during pre-season

The first three weeks should be filled with hypertrophy and submaximal training in combination with mobility and stability training. Exercises for hypertrophy and submaximal training would be, e.g., lunges and squats. The upper body should be trained with variations of rowing and push-up exercises. A good tool here would be a sling trainer. To improve mobility and stability I recommend an extra training that focusses on functional flexibility.


With targeted strength training and stability created by mobility, e.g. in the core and in the mechanical axis, you can simultaneously increase the performance of the players and decrease the risk of injury. The instability of a sling trainer or a sandbag will create the necessary training impulses. In the following, the main focus should rest on maximum strength training as well as functional athletic training. The training of the functional mobility is done concurrently. For maximum strength training it is important that squats are not only trained with both legs but also in an explosive single-leg variant.

A functional athletic training, which can also be realized in circuit form, should contain complex exercises that incorporate the whole body. The necessary training equipment for this are sling trainers, sandbags, superbands and others.

In the last week of pre-season, the players should actively regenerate from the high strains of the last weeks by rolling out with Blackroll foam rollers.


A pre-season can only be successful with thorough planning of the load peaks and the perfect balance between load and rest.

Next to planning the training units it is also very important to talk the training topics and core themes of the technical-tactical training over with the head coaches.

Sportive greetings,
Tom Geitner

Author: Thomas Geitner

Tom is a qualified fitness expert, personal trainer, functional and athletic coach, and engaged in the fitness business since 2009. In addition, he holds several licences, as nutrition coach, teacher for fitness and health, trainer for functional sport rehabilitation, Training for Warriors, Speedcoach, and, from 2016 on, Neuro Athletic Coach, among others. He works as a coach in a gym and a Functional Training Club as well as a personal trainer since 2011. Since 2012 he is responsible for the success of the athletic training of the women's team of the FC Ingolstadt. To impart his comprehensive knowledge, he is a speaker for the Sportlerei Akademie in the area Football Athletics A-Licence.

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