Everybody has heard of the slogan,
“No pain, no gain.”
But does it really have to be that way?
Every soccer player at some stage has woken up the next morning sore. Whether it was pre-season, extra training loads or playing deep into extra time, the results are usually the same, MUSCLE SORENESS.
Here’s a new slogan moving forward, Eccentric methods, No Pain and Lots of Gain.
Muscle soreness is the bane of all soccer players because it is connected with low muscular power outputs and an inability to play at high intensities over a long period of time.
So how do we prevent muscle soreness?
How do we bounce out of bed the following morning after an intense training session?
There are 3 ways to prevent or minimize muscle soreness.
- Avoid sudden increases in training intensities or training sessions.
- Maintaining good muscle flexibility
- Periodically force your muscle to complete increased amounts of “eccentric” work.
Eccentric training focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle process in order to challenge the muscles, which can lead to stronger muscles, faster muscle repair and increasing metabolic rate.
Eccentric activity involves shortening (contracting) your muscles while they are simultaneously being stretched.
Can you think of any exercises that contract your muscles while stretching them?
This was introduced to me a long time ago by a little Yugoslav by the name of Dragoslav Sekularac. For those that don’t know him, he was a superstar back in the 60’s and was a very gifted player and a Yuogslavian International. He also had some unusual training methods in addition to the shortest fuse in the world.
At the time we thought it was strange that he would always run us (the team) downhill after a heavy training session or during preseason trials.
Was he mad or a coaching genius?
According to the International Journal of Sports Medicine, you could argue he was on the right track.
A better description might be, crazy, moody, intense and intimidating with his strange training methods.
The Benefits of Running Downhill
The force of gravity stretches your quadriceps muscles at the same time as they are contracting vigorously in an effort to stop you falling on your nose. (Remember, contracting your muscles while stretching them.)
Don’t get me wrong here; running down hills initially produces muscle soreness just like any other eccentric exercise. Some soreness may even last for weeks, thanks Gary McDowell.
Research believes that an eccentric workout teaches the nervous system to redistribute potentially damaging forces over a larger number of fibres within a muscle, reducing the stress and strain on individual muscle cells. Another conclusion might be that eccentric workouts destroy the weakest fibres in a muscle which are replaced by stronger, more resilient cells.
The Beauty of Eccentric Workouts
Although they sound misleading and difficult, they are quite easy to perform.
Eccentric contractions in addition to providing immunity to muscle soreness can improve a player’s coordination and muscle power.
A great example of an eccentric workout is running downhill for 10-20 minutes. DISCLAIMER: The first time you do this, you may, will get very sore.
More traditional workouts include the following plyometric exercises which include
Lightning HOPS, One Leg HOPS, Double Leg HOPS, Step HOPS and Skipping.
Lightning Hops- Keep on your toes and try to hop off the ground as many times as you can for a period of 30-40 seconds. The secret here is to stay as close to the ground as possible to enable high repetitions. You must stay off your heels.
One Leg Hops-Hop in a forward direction from one foot to the other and holding yourself motionless for a period of 6-10 seconds depending on strength. Then continue hoping ahead to the other foot.
Double Leg Hops- Jump forward explosively and continuously until you’ve travelled about 20-30 metres.
Step Hops-Hop up a flight of stairs using only your right foot and then do the same with your left one.
Skipping- Skip for 50 meters while trying to raise the knee as high as possible on each skip.
These eccentric exercises will reduce muscle soreness and improve the coordination and power of soccer players. Why not add them to your training regime.
P.S Maybe Dragoslav Sekularac was not a madman with his unusual training sessions. But then again, maybe he was.
“May the winds of destiny blow you to the stars.”