Football Training Techniques - Plyometrics at Charlton Athletic

My last article I wrote about Sam Allardyce taking over at Newcastle United Football Club and his use of modern techniques to enhance the abilities of his players. I touched on the subject of Plyometrics, a type of exercise that uses explosive movements to develop muscular power.

Plyometrics resources

In the final few years of my Football career I was introduced to this training technique and found it to be extremely useful. Charlton Athletics fitness coach Joe Dunbar was responsible for bringing the technique to the club, although obviously Alan Curbishley (former Manager of Charlton Athletic Football Club) must be given credit for his foresight in using this training technique.

Through a combination of Weight Training, Bounding and Jumping mixed with agility training, Plyometrics was used by Charlton to improve the speed and strength of our players. Initially Joe received very funny looks and lots of ridicule from the Football team as no-one was sure of the purpose of these exercises.

Before every training session Joe would put out cones and small hurdles for the players to bound over, sometimes hopping on one leg and other times bounding 2 legged like kangaroos. Other exercises included zig-zagging from side to side in a slalom like fashion. It felt strange at first. Even though the co-ordination of Professional Footballers is as good as any athletes, the introduction of any new exercise takes some adjusting too. Players would be falling over, crashing into the hurdles and making fools of themselves in front of a large cynical footballing audience.

Of course in Football you have to be thick skinned to any criticism and continue to practice these new techniques. Sure enough over time with the use of controlled weight training, we noticed a marked difference. The use of Plyometrics coincided with our Championship winning season, gaining promotion to the Premiership league.

Over the next few seasons Joe continued these training sessions. Some players were not convinced by these techniques but for a few of us we were hooked and would start our training sessions 30 minutes early in order to practice on the hurdles and slalom courses that Joe set up.

My personal experience was that I found a huge increase in leg strength. I was always a very lean player and found it difficult adding power and strength to my legs. For most of my career I experimented with different kinds of weight training programs, lifting heavy weights to make myself stronger. But Plyometrics surpassed any of my previous training programs and I felt a huge boost in power, enabling myself to jump higher during matches, sprint faster and hold off monster sized centre halves.

I could even be seen in Greenwich Park, London a stones throw away from the Charlton Stadium, practicing these techniques. In June and July before the pre-season training had started, I would find a quiet area away from the sun-bathing public and go through the routines that Joe had given me. Gradually over the weeks my 10 one-legged hops or 10 two legged bunny hops would increase in distance, testimony to the benefit of Plyometrics. I must have looked very strange in my training kit, bounding through the park, but as I previously said, as a Football player you have to have a thick skin. If this technique was beneficial to my game then I was prepared to try it out.

I would recommend Plyometrics to any player, especially Footballers looking to gain more power and strength. Although I would definitely suggest getting professional advice because the strains and tensions put on your muscles and body can cause serious injury.

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