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Injury Prevention > Recovery Stategies

Striking the right balance between training and recovery has a major influence on your fitness status, susceptability to injuries and playing performance. Neglecting this principle is detrimental to both fitness and skill.

Particularly at higher levels of competition, where the issue of recovery is more relevant, the competitive season continues to place huge demands on players who have to perform every seven days. In-season sessions that extend beyond 90 minutes raise the following issues:-

  • Reduced intensity
  • Decreased concentration
  • Reduced enjoyment/increased boredom
  • Increased injury risk
  • Loss of leg speed and agility due to poor training surface

Recovery strategies may be used to facilitate optimum status for competition during several stages of the training plan and include:

  • Cool down
  • Regenerate
  • Lifestyle
  • Fluids & nutrition (please refer to the Fluids & Nutrition section)
  • Recovery Status
  • Periodisation

Cool Down
As soon as you have completed a session, the recovery process starts with a cool-down. The cool down is a vital part of the recovery process for several reasons:

  • Blood flow back to the heart is inhibited if you suddenly stop moving - light exercise maintains this cycle of venous return and ensures that blood is distributed to other areas, such as your brain, instead of pooling in your legs.
  • Stretching. Restoring normal range of movement is a proven injury prevention tactic and also promotes blood flow.
  • Review the session. This is an ideal time to review the content of the session and get feedback.
  • Cold bath or shower. A short spell in a cold bath or shower can help reduce inflammation, promote recovery and return the body temperature to normal. The rapid variation of vasoconstriction and vasodilatation will increase the removal of waste products and activate the blood flow to the muscles.

Particularly on the day following a game, players should perform a 'regen' session to promote recovery. This type of session promotes recovery by restoring energy, muscle tension, balance and range of motion. This is now common practice at professional clubs, and more so with international teams.

Lifestyle areas for consideration in the recovery and performance equation include:

  • Sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Stress

Sleeping is the period in which the biggest physical and psychological restoration takes place. The harder your training programme, the longer your sleep duration. Sleep facilitates several bodily changes; your muscles relax and repair while there is an increased protein production and the immune system takes full advantage. Highly trained players require 9-10 hours sleep and should be tucked away before 10.30pm!

Some players experience poor sleep the night before a game but rarely report that their performance was affected. It is generally the next day that tiredness manifests.

Alcohol reduces protein synthesis, the amount of certain vitamins and promotes dehydration. The worst case scenario is a binge drinking session following a game, with poor food intake and only a few hours sleep. Compounding the dehydration and energy sapping effects of a match with a high volume of alcohol and lack of sleep has a massive influence on the recovery process.

Be positive - don't think about football during your spare time and focus on confident not negative thoughts. Players and coaches suffer from varying degrees of stress depending on their personal circumstances and steps should be taken to monitor these levels via the intervention of a Sport Psychologist or a Counselling Scheme.

Recovery Status
Consider the items on the Recovery Status Questionnaire (above, right column) - your ratings are a reliable sign of your readiness to train. Other elements to consider include resting pulse and dynamic performance in jumps. A resting pulse 10 beats or more above normal may indicate a below optimum recovery status

Periodisation is the division of the training plan into phases or cycles with specific objectives. Conditioning for football is challenging because various fitness components must be developed and technical and tactical development must also be accommodated. Teams generally compete every 7 days for a period of more than 32 weeks, so correctly managing training overload by using periodization is crucial.

The most effective way to encourage physical adaptation is to focus during a training phase on specific elements of conditioning while also minimizing the loss of other elements. In the competitive season, for example, there are times when a general mix of training is beneficial. By dividing these phases into training blocks of three to six weeks, fitness components that complement each other can be emphasized. For example, training blocks that combine speed and strength drills or fuel mix conditioning and strength endurance work well, but speed and endurance training should not be combined because the level of general fatigue created by the endurance component does not support effective speed development.

The football year is split into four phases-active rest, off-season, preseason, and in-season-during which players can concentrate on various conditioning components and objectives. The Four Phases of the Football Year


Number of weeks

Training drills and objectives

Active rest

2 to 8

•  Rest and recovery

•  Corrective exercise and control drills

•  Cross-training (tennis, cycling)


4 to 6

•  Core Stability, functional, and strength drills

•  General and specific fuel mix drills

•  Speed and agility drills


4 to 6

•  Power training drills

•  Specific fuel mix drills

•  Speed and agility drills

•  Maintain stability and pattern strength abilities


32 to 36

•  Blocks of fuel mix, strength and power training drills

•  Speed and agility drills

•  Maintain aspects of conditioning that are satisfactory and gradually improve weaknesses

However, it must be stressed that the emphasis in training depends on the individual's conditioning profile and should progress from core stabilization and general fuel mix drills to power, speed, agility, and specific fuel mix conditioning.


Recovery Status
Consider your rating on the list of items to assess your recovery status and readiness for training

Rating 1-5 (poor-excellent)

Quality of sleep  
Quality of sessions  
Energy levels  
Self confidence and esteem  
Muscle soreness  
Motivation and enthusiasm  
Attitude to work  
Attitude to team  
Communication with team  
Food intake  
Fluid intake  
A score below 35 illustrates a need to rest - don't train until it's at least 40.
Nutrition and fluid intake are major factors when considering recovery - increased intake of fluid, carbohydrate and protein is high on the agenda
Sample Recovery Drill - Regen Session

The 'Regen' session is a great method for promoting recovery, particularly post match or the morning after a match...

Team Pool Recovery Session (may be adjusted for individual session). Duration approximately 30 minutes.
Water based session post match or hard training (generally next day), to facilitate recovery and restoration of muscle tension, range of motion and blood flow.
4 x Volleyballs, Aqua Jogger Belt

1. In shallow end of pool, players into groups between 4 and 6 with one volleyball. Players keep the ball out of the water using hands and head for 2-3 minutes. If ball hits water team member has to swim one width or climb out of the pool and back to team.

2. Teams at each side of the pool, teams take it in turns to jog a width of the pool passing the ball. Continue until each team has performed 2 widths.

3. Various static stretches on the side of pool - 5 minutes.

4. Wearing Aqua Jogging Belt, enter deep end for range of exercises:

  • Hands on the side of the pool, front crawl leg kick x 20 seconds
  • Sit on edge of pool side, straight legs in and out of the water - encourage trans ab control x 20 seconds
  • As above with leg extensions x 20 seconds
  • Trunk twists with hands on side
  • Heels flicks with hands on side facing side (hamstring curl)

5. Aquajog for 3 minutes, encourage neutral posture

6. Further exercises:

Arm pulls - hands on side, pull in and out. Use like a defensive drill i.e. players pull in and push out together (like a wave machine!) x 20 secs

scissor legs - legs out to side and back in to meet x 20 secs

7. Aquajog variations: 1 minute aquajog with alternating between running style arms and punching out in fron

1 minute cross country ski action
1 minute cycle movement

8. Return to shallow end:

1 x width posture walk
1 x width walking backwards
1 x width carioca

9. Balance drills:

Stand on one leg, with other knee out of water - core control and hold x 20 secs. Repeat with eyes closed. Change legs

Hop around (4 x ¼ turns) clockwise and repeat anti-clockwise. Repeat with eyes closed

10. Variety of static stretches to finish

Key Points

Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds

Compulsory 1 litre of water from drinking bottles before leaving pool