How To Improve Your Footballing Ability

Dave Billows demonstrates the lay-off header and shoot drill
(Image credit: Men’s Fitness)

This article was published by Men’s Fitness UK in April 2008. It was reformatted in 2022 to make it easier to read.

If you want to improve your football fitness then turning out for the Dog and Duck once a week isn’t really going to cut it. You need functional strength and power, and explosive, plyometric exercises are the best way to build this. 

“The reactive power of a Premier League footballer is phenomenal,” says Everton’s head of sports science Dave Billows. “I’ve worked with lots of athletes, including sprinters, and footballers can accelerate over the first 20 metres faster than anyone. The first five metres are so important in football because if your pick-up isn’t quick enough, you aren’t going to keep hold of the ball.”
But getting off the mark with lightning speed can play havoc with your joints. This means to avoid injury you need to follow a dynamic warm-up that fully activates your stabilising muscles in a controlled zone. “At Everton, we do ‘pre-habilitation’ to prevent injuries,” says Billows. “A lot of the strength work we do is designed to tighten up the joints, and to give them more resistance to the forces they’ll be exposed to during a match. You need flexibility but you need it under control.”

Billows has shared a three-move workout to develop your sprint speed as well as a short pre-match routine, linked to below. But first, here’s a drill to sharpen your shooting skills.

Shooting Drill: Lay-Off Header And Shot

  1. To jump for the header, bend your knees slightly then take off with both feet, thrusting your hips forwards for greater lift. Pull your arms back and push your forehead forwards, directing the ball towards your team-mate, then straighten your legs and bring them together to land safely.
  2. As the ball is passed back to you, aim your shot at the piece of ground just ahead of it without taking your eyes off the ball. Lift your left arm for balance and turn your hips into the shot.
  3. Follow the shot through by continuing the arc of your foot and kicking your leg high and to the left.

Workout To Build A Better Sprint

  • Plyometric box leap
  • Sled sprint
  • Lateral lunge run

See the sprint workout for footballers

Pre-Match Warm-Up Drill

  • Lateral knee roll
  • Lateral step
  • Running squat brake

See the warm up drills

More Football Drills

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.