BLOG: How do you physically prepare for a World cup and perform at your optimum?

With the first game of Russia 2018 fast approaching, teams are beginning to fine tune their preparations, writes Dr Ross Cloak, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science. Since the end of the domestic season many of the team will have had a short break, this will have had little impact on their overall fitness.

Many will have played 50 plus games so it is more of a case of managing there fitness levels and making sure they are ready to compete but not burnt out before the first match kicks off.

GPS units help to quantify the work they are performing in training, giving total distance covered, accelerations and changes in direction, while heart rate monitors can give an idea of the total training load of each session.

This all allows the sport science staff to monitor and manipulate sessions, some of this will be to prevent overtraining, but alternatively there may be players who have not played a block of games whether due to injury or selection leading up to the tournament so these sessions will be an opportunity to build up a good block of training. The key point is everything is individualised based on the current level of fitness of the players, their position on the field and those who are in the starting eleven and those who are not.

Once the first group match kicks off it is quite a concentrated block of matches - three in 10 days and seven if you make it to the final.

The physical preparations will take a very different focus and the sports science team will be focusing on recovery between matches. Some of the big challenges with tournament football is the group can usually not have players called up to replace any players who have picked up injuries. So it is vital that you keep all in your 23 man squad fit over the course of the tournament.

Also, it is a concentrated block of matches combined with a large amount of travel between games - England will cover more than 4,000 miles going to and from their training base in their first three group games. Recovery is therefore a vital part of a team’s routine. This can focus on appropriate nutrition and hydration strategies pre, during and post matches as well as the use of more traditional ice baths, compression clothing and light gentle exercise (swimming, bike rides etc).

These low intensity exercises also have the added benefits of being fun and changing the normal day to day football training with boredom between games often been cited by many players as an issue in previous tournaments.

The final recovery strategy and arguably one of the most important is making sure players are getting enough good quality sleep. From acclimatising to new surroundings and any time differences as quickly as possible, to making sure you are limiting the amount of time spent on electronic devices before bed (this has been shown to effect sleep quality). Poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of injury and illness so it important that if you want to perform at your optimal you are getting plenty of shut eye!

Experts from the football industry will discuss putting principles into practice at an event on Tuesday, 21 August 2018 here at the University of Wolverhampton. Speakers include Dr Ben Rosenblatt, the Lead Men’s Physical Performance Coach for the FA, who will talk about physically preparing teams to win major international tournaments. Performance nutrition consultant Dr Scott Robinson will look at how you can translate science to the elite football setting from the point of view of someone working in the industry. Sofie Kent, a PhD researcher at the University of Wolverhampton, will discuss whether you can teach Academy players to perform under pressure.

Research into growth and maturation in youth football will be discussed by Rikesh Patel, who is currently conducting applied research through collaboration between the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy. He is also providing sport science support across the Academy.

The conference, Science in Football: Principle to Practice, will take place at the Walsall Campus from 6pm-9pm.

For more information or to reserve your place please contact Ross Cloak on e-mail: R.Cloak@wlv.ac.ukor visit: https://www.estore.wlv.ac.uk/product-catalogue/conferences-events/faculty-of-education-health-wellbeing/institute-of-sport/science-in-football-principle-to-practice

  • Dr Ross Cloak is Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science and Laboratory Director at the University of Wolverhampton’s Institute of Sport & Human Science.

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