Just as we are finally back, so is the football season! I’m sure we’ve all had partners, friends and family glued to the games once more. Or perhaps you and your friends and family are back playing grassroots football with your local teams.
If so, we have a blog designed for football players and all their aches and pains!
Although the two are not often linked, surprisingly yoga practice is incredibly beneficial for football players. The strength and conditioning benefits, as well as the flexibility and posture training that Yoga offers greatly reduce and protect against injuries, especially to the hamstrings and hip flexors.
Maybe you didn’t know, but a famous Welsh international footballer - and now the Wales manager - Ryan Giggs, accredited yoga practice for the longevity of his career. He liked it so much in fact that he even set up his own studio and brought out an exercise DVD!
1) Downward Facing Dog
Down Dog is commonly considered a resting and resetting pose in Yoga practice. The move is great for resetting the mind because the head moves below the heart. This allows more blood to flow to the brain, lifting energy levels and improving focus - essential for footballers that need to keep astute of their opponents tactics.
As well as increasing mental clarity, the pose increases flexibility. Your calves, hamstrings and shoulders all benefit from the stretch Downward Dog gives, while the muscles in the arms and upper back are naturally strengthened.
Read More: How Doing Yoga Impacts Your Brain
Footballers can also pedal their feet whilst in the pose to further stretch their achilles, calves and glutes.
To perform the Downward Dog pose:
Start on your hands and knees.
Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Spread your fingers wide and actively press through your palms and knuckles.
Then, curl your toes under and lift your hips. Bring your body to the shape of an A by lifting your pelvis toward the ceiling and drawing your sit bones to the wall.
Make sure to actively press away from the floor, and rotate your arms externally so that your elbows are pointing outwards. Your ears should be aligned with your upper arms.
Don’t drop your head! Hold it steady and gaze between your legs. Stay there for at least 3-5 breath cycles.
To come out of the pose, exhale as you bend your knees and lift your head, coming back to a hands and knees position.
1) Intense Forward Fold
Intense Forward Fold is another pose that is both invigorating for the mind and body. It’s called intense for a reason! You’re stretching a variety of different muscles: The hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae. Plus the intense forward fold increases stability in the pelvis.
If the pose cannot be performed as pictured, there are ways to modify it. The stance can be widened so that the feet are hip distance apart, hands can be placed on a block or held around the lower leg and the knees can be bent as generously as possible.
To perform the Intense Forward Fold:
Begin standing with your feet either zipped together, creating a solid line up the backs of the legs or with your feet hip-width apart.
Exhale and bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso as you do so.
Bend your elbows, grasping each elbow with the opposite hand.
Finally, let the crown of your head hang down.
Stay in this position for 2-3 breath cycles. If available, add in a twist by grasping the elbows and turning gently to the left or right.
To come out of the position, inhale and rise up slowly, keeping your weight evenly distributed through your feet.
1) Crescent Lunge Twist
As part of their pre-match warmups footballers regularly perform lunges. Yoga lunges differentiate slightly from these traditional exercises because in yoga, we hold the pose. This helps strengthen the legs and glutes, whilst also firing up the core, tightening and strengthening it. It’s also great for digestion and promotes stamina and endurance in your hips!
We’ve added a twist in here as it’s an extra benefit for the obliques and works the core a little more, aiding core strengthening and stability. A great one for goalkeepers especially who twist and tumble in all kinds of different positions.
Crescent lunges can be performed either with the left or right knee on the ground, or lifted - whichever is more comfortable for the yogi.
To perform the Crescent Lunge Twist:
Begin on the ground in a lunge position, with your left or right foot forward and your alternating knee on the ground. Bring your palms together in prayer position in front of your chest.
If available, lift the knee on the ground up off of the mat, pushing the heel back and driving weight through it. If not available, move onto step 3.
Reach the crown of your head forward, away from your back heel so that you lengthen both your spine and body. For those with their knee on the floor, actively drive weight through the top of your foot flat on the floor to stabilise your body.
Press your palms together to engage your arms. Once stable, engage your core and move from here, turning your chest in the direction of the ceiling, while taking your gaze upward over your alternating shoulder.
Static hold for at least a minute. To come out of the pose, unwind from the twist, take your hands apart and place them on the mat. Depending on your stance, either step your raised foot back to a plank position and lower to your hands and knees from there. Or, for those with their knee on the floor, adjust back to a hands and knees position.
1) Knee to Elbow Plank Pose
Planks on their own help increase both abdominal and hip flexor strength, and feature as a regular part of a footballers training regime. In yoga practice though, we like to push ourselves that step further by adding in alternating knee to elbow movement sequences.
Bringing the opposing knee to the opposing elbow is a dynamic movement that’s great for mental sharpness because it makes our brain think, as well as being great for the body. Strong biceps, triceps and abdominal walls are built through these blanks and both power and endurance see significant improvements.
To perform Knee to Elbow Planks:
Start in a full plank position. Bring your hands under your shoulders, curl your toes under and exhale as you lift your body off the ground. Actively push away from the mat to increase stability, creating a doming effect in the upper back body. Drive weight through your heels until it feels as though there is a solid line from your spine all the way to your toes.
Once stable, lift your leg and pull your knee across toward your opposite shoulder. Engage your core and your glutes as you do so.
Take your knee back to its starting position, and repeat on the other side. Attempt 5 reps on each side.
To come out of the movement, static hold your original plank position and then gently lower the knees to the ground.
5) Camel Pose
Camel Pose is a yoga move that offers one of the deepest, full body stretches there is to offer. This is great for footballers who often experience tightness in both their hamstrings, glutes and upper bodies.
Camel Pose strengthens the spine, lengthens the body, and stretches the hamstrings, calves and glutes. As well as that, it promotes flexibility by stretching the pecs, quadriceps, chest and abs. One for both before and after the game!
Camel Pose is a tricky move, so it can be adapted and modified. To lessen the extension, add blocks on top of the feet. To make the extension easier, move the knees and feet hip-width apart, rather than the recommended slightly apart.
To perform Camel Pose:
Begin in a kneeling upright position with your feet and legs either just slightly apart, or hip-width apart. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor.
Bring your hands behind you and place either one or both hands on the tailbone. Lengthen your tailbone down, then squeeze your shoulder blades together as if holding a pencil between them.
Keep your hips over your knees, and reach the crown of your head to the sky.
Now, lean back slowly with your chin tucked toward your chest. Beginners can stay here if they find it comfortable.
For those who feel confident, now deepen the pose. Reach back so that each hand is grabbing the corresponding heel. Keep your fingers pointing toward your toes.
Keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor and keep your hips over your knees. If you feel any tightness when grasping your heels, curl your toes under to elevate your feet or alternatively add blocks on top of the feet.
Maintain the lift and the length in your chest and ribcage as you lift through the pelvis. Turn your arms outward, and then slowly lower your head back until you are looking directly up at the ceiling.
Static hold the pose for 30 seconds.
To come out of the pose, bring your hands around to your hips. Inhale and lift your torso by pushing your hips toward the floor. Make sure your head comes up last, and slowly.
Whether you pop these exercises in a routine or just do them every now and then, it’s completely over to you. We’ve included them especially because they’re great for strengthening, conditioning and toning the body.
If you want to up your performance and make an intensive yoga workout a key part of your training regime, why not check out our Yoga Tone classes? They’re perfect to work up a sweat, and they combine yoga practice with weights for a truly intensive conditioning workout!