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Strength conditioning with Manchester United

What is the structure of daily training?
If the club have one game per week, they will typically do four or five training sessions.  These will typically be undertaken in the morning with a 10-10:30 am start.  The grass-based session is all about developing or maintaining football specific fitness alongside both technical and tactical development. This session usually lasts between 60-90 minutes and many players will then take part in a strength-based session in the gym.

In the gym, players will complete approximately 30 minutes of weight training or body weight exercises where the goal is to develop strength and power that will improve their performance on the pitch.  When considered this way, a player’s muscle will be subjected to two very different types of training stress in the morning period. On the grass, the goal is to develop football-specific endurance and repeated sprint ability, while in the gym their muscles will be placed under greater mechanical load where they engage in strength training.

This process of training for both endurance and strength at the same time is known as concurrent training and it is now known that the order of the training can significantly affect the training response. Studies involving elite youth footballers have shown that performing strength training after football training leads to greater strength gains compared to the other way around. To maximise the muscle responses to concurrent training, the timing and quantity of food consumed becomes critical.

What do players eat for breakfast?
Players will have their breakfast at the training ground around 90 minutes before training commences. Given that training is not as demanding as a match, players do not need to consume as much carbohydrate as they would do on match day. However, they always aim they consume carbohydrate and protein at breakfast as well as hydrating for the upcoming session. Players will consume carbohydrate at a rate 1-2 g/kg body mass and at least 30 grams of protein. They will typically consume food such as cereals (e.g. porridge / muesli), eggs, fruits and yoghurt to provide them with both sufficient carbohydrate and protein. To emphasise hydration intake, players will consume at least 500 ml of an electrolyte solution (e.g. SiS GO Hydro).

What do players eat in the transition from the grass to the gym?
There is usually a 15 minute period between the grass based session and gym session. In this time, players will need to consume a 20-30 g serving of protein to provide the amino acids necessary to promote recovery from the pitch based session and also get the muscle ready for the strength-based session. Given the limited time available and the fact that whole foods are harder to digest, players will consume protein from one of the SiS protein products such as Whey 20, REGO Rapid Recovery + or Advanced Isolate +.

An intake of protein at this time will help to build muscle mass. Following the strength session, the players will then have their lunch in the club restaurant, which will include another serving of carbohydrates and protein to help recover their energy stores and repair their muscles. Players will aim for 1.5-2 g/kg of carbohydrate and around 40 g of protein where foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes, fish, chicken, fruits and yoghurts will help achieve the recovery goals.

Why is protein before bed important?
Footballers will typically consume 2-2.5 g/kg of protein, spread throughout the day in 30 g portions. In addition to consuming protein before and after the strength training session, footballers should also consume 30-40 g of protein prior to going to sleep. In the absence of protein feeding before bed, the body is in a state of fasting during the overnight sleep period and our muscles undergo protein degradation.  In contrast, feeding protein prior to sleep increases the building of muscle mass overnight. Studies have shown that consuming protein prior to sleep increases the strength gains that occur during a weight training program.

Key advice

  1. Football players take part in concurrent training where they train to develop both aerobic and strength based properties at the same time.  To maximise adaptations to both types of training sessions, it is recommended that strength training be performed after football training as opposed to performing strength training before football training.
  2. To fuel the morning pitch based session, players should consume both carbohydrate (1-2 g/kg body mass) and protein (30 grams) and always ensure they commence the training session in a hydrated state.
  3. Players should always ensure they have protein (20-30 grams) intake in between the grass and gym based sessions and emphasise easy to digest sources such as SiS Whey 20, REGO Rapid+ or Advanced Whey Isolate.
  4. To maximise adaptations to strength and conditioning training, daily protein intake should be 2-2.5 g/kg body mass where players should consume 30 g servings every 3 hours or so. Consuming protein such as SiS Overnight Protein prior to sleep can also help grow muscle and increase strength gains.
Written By

The Performance Solutions Team