HOW TO SCORE MORE IN SOCCER BY TRAINING WITH KETTLEBELLS?
by Liverpool FC Coach, Julian Monk
An interview with Liverpool Football Club fitness trainer, Julian Monk at the Russian Kettlebell Certification Workshop in Denmark, August 2006.
Julian Monk is a fitness trainer for the Liverpool Football Club's Academy, which develops future players for that Club’s first team. Julian works with both the full time players and with the under 9s and under 19s, developing specific fitness needs such as motor control, speed and general athletic movement skills.
We have a local network of scouts and they work on bringing in players into the Academy at the age of nine. If they are good enough, they will stay with the club right through the different age groups, so we have them into nines, we have them into tens, we have them into elevens all the way through. Once they reach the age of sixteen, if they are good enough, they are then what we call “full-time scholars.”
There’s such a high drop-out rate in football. Originally when these lads were released from their contracts, they had nothing to fall back on. No idea about what career they were going to do and which direction that they were going to go in. So, the Academy system, we provide the education for them, which is basically what we call an NVQ, or a National Vocational Qualification, which is recognized throughout the whole of the country.
When they come in full-time, the players are with us initially for two years. We have an option to take one for a third year as a scholar. Once they reach the age of seventeen, they can turn professional if we think they are good enough. Currently, we have twenty-two players who are full-time at the Academy.
When I moved to Liverpool, it was specifically to work with them developing the elite youth players. So while I was in Liverpool, I actually took qualifications for the Association’s Fitness Trainers Course. This was specifically designed at looking at all of the age ranges from first-in level to right through specializing into the developments of a youth players.
So, this looks at all aspects of their training —their speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, the strength work and the overall conditioning. By the time that they reach eighteen or nineteen, they are physically ready to make it to our First Team.
The conditioning aspect has become more and more important. They want them to really develop. As the games become more physical and become faster, they require them to become much better athletes to compete at the highest level. So, this is what I’ve been looking at in all of the different areas. Looking for the best possible ways to actually develop players to be as athletic as they can be.
Kettlebells actually came about through looking at my own personal training needs.
So, I got into contact with Jim Lewis at Kettlebells.co.uk I mentioned that I was working at the Liverpool Football Club. He told me that Chelsea had been using some kettlebells from him. I knew the coach at Chelsea so, I rang him and asked what he thought of them. He said that there were benefits to the players and the players enjoyed using them. He personally considered them to really help the players with their power development, strength, and endurance.
So, I got one myself, tried it out, and I thought to myself, “What I want to do before I start introducing it to the players, I want to learn as much as possible about the kettlebells and how to use them.”
That’s where this RKC kettlebell certification course has been fantastic for me, because it’s really helped me understand how the kettlebells can be used, all of the correct techniques and actually incorporate them into the training for the players. I can actually see from what I’ve done this weekend that it’s actually going to be a very valuable asset to their conditioning.
In the past the traditional training that we’ve done for strength and conditioning has been the Olympic lifts like the power clean and the snatch.
What we found with trying to teach these lifts, is that these are very highly complex moves to do and especially with a bar. What I’ve learned this weekend is just looking at the movements, especially things like the swing, I can tell by the explosive hip movement that that isn’t as technically as demanding as trying to do a snatch with a barbell.
But from what I see, you can get a more significant benefit from just doing the swing movements and it is a much safer movement to teach. And Pavel’s instruction on hip drive—the grace and the natural explosive movements—has actually been fantastic.
The good thing with soccer is that you are always looking to trying to improve that explosive power. So, we’re talking about speed, agility, the ability to decelerate quickly, and the ability at vertical jumping. The good thing with kettlebells is that deceleration element as well, which you have to work against, which you don’t get with conventional weights. So, that is a big element. And kettlebells will be great for developing a more explosive vertical jump.
The kettlebells actually offer at what I see is a very simple way and a very effective way to help develop the ability, balance and coordination when heading the ball.
One of the big issues with our training is that we are always competing with the other things that the guys have got to do. Because what you have to remember first and foremost, they’ve got to serve their technical training and tactical training, all the skills side of it, which is the priority at the end of the day, because that’s what they have to do when they perform.
So, on the conditioning side, you have to find ways of bringing in what they need without fatiguing the systems too much so that they are tired all of the time. When they come to perform on a Saturday, they need to be physically ready for it. The kettlebells have shown a very simple way that you can work it, as simple as like ten minutes of work to actually get the benefits from what you need for this. So, the kettlebells work for me not only as a great time saver, but as a fatigue saver for the players.
One of the big things that I’ve noticed from this weekend is how many people from the course are from a martial arts background. And emphasizing the traps and the glutes, bracing the abdominals, all that loading up from that area, has specific relevance to football for striking the ball. I can see kettlebells helping to improve the players’ ability to strike the ball.
The big difference for me in this workshop has been learning different ways to recruit the correct muscles to work at the right time and getting them firing in sequence. There’s are many courses I’ve been to in the past where we’ve basically covered the technical information of how to do the movements, but they don’t go into the deep side of what will actually improve what you’re doing. I found that absolutely a massive help this weekend. I can really feel a difference in my own performance while doing these exercises.
I can see easy ways of transferring these skills to the players and helping them with it, so I am really pleased with that.
I have to say this is one of the best trainings I’ve been on over the years. I think that the quality of instruction has been very, very high. All the instructors have been very, very friendly. They’ve all been willing to help and basically, share their knowledge. They don’t try and hide it from you. They are very free in talking to you about what they do with their own people and it’s been a really, really big help to me.
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