FAME Level Descriptions

Foundational Athletic Movement Examination

FAME is a measurement and training tool to help improve athletic performance and reduce injuries. It was developed in house by Darren Pivetta from years spent advising local clubs on health and fitness guidelines.

When using FAME as a training tool focus on improving only 1, 2 or 3 of your areas for improvement as determined from the assessment. Train only 2-3 times a week to allow recovery between sessions, unless stated otherwise. You might like to practice at home or add it into your regular football training sessions. Warm up prior to training. Remember not to cause pain at any time and to progress at your own rate, not at anyone else’s. Feel free to contact us with any questions. Enjoy the enhanced performance you are likely to experience by including FAME as part of your training program.

The descriptions below will give you an indication of your abilities (your current level) for each test. A recommended progression is given for each level to assist you in reaching your goals and becoming a better player.

Station 1

Squats

Squatting is one of the most functional movements we need to be able to do in daily life. To squat well requires the athlete to have good spine, hip and leg control.  To perform a squat – fold at your hips, whilst maintaining a natural (neutral spine) alignment, let your knees bend, keeping your thighs in line with your feet and do not let your knees go beyond your toes. Once technique is mastered, then strength, speed and power can be trained. Remember to warm up before training at your current level of ability. Perform at least two to three sets of the recommended exercise to get a training effect.

To achieve Level 1 – means you can perform 5 good quality ¼ squats each held for 5 seconds. If you are learning how to do this, then practise doing 3 quality 1/4 squats regularly (every 1-2 hours through the day). Once you can perform a quality ¼ squat then progress to holding each squat for 5 seconds. Next you can reduce the frequency of doing the squats from hourly to once or twice a day. Practice doing ¼ squats, each held for 5 seconds and gradually build up to achieve 5 repetitions.

Progression – Now that you have the fundamental skill of performing a ¼ squat, it is time to take the squat gradually deeper to a point where your thighs are level with the ground. Remember to maintain ideal spinal alignment throughout the squat. To gradually increase the depth of your squat you can try various methods such as lightly holding onto a table or rail with your hands, or try lowering yourself slowly down onto a chair where your thighs are horizontal at contact – repeat 5 times. Progress to squatting toward the chair but not actually resting your buttocks on the seat. Develop your hold time in the horizontal thigh squat position. Start with 5 seconds x 5.

Each day practise squatting down to horizontal thigh position and hold for 5 seconds x 5. Gradually build your hold time up to 10 seconds. Once you can perform 5 repetitions of 10 second holds, you have achieved level 2.

To achieve Level 2 – you have established ideal squat technique and can hold in a horizontal thigh position for 10 seconds and perform at least 5 repetitions.

Progression: Now you need to develop the speed component of your rising from a squat to a point of jumping. Jumping requires explosive strength to leave the ground and equally it requires great control to land well.

Start practising jumping from the ground up onto a low step, then step back down. Start with one controlled repetition at a time. Gradually build the number of repetitions you can perform up to twenty in a row. Then gradually build the height of the step up to 30cm. Remember to use your good squat technique with jumping and landing.

Practise jumping every second day. Consider practising sets of 5 jumps at a time, rest, repeat a number of sets.

Juniors can simply practice jumping up and landing back on the ground. Landing well, with your thighs in line with your feet is crucial. Once you can do 10 controlled jump and land actions you have achieved Level 3.

To achieve level 3 –  means you can perform 20 continuous jumps up onto a box and step down each time. Juniors can perform 10 controlled jump and landings (pause allowed) without a box.

Progression: To jump up and down in a controlled continuous movement is your next goal. Remember your squat skills with regard to spine and leg alignment. Aim for powerful jumps and soft landings.

Practise every second day.  Begin with fewer repetitions (say 2 or 3) per set to allow rests. After each landing transition immediately into the next jump.  You can use your arms to establish a rhythm which helps with efficiency. Gradually build your repetitions up to 20 continuous and controlled jumps. When practising box jumps ensure you have non slip shoes and box/ground surfaces.

To achieve Level 4 – means you can perform 20 controlled and continuous box jumps or 20 continuous ground jumps with immediate rebound. Juniors can achieve 10 continuous, immediate rebound ground repetitions.

Progression: The tuck jump requires power, skill and control. Remember the goal is to get your knees level with or higher than your hips whilst in the air. Start by practising single repetition tuck jumps. Then progress to stringing two or three together in a row. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Then repeat another few sets each with a rest break. Practise every second day. Ensure you are not experiencing any pain with this exercise. If you have pain, stop and return to training at a lower level. The goal is to achieve 10 continuous quality tuck jumps.

To achieve Level 5 – means you can perform 10 continuous tuck jumps where your knees rise to being level with or higher than your hips whilst in the air.

Maintenance: Plyometric (jumping/landing) training is beneficial for developing speed, power and reactivity. It is beneficial to include plyometric training (once or twice) in your weekly training schedule. Do not train plyometrics if experiencing associated pain. Slowly progress the amount and intensity of plyometric training and then maintain with variety.

Station 2

One leg Balance/Strength

Balance is a general term that refers to a player’s centre of gravity.  Developed balance can help you as a player maintain stability when changing direction or speed both with and without the ball. Balance is a skill and as such requires a lot of practise to improve.

To achieve Level 1 – means you are able to stand on 1 leg only without falling over for at least 20 seconds. Maintain good alignment by keeping your hips level and body stable and upright. When learning this skill practise regularly each day. You may start by lightly using your hands for stability, then gradually increase the duration of balance until more than 20 seconds. Gradually reduce your hand support to balancing on your foot only.

Progression: Learn now to maintain balance on one leg and move your free leg out in front, and behind to each side. Keep your spine well aligned and your hips level. Use cones or any object as a goal to reach to, start easy. Repeat with other leg. Gradually increase the distance the cones are from your stance leg to a distance which is approximately your leg length away.

To achieve level 2 – means you can maintain balance on one foot as you repeat 3 sequences of reaching your free leg out in 3 directions – in front, back to one side and back to the other side. Each cones is approximately one leg’s length away. Repeat with other leg.

Progression: involves balancing on one leg on a step and performing shallow step offs of 5cm, resting the free leg with each repetition. Gradually increase the depth of the step off. Next develop the control of returning the free foot without touching the step with each repetition.  The goal is to achieve 10 repetitions of lowering the free leg down 10cm toward the next step or ground, whilst maintaining level hips and a well aligned spine, and returning the free leg without contacting the step.

To achieve Level 3 – means you have pretty good 1-legged standing balance and you have managed to hold this balance and perform 10 repetitions of continuous stepping 10cm down off a platform without touching the ground and returning (no touch).  At this level body alignment is key.  You need to make sure you pelvis stays level and your body is well aligned. It does require a lot of strength and control from the standing leg.

Progression: Involves developing single leg squat control. Start by standing on one leg, lowering to and rising from a higher chair. Aim for 10 repetitions. Perform 3 sets daily. Gradually reduce the height of the chair to one where your thighs lower to the horizontal position. Once you can achieve 10 repetitions, with only light contact with the chair of correct height you are ready for level 4.

To achieve Level 4 – you should be able to do a perfect one legged squat lightly touching your buttocks down onto a chair where your thighs are horizontal and returning 10 times.

Progression: The goal is to perform the single leg squat without having a chair beneath you. Train by holding a single leg squat position at a depth you can hold for 3 seconds. Aim to hold the horizontal thigh position for a couple of seconds. Develop the ability to balance on one leg, squat to horizontal thigh position and rise again. Start with single repetitions with rests 10 times, then repetitions of 3 for 5 sets, then 5 reps of 5 sets. Practice 3 times a week. This will work your thigh muscle hard, but mahe sure that you are not experiencing any pain in your knee with this exercise. If you have pain, stop and return to training at a lower level.  Once you can achieve one continuous set of 10 repetitions of single leg squats to the horizontal thigh position, you have reached Level 5.

To achieve level 5 – the single leg squat requires strength, balance and control. You now have the ability to perform 10 continuous repetitions of the single leg squat to the horizontal thigh position. This is a great achievement.

Maintain: your ability by practising 3-5 sets of 10, 2-3 times a week.

Station 3

Hop Strength/Stability

Hop Strength is a key requirement for soccer performance.  Soccer involves running, sprinting, changing directions, kicking and levering off one side of your body to kick.  All of these require a level of hop strength to make them more powerful and effective.

To achieve level 1 – you need to be able to balance on one leg, rise up on your toes and then lower down 10 times.  You need to be able to do this on each leg. If this is difficult just practice standing on one leg or use the support of a wall if needed to come up and down onto the ball of the foot and as you get better decrease the use of the wall.  The pelvis needs to be level here, so watch that it is not falling down on one side.  Practise doing sets of 5 repetitions every day and when this gets easy add more until you can pump out 10 on each leg without falling over.

Progression: Move on from calf raises to hopping. Start with one hop and progress to multiple hops in a row. Practice 3-5 sets of multiple hops, 3 times a week. Progress further by having consistency in landing in one spot. Place a marker on the ground (10cm circle). Practice this every couple days by jumping on a marker.  Get someone to count the number of times you hit the mark.  Remember you are after a high accuracy rate. The goal is to get a nice high hop and accurately hit the marker at least 7 times in 10 hops.

To achieve level 2 – you are able to continuously hop up and down landing accurately on a 10cm marker at least 7 times in 10 hops.

Progression: involves now hopping (single leg) forwards and backwards, and side to side multiple times over a marked line. To develop control and endurance start with just a few repetitions in each direction. Establish an effective leg, body and arm rhythm. Gradually build up the number of hops forward and back over the line to 10 times (which = 20 jumps in total). Similarly develop the ability to hop side to side over the line, pushing off and landing on the same foot each time. Repeat with the other leg. Practise every 2nd day.

Juniors can perform this skill with two legs (jumping) at a time for each direction.

To achieve Level 3 – you need to have demonstrated the ability to hop on a single leg forward and backward 10 times (=20 jumps) over a line, and 10 times from side to side. Juniors can use two legs at a time.

Progression: involves increasing your forward hopping power and distance. Practice this skill every couple days to really develop the explosive strength in your legs.  Challenge or progress yourself by trying to decrease the number of hops you need to cover a  set distance on each leg. The goal is to cover 10 metres (or 7m for juniors) in 5 or less hops on one leg.

To achieve level 4 – means you can hop on one leg and travel forward 10 metres (juniors 7m) in 5 or less hops.

Progression: involves hopping in a zig-zag pattern. Practise hopping in the direction of a straight marked line, landing on alternate sides of the line with each hop on the same foot. Ensure you are well warmed up and not fatigued to practise this. Gradually build up your power, distance and control until you can zig-zag hop on each single leg 10 metres (7 metres for juniors) in 7 or less hops.

To achieve Level 5 – means that you have demonstrated the ability to zig-zag hop 10 meters in < 7 hops on each leg. Juniors need to cover 7 metres.

Maintain: Practise sets of this hopping drill twice a week. Ensure you are not experiencing any pain with this exercise. If you have pain stop and return to training at a lower level. Enjoy the leg power, control and stability that comes from this level of ability.

Station 4

Shoulder blade set/pull Strength

Pulling is another foundational movement that we use every day.  As soccer is a total-body sport and a soccer player’s body needs to function as a complete unit, upper body strength including pulling exercises can give you an edge over other players.  Upper body strength is required to propel the body forward, maintain balance and increase overall speed.  Soccer matches can be quite aggressive with players constantly struggling for position against one another by using both their upper and lower body.  Upper-body strength training is a necessary component of your program in order to improve your overall skill set.

To achieve level 1 – means you can hold your shoulder blades in an ideal starting position for 5 repetitions of 5 seconds. Learn to set the shoulder blades correctly so the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades are balanced and are ready to provide the required strength needs for a given exercise.  The shoulder blades must sit flat against the rib cage, not lifted into the ears but sitting so that the chest remains open.  Practice getting into the position and have someone watch you to make sure the position is correct.  Once you are confident the position is right, hold this for 5 seconds.  Continue to practise until you can perform 5 reps with 5 second holds.

To progress: at this level lift your arms up so they look like goal posts.  Draw the shoulders back and hold for 5 seconds.  Again have someone watch you to make sure the positioning is correct.  Start with 2 – progress to 5 reps with 5 sec holds.

To achieve Level 2 – means you have mastered shoulder blade positioning with the arms at 90/90 for 5 repetitions of 5 seconds.

Progression: Lying on your tummy with your straight arms by your sides and set your shoulder blades correctly.   It is recommended that you have someone look at your shoulder blade position to make sure they are set correctly.  Progress by taking your arms out from yours sides to 90 degrees from your body and practice setting your shoulder blades in this position – start with 5 reps and progress it to 10.   Once you mastered this take the arms from shoulder height with correct positioning to overhead again paying attention to shoulder blade position.  Practice this for 3 reps and work it up to 10.   Once you have the strength and alignment, set your shoulder blades and combine the movements so you are taking your arms continuously from your hips to overhead and return, 10 times in a row.

To achieve Level 3 – means you have the ability to set your shoulder blades and take the arms from hips to overhead and return 10 times whilst lying face down.

Progression: Develop your endurance with the same movement. Work up gradually from your 10 rep ability to 15 and then 20 repetitions without any rest. Practice 3 sets per sessions. Keep your spine well aligned and do not arch your lower back. Remember your shoulder blade position!

To achieve Level 4 – means that you have developed shoulder blade setting endurance enabling you to lie face down and take your hands from the sides of your hips out to the side and lengthened overhead and return for 20 continuous repetitions.

Progress: to train for level 5 lie under a horizontal bar (e.g. fence bar or a strong broom stick secured across two chairs).  Grab the bar with your hands and pull yourself up into a full range horizontal body row.  Maintain straight legs and a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Start with 3 reps or where you feel you start to lose form – gradually increase the number of reps as you are able to keep your form. Practice every 2nd or 3rd day. Ensure you are not experiencing any pain with this exercise. If you have pain stop and return to training at a lower level. The goal is to achieve 10 continuous quality full range horizontal body rows.

To achieve Level 5 – means you can perform 10 continuous quality full range horizontal body rows maintaining straight leg, body and neck alignment while your arms fully straighten between each repetition.

Maintain your ability by practising 2-3 sets of 10, 2-3 times a week. Your presence on the field should be even more noticed.

Station 5

Push Strength

Pushing is one of the foundational movements we use each and every day.  Strong, effective pushing requires good upper body strength.  People often don’t think soccer players’ use their upper arms, because they’re usually just thinking leg strength, kicking and running but there are a lot of shoulder and wrist injuries from falling or when players are trying to hold off opponents and fighting for the ball.  When you get knocked down to the ground you need your upper body to quickly push up with and get right back into play.

The achieve level 1 – means you can maintain well aligned arms, shoulders, body and hips whilst resting on your knees and hands with straight elbows – 5 repetitions of 5 second holds. Learn to set the shoulder blades correctly so the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades are balanced and are ready to provide the required strength needs for a given exercise.  The shoulder blades must sit flat on your rib cage, not lifted into the ears but sitting so that the chest remains open.  Practise getting into the position and have someone watch you as it is a bit more challenging when you are on hands and knees.  The back should be nice and straight – no sagging at the lower back, head should be looking at the ground in line with the back.  Aim to hold this position for 5 secs and repeat.  When you repeat, come out of the position and reset so that you learn proper shoulder blade positioning.

Progression: Once you understand how to get to the proper position, then slowly lower the body down into a push up position done on the knees.  Start with 3 reps with perfect shoulder blade position lowering the body to the floor so that the nose lightly touches it working up to 10 repetitions. Practise 3 sets of quality repetitions, 3 times a week.

To achieve Level 2 – means that you have demonstrated body and shoulder blade setting and stability whilst performing 10 push ups on your knees.

Progression: involves performing push ups on your toes. Start with single reps, and gradually progress the number you can do in a row up to 10 full push ups. Practise 3 sets every second day. Again you need to have good shoulder blade placement, a straight neutral spine and your head must look at the floor. Lightly touch your nose to the ground in the down position, and fully straighten your elbows when up.

To achieve level 3 – means that you can perform 10 repetitions of ideal push up technique on the hands and toes. Keep your body in ideal alignment – so the head back and pelvis all remain in straight.

Progression: Stand up and do single arm pushes against a wall.  You should be standing an arm’s length away with hand at shoulder height, other hand behind back – once again keeping ideal alignment.   Start by doing 3 sets of 5 reps progressing gradually up to 10 reps on each arm.

To achieve Level 4 – means that you have demonstrated 10 repetitions of single arm wall presses with your feet one arm’s length away from the wall or goal post. Great form is required with no twisting, maintaining correct position of the shoulder blade and your body and no arch in the back.

Progression: Get back on the ground and set up in ideal push up position (no saggy backs and keep perfect straight alignment).  The challenge here is one foot needs to be in the air so there are only 3 points of contact with the ground.  Engage your core muscles to keep ideal alignment.  Keep your form and lower down and lightly touch the nose to the ground – everything else stays aligned.  Start with 3 reps on one leg at a time. Gradually increase your reps to 10 on one leg. Repeat using other leg. Perform three sets every three days.

To achieve Level 5 – means that you can perform 10 perfect form push ups whilst resting on the hands and the toes of one foot only, followed immediately by another set of 10 push ups whilst resting on the other foot.

Maintenance: Maintain your ability by practising 2 sets of 10, 2-3 times a week. If you have pain stop and return to training at a lower level. Not only will your core, chest and arms be strong, you will also be developing your hip flexor (kicking) strength.

Station 6

Trunk/Glutes

The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body and one of the most powerful.  Developing your glutes will help you greatly increase your strength in lower body movements such as squats and lunges and importantly your speed in running.  They are also crucial for power generation (creating a lot of power quickly), as well as one of the muscles most responsible for vertical jump height which is an asset in soccer.

To achieve Level 1 – means that you can lie on your back with your knees bent and keep your body steady as you raise one leg 10 times in a row from the ground to the horizontal shin position and returning, and repeating with the other leg. To learn how to lift the leg up to the horizontal while maintaining good body alignment through the rest of the body means the back cannot arch or flatten – you must keep a natural curve in the lower back.  Additionally, the pelvis cannot tip it must remain parallel.  Practice lifting one leg up and down a few times and repeat on the other side. Gradually build up the number of reps on each side to 10.

Progression: Similar exercise to level one, however just raise one foot slightly off the ground and straighten the leg out lengthwise and return. Keep the moving leg low and return with no rest.  Aim for 3- 5 repetitions on each side while keeping good form in the back and pelvis. Practice three sets on each side.

To achieve level 2 – means that you can do 5 continuous repetitions on each side of extending one leg out leg out, keeping it low and returning while maintaining a neutral back position and level pelvis.

Progression: To progress this to a level 3 exercise instead of lengthening the leg out keep the leg stationary and lift the buttocks.  Keep a straight line from shoulders to knees with arms folded across the chest.  Start with 3 reps holding for 5 seconds. Practise 3 sets, 3 times a week. The focus is to increase the number of repetitions so as to increase your glute muscle strength which is vitally important for the requirements of soccer.   Progress to 10 reps holding for 5 seconds each.

To achieve Level 3 – means that you have established ideal bridge technique (keeping a straight line from shoulders to knees with arms folded across the chest) and can perform 10 repetitions each held for 5 seconds.

Progression: involves maintaining a level hips up position (inline with the shoulders and knees) – whilst straightening out one leg (keeping your thighs parallel) and returning the leg by bending at the knee.  Use your buttock and core muscles to hold your hips level and watch that you do not arch your back.  Ideal alignment must be maintained as you aim to complete your repetitions. Start with 3 reps on each side progressing as your strength improves to 10 reps on each side.

To achieve level 4 – means you that you can keep the buttocks up and hips level while straightening out one leg 10 times in a row without a rest, and repeat with the other leg.

Progression: Once level 4 becomes quite manageable, progress further by just using a single leg to do a bridge, lifting the hips up and down (with a light touch down on the ground between reps) whilst the other leg remains out straight in the air.  Remember the alignment of your pelvis, keeping your back nice and straight.  Start with a few reps on each side and increase to >20 reps on each leg. Practise every second day. Ensure you are not experiencing any pain with this exercise. If you have pain stop and return to training at a lower level.

To achieve level 5 – means that you can perform more than 20 repetitions of the single leg bridge on each leg. This requires power, control and alignment. The pelvis remains level and the bottom lifted so that the body obtains a nice straight line.

Maintain your ability by practising 3 sets of 20 on each leg, 2-3 times a week.

Station 7

Trunk/Front

Developing core strength is a very important part of a strength training program for soccer. A strong core helps a player avoid injury, build agility, and become faster. It helps the upper body and lower body work in unison, rather than be out of balance.

Regular soccer movements such as kicking, running, and cutting can place uneven demands on the body. For example, it’s normal for a typical right-footed soccer player to have a more developed right leg. Core strength keeps a body balanced so that all muscle groups are similarly developed and working together.

It’s not enough for soccer players to develop strong quadriceps and calves without working on core strength. Upper and lower body strength becomes irrelevant without a strong core to help deliver the efficient power and speed; also, a weak core tends to lead to instability and injury.

To achieve level 1 – means that you can maintain a neutral spine when on your hands and knees as you lift one arm to the horizontal position and return 5 times on each side. This movement is then followed by extending each leg only, back into the horizontal position 5 times. The key to successfully completing this level and progressing to the next is form.  When on your hands and knees you must be able to maintain a neutral spine and keep the hips level so there is no sagging.  This position must be maintained without rotating when the arm or the leg is lifted.  At this level it is good practise to do a few in front of the mirror or have someone watch you to make sure you are maintaining form.

Progression:  involves lifting the opposite arm and leg together.  If you can hold good form (no sagging of the back) start with 3 reps on each side holding for 5 sec, gradually progressing up to 10 reps with each combination. Work this exercise into your strengthening program every 2 or 3rd day.

To achieve Level 2 – means that whilst on your hands and knees, you can maintain neutral spine alignment and lift the opposite arm and leg for 5 seconds, 10 times one way (20 times in total) .

Progression: involves dropping down into the plank position, resting on your forearms and toes. Hold this position with ideal posture (neutral back, no lower back sag, level hips and head looking at the ground – body in a straight line).  Start with holding this position for 5-10 sec and gradually work up to 30 sec (junior) or 60 sec while maintaining good form. Do 2-3 repetitions each session, and repeat 3 times a week.

To achieve Level 3 – means that you are able to maintain a plank position for 30 sec (junior) or 60 sec while with good form.

Progression: involves holding the plank position whilst lifting one leg up for 3-5 seconds and then the other leg for 3- 5 secs while maintaining the plank position.  You may start the alternate leg lifts holding the plank for 20 seconds and as you get stronger holding the plank for longer as you lift the legs alternately for 5 seconds each. The goal is to perform these leg lifts over a 60 second period.

To achieve Level 4 – means that you can hold a plank for 60 seconds on the forearms and toes with good form (head looking at the ground, neutral spine, no sag in the lower back, level hips) while lifting each leg alternately holding for 5 seconds at a time.

Progression: involves starting in the plank position and then alternately lifting the opposite arm and leg together for 5 seconds while maintaining good form. Start with just a few repetitions, allowing for rests and perform 3 sets, 3 times a week. Your goal is to achieve continuous arm and leg lifts over a 60 second period. Ensure you experience no pain with this exercise, otherwise train at a lower level.

To achieve Level 5 – means that you can maintain a 60 second plank with ideal form whilst also alternately lifting the opposite arm and leg from the ground every 5 seconds. Great core stability is required to be at this level.  Functional core stability requires stability at the trunk but the ability to move at the arms and legs.  At level 5 the core needs to be stabilized in ideal position (head looking at the ground, neutral spine, no sag in the lower back, level hips).

Maintenance: Core stability training should be an important part of your program and should be done every 2 or 3 days. This exercise is a good one to include once you have the ability.

Station 8

Trunk/side

Core Strength and effective core stability is mandatory in becoming a strong and successful soccer player.  In soccer, core strength not only can impact the athlete’s ability to move fast and change direction quickly, but is vital to the ability to win tackles. Core muscles are important for a soccer player as they serve a base for endurance, posture, strength, power, coordination, and reducing likelihood of injury.  Training the core to be stronger, more powerful, and more stable is very essential in soccer players and in athletes in general.

To achieve Level 1 – means that you can lie side on to the ground, then rise onto your forearm and bent knee and maintain a streamlined position for 5 seconds with the head, shoulders, pelvis and thighs in a straight line.  You must check that there is no sagging happening through the hips as you hold them up.  The shoulders should not come up as you balance on the forearm. Your top hand can rest on your hip. A suggestion is to practise this in front of a mirror or with someone to watch you to make sure your position looks good.  Remember your position and form is key!  Start by holding this for 3-5 seconds aiming for 5 and check your form is the same on both the right and left sides

Progression: involves gradually increasing the number of 5 second side planks you can do in a row. Practise 3-5 sets, 3 times a week. Work up to 5 repeats of 5 second holds, with 5 second rests each, per side to reach Level 2.

To achieve level 2 – your side plank form (with bent knees) should look fantastic, keeping a straight body posture, and you should be able to do 5 repeats of 5 second holds, with 5 second rests after each rep, per side. Always check to see that your shoulder is stable and that your head, breastbone, belly button and thighs are in a straight line and your hips have not begun to sag.

Progression: involves performing the side plank on a bent knee and straightening out the top leg holding it horizontal in the air. When returning the straight leg only lightly touch the ground.  Start by doing 2 leg lifts working up to 5. Practise a few sets on each side, three times a week.  Remember: don’t let those hips sag.

To achieve Level 3 – means that you can maintain a side plank on a bent knee and be able to lift and lower a straightened top leg 5 times in a row. Light touch down of the top leg is allowed with each repetition.

Progression: Now it is time to further challenge yourself by decreasing your support.  Straighten out the legs and rest on the outside of your lower foot so the knee is no longer in contact with the ground. Your core now has a further requirement to support the additional weight.  Ensure your form is streamlined with the nose, breast bone and belly button all in straight line in relation to each other and there is no sagging at the hips. Once you can get this position aim to hold it for 5 sec.  Repeat it on each side, and gradually build your ability to repeat 5 times on each side. Practise two to three times a week.

To achieve Level 4 – means that you can hold the side plank for 5 seconds with straight knees, and do 5 repetitions with light hip touch down after each rep. Good form is required with a stable shoulder, and the nose, breast bone, belly button and legs all in straight line in relation to each other with no sagging at the hips.

Progression: hold your straight side plank position and try lifting the top leg up to the horizontal without compromising your form at all.  If you can do 1 of these work it up every second day to reach 10 on each side without losing form.

To achieve Level 5 – means that you can maintain a straight leg side plank on each side with optimal form whilst lifting the top leg up to the horizontal and down 10 times continuously.

Maintain your level 5 side plank ability by practising 3 sets twice a week.

Station 9

Active Straight Leg Raise

Flexibility and maintaining flexibility is important to help maintain mobility on the sporting field and in daily life. If flexibility is limited, overall performance can suffer. For example, improved flexibility can contribute to help improve stride length when running and hence speed, or increase your chance of reaching and controlling a wide ball. Flexibility can also help to reduce the risk or extent of injury.  If a joint is placed outside of its available range of movement the connective tissues can be strained or placed under great pressure.  This pressure increases the risk of straining and tearing the tissue.  In addition, an imbalance of flexibility can lead to injury, as imbalances can pull the body out of alignment, which again places uneven pressure and tension on our body’s tissues. It is therefore worthwhile maintaining flexibility by including stretching in your warm down routine after training or a game or at another time during the week. Research has suggested the best way to warm up before a game is building up from low intensity activity to higher intensity mimicking the movements and skills involved with play, this can involve dynamic (movement) stretching. Static stretching before exercise is no longer recommended.

The active straight leg raise is only one measure of flexibility, but is a relevant one for football which requires freedom of leg movement to run and kick. Start by lying on your back with your legs out straight. Lift one leg as high as you can whilst keeping your other leg flat on the ground. The measurement is taken by dropping a line from your raised ankle to the lower leg.

There are many ways to stretch your hamstrings. Coordinate your breathing whilst stretching, by slowly exhaling when the muscle is on stretch and inhaling when the stretch is reduced. Chose a method that is safe for your back.

For example –

Dynamic (continuous movement) hamstring stretching such as standing and swinging one leg at a time back and forth 20 times, or lying on your back and lifting the leg back and forth towards and away from the head 20 times (this is the Active Straight Leg raise). Keep your pelvis stable as you perform this movement.

Static (hold) stretching – sitting on the edge of a chair with one leg out straight and heel resting on the floor, lean your straight body forward till a stretch is felt and held for 20 -30 seconds x 3. Or lying on your back with your lower leg through a doorway and your raised leg resting up on the door frame for 2 minutes on each side.

Level 1 means – that your hamstrings are extremely tight. The recommendation is that daily stretching becomes a priority in your exercise program.  This lack of flexibility can increase the potential for injury.

Level 2 means – that your hamstrings are very tight. The recommendation is that daily stretching becomes a priority in your exercise program.  This lack of flexibility can increase the potential for injury.

Level 2 means – your hamstrings are moderately tight. The recommendation is that you include stretching after each training and playing session.

Level 4 means – your hamstrings are flexible. You can still improve further. Continue with your current stretching regime and enhance your effect by using breathing more and holding your stretches a longer.

Level 5 means – you have very flexible hamstrings. Maintain your flexibility with your current routine.

Station 10

Hamstring Strength

Along the back of your legs runs a collection of muscles that combine to form your hamstrings. This powerful muscle group crosses your hip and knee joints, making it a key muscle group for the movement of your legs. Having strong hamstrings provides many benefits that you can reap both on and off the field.

Increased Speed

Strong, well-developed hamstring muscles contribute to increased speed. Your hamstring muscles work when you accelerate from a standstill until you reach your full speed. As you continue to run, the hamstring stops your lower leg from swinging too far forward. This repetitive pushing-and-pulling motion can tear a weak hamstring muscle. Even strong hamstring muscles can fail under this amount of stress and become injured.

Knee Stability

Strong hamstring muscles keep the knee stable as you run, jump or change direction. This is necessary to lower your risk of knee injury including a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL sits inside your knee; when it tears, it hurts and stops you from exercising or participating in your favourite sport. Strong hamstring muscles balance the tension placed on your knees from the stronger quadriceps that run along the front of the thighs.

The goal at level 1 – is to learn to perform an effective Nordic Hamstring exercise. Kneel on the soft ground, have a partner hold your feet to the ground, fold your arms, lean forward approximately 20° from your knees and hold for 3 seconds, then fall forward and catch yourself as your hands reach the ground. When performing the Nordic hamstring exercise it is important that you maintain a neutral position.  This means the thighs, pelvis, back and head are all stacked on top of each other and move together in a straight line.  Often when the hamstrings are weak there will be a temptation to bend at the hips and stick the bottom out.  At this level you need to learn to resist sticking the bottom out and keep the body in a nice straight line.

To achieve Level 1 means that you can hold this streamlined position for at least 3 seconds and repeat 4 times.

Progression: involves gradually increasing the number of repetitions you can do from 4 to 7. Practice a couple of sets twice a week.

To achieve Level 2 – means that you can perform at least 7 repetitions of the Nordic Hamstring action (20° forward le an from the knees) each held for 3 seconds. Straight alignment from your knees, hips, body and head is maintained throughout. Land onto your hands between each repetition and return to upright kneeling.

Progression: involves gradually increasing the number of repetitions you can do from 7 to 10. Practise a couple of sets twice a week.

To achieve Level 3 – means that you can perform at least 10 repetitions of the Nordic Hamstring action (20° forward lean from the knees) each held for 3 seconds. Straight alignment from your knees, hips, body and head is maintained throughout. Land onto your hands between each repetition and return to upright kneeling.

Progression: involves gradually increasing the number of repetitions you can do from 10 to 15. Practise a couple of sets twice a week.

To achieve Level 4 – means that you can perform at least 15 repetitions of the Nordic Hamstring action (20° forward lean from the knees) each held for 3 seconds. Straight alignment from your knees, hips, body and head is maintained throughout. Land onto your hands between each repetition and return to upright kneeling.

Progression: from the Nordic hamstring exercise is the single leg hamstring bridge. This time, lie on your back with the heel of the working foot up on a bench or chair and your knee bent 20°, and the other leg held straight up in the air.  The aim is to lift the bottom up from the ground to a level position, then lower down and repeat. This means the pelvis lifts up as well as the back without arching at the back.  The pelvis also does not tip to one side or the other but remains level.  The goal at this level is to do more than 10 reps with ideal form on each leg.

Practise every third day. Ensure you are not experiencing any pain with this exercise. If you have pain stop and return to training at a lower level. The goal is to achieve 10 continuous quality single leg bridges.

To achieve Level 5 – hamstring strength means you can perform greater than 10 repetitions of the single leg hamstring bridge. This is where you lie on your back with the heel of the working foot up on a bench or chair and your knee bent 20°, with the other leg held straight up in the air.  You lift the bottom up from the ground to a level position, then lower down and repeat. This means the pelvis lifts up as well as the back without arching at the back.  The pelvis also does not tip to one side or the other but remains level.

Maintain your ability by practising 3-5 sets of 10 single leg hamstring bridges, 2-3 times a week.

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