Sir Stanley Matthews, Ryan Giggs, Peter Shilton, Teddy Sheringham – only a handful of players have made it to their 40th birthday while playing in one of the most physically demanding soccer competitions in the world, the Premier League, known for its tough schedule, lenient refereeing and lack of easy games.
United States shot-stopper Brad Friedel joined the over-40s club on May 22nd, 2011, when he turned out for Aston Villa in their Premier League clash with Liverpool, just days after his 40th birthday. The veteran keeper would continue playing in the British top flight for another four seasons, before calling time on his playing days in 2015, aged 44.
Such longevity is rare in the profession game. Goalkeepers are known to retire later than outfield players, but to continue at the highest level well into his 40s was a remarkable achievement for Friedel. However, it wasn’t good genetics or a stroke of luck that helped him cope with the physical demands of the sport for so long, but a quadriceps injury early on in his 30s, which forced him to rethink his training methods as he approached the later stages of his career.
During his time at rehab, Friedel was informed: “Your core should be much more flexible than it is. It’s strong but it’s tight and you’re going to continue to get these injuries if you don’t sort that out. We’ve got pilates, we’ve got yoga and so on.”
Yoga has been a key component of his training routine ever since. Performing yoga not only enhances flexibility, but it also helps to control your breathing, which will, in turn, improve your stamina and help you to perform at a higher intensity for longer periods of time.
While performing exercises such as yoga or pilates may seem unnecessary, these small additions to your training methods can be hugely beneficial. In fact, many top level goalkeepers take it upon themselves to practice alternative training routines outside of their on-field activities in order to maintain their fitness, build on their abilities and ultimately continue to perform at their very best.
Manchester City and England keeper Joe Hart is a big fan of training in a swimming pool on his rest days, as it allows him to maintain his physical abilities without putting too much pressure on his joints following a grueling match or session.
Hart isn’t alone in his thinking – water training is beginning to gain some traction within the professional community, where it is viewed as the perfect exercise to get players back in shape while they recover from injury or fatigue. As less of a strain is placed on bones and joints, training in the water allows players to regain their cardiovascular fitness without less risk of suffering a setback in their recovery.
Just because you’re training as a goalkeeper, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend all of your time out on the field between the sticks. There are plenty of other sports and exercises that can provide you with all of the physical and mental requirements that are needed to become a top shot-stopper, as explained by Hart.
“Before and after training I do pilates on the reformer machine and strength sessions around that,” Hart reveals. “There’s basketball, volleyball, handball – in all those hand-based sports, the angles and the jumping styles are crazy. Even stuff like cricket.”
There is no wrong or right way to train as a goalkeeper and tailoring your exercise regime to suit your needs and interests will not only allow you to reap the health benefits that come with regular, varied exercise, but it will also ensure that you continue to enjoy yourself. You took up goalkeeping because you enjoy it – don’t let a static, dull training schedule take the fun out of the game.