The England women’s national football team is hot off the back of an excellent performance in the World Cup, at which they narrowly lost to the United States in the semi-final. Their captivating performance throughout the tournament inspired a nation, with men, women and children watching avidly and digging their old football boots out the cupboard.

With all the excitement and development, there has never been a better time to get involved in football and join the 3 million active female players across England.

To help new and experienced players up their game and improve their performance, we asked Kelly Smith, the ex-England and Arsenal player who’s widely considered to be one of the nation’s best-ever players, what it takes to train like a Lioness.

How to train like a Lioness with Kelly Smith

After making her debut as a Lioness against Italy in 1995, Kelly went on to receive 117 caps and score a record 46 goals for England. During her career, she played in four European Championships and the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. She was also part of the Team GB squad at the 2012 London Olympics. She was awarded the MBE in 2008.

According to Kelly, “There are so many important physical attributes a footballer needs as the game is so demanding. I would say there are seven major components:

  • Agility – You have to be agile and move your feet quickly and change direction and position of the body quickly with and without the ball.
  • Balance and control – There are so many movements that happen in a football game. This is with and without a football as you dribble, jump, turn, pass, and place your body into a variety of positions.
  • Power and strength – You have to know and understand how to effectively use your body to win a physical battle. I wasn’t the biggest of players but had good upper body strength and knew how to use my arms to hold off players.
  • Speed – You need to accelerate and decelerate quickly both with and without a football at your feet.
  • Stamina – You have to be able to last 90+ minutes. As your body tires your decision making and touch are affected, and you make mistakes.”

Kelly’s advice on what to focus on in training

“Everyone is different and has different needs, but it’s key to strengthen the core muscles, glutes, hamstrings and quads because the stronger all these muscles are, the less impact goes through the knee joints. Instead, your muscles take the load, preventing injury. Focus on your lower extremities such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves to build speed and explosiveness.

During the season, you need to focus on maintenance work to keep your muscles supple and strong, and stability/balance work to help with injury prevention. Good exercises include squats, single leg lunges, side lunges, calf raises, and glute band work.”

What does a professional football player’s training schedule look like?

When Kelly was playing, her training schedule looked something like this:

Sunday – Match day.

Monday – A recovery day e.g. a light 20/30 minute bike and stretch, or a 30 minute swim and stretch.

Tuesday – Football training on the pitch followed by a gym session.

Wednesday – Football training.

Thursday – Football training on the pitch followed by a gym session.

Friday – No training.

Saturday – Light football session working on set pieces and any individual work alone or within units. 

Kelly’s tips on staying mentally strong

Inevitably, playing professional sport can be extremely mentally challenging and require a lot of hard work.

Kelly’s advice on staying motivated during training is to focus on your long-term results.

“When it gets hard and you feel like you can’t do it, I used to tell myself it’s not going to last that long and it will benefit me in the long run. I always wanted to strive to be better and get stronger and be the best I could be.”

When it comes to dealing with setbacks and injuries, she advocates talking it out.

“It’s hard when you have an injury because you can’t train and do what you love and what makes you feel good. I always worked with a physio every injury and did extra work to get myself back on the field as quickly as possible. I found talking about my frustrations helped me as normally I would hold the anger in, and it would affect how I was as a person.”

Get started on your training at David Lloyd Clubs, with a wide range of fitness equipment, specialised workout classes, unmatched swimming facilities and more. Contact your local club today to get started.

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How to Train like a Lioness with Kelly Smith
To help new and experienced players up their game and improve their performance, we asked Kelly Smith what it takes to train like a Lioness. Read more here.
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David Lloyd Clubs
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