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The Off-Season: A Window of Opportunity

The off-season period is a time to rest and recover, but also to rebuild for the coming season. Don’t let it pass you by.


Every summer, footballers have about 4–6 weeks off from regular training or competition. Colloquially called the ‘off-season’, this period often involves a lot of rest and recovery, which is needed after a long, arduous season. While you should absolutely rest and recover, you should view this period as your pre-pre-season—not a month of burgers and beer. To learn why, read on.

Avoid Detraining

When we abruptly stop exercising, we can become detrained. In other words, we can lose the physiological adaptations (e.g., fitness, strength, muscle size) that we built from regular exercise. As you can imagine, this is common for footballers in the off-season. This is to be avoided at all costs. Going into pre-season detrained is going to leave you chasing your tail because you will be playing catch-up, and you will be at a heightened risk of injury (1). In fact, while trying to get back into shape quickly, you will also suffer on the technical side of things, as you will be too fatigued to optimally absorb technical coaching points (1).

Coach Morgan giving technical coaching points to players.

How To Avoid This

Make sure that you continue to train this off-season. I’m not saying that you should be going balls-to-the-wall (don’t), but you shouldn’t be taking the whole time off. What you need are clear training objectives (1). The off-season is not the time to try and improve all aspects of your physiology, but it is the time to prepare your body for pre-season.

Sample Off-Season Training Plan

At minimum, you should train two times per week to avoid detraining (1). For footballers, it is recommended that one of these sessions is a high-intensity training session, e.g., 5 x 4 minutes of hard running at 90–95% capacity (with an appropriate warm up and cool down). This will help to ensure that you retain some cardiovascular and neuromuscular fitness (1). The other session should be focused on strength and power work. A good routine could include the FIFA 11+ warm-up (Figure 1), with some additional multi-joint strength exercise performed afterwards in the gym, e.g., squat or deadlift (1). When performed 1–2 times per week throughout the season, the FIFA 11+ routine has been shown to lower injury rates by ~30%, and severe injury rates by 45% (2).

FIFA 11+ warm-up routine.

Figure 1. The FIFA 11+ warm-up routine (2)

Identify Training Objectives

Following the sample plan above is a good start, and will make sure you retain some fitness and strength/power, which will help you enter pre-season in a good spot. However, that is the minimum recommendation. To truly nail the off-season period, you should identify one or two specific objectives to complete.

For example, perhaps you struggle with cardiovascular fitness. In this case, this should be a focus of your off-season work. On the other hand, if you are an engine on the pitch but lack strength or power, this should be your focus. Or, if you are injury-prone, perhaps your focus should be on injury prevention, e.g., if your hamstring often ‘goes’, focus on hamstring strengthening (e.g., Nordic curls) before incorporating sprints into your routine.

Further, the off-season is the perfect time to focus on improving some small details on the technical side of the game, like perfecting a specific finish as a striker, or perfecting your ability to pass with your weaker foot.


It is our hope that you use the off-season as a time to rebuild and prepare your body for pre-season. Further, we hope you also improve your technical ability this off-season, and get a jump on everyone else.

If you want supplemental football training to improve as a footballer, or to train with us this off-season, reach out to our team of expert coaches at [email protected] to get started.

All the best!

Patrick Elliott, BSc, MPH

Health and Nutrition Science Communication Officer at Training121

Health Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice. For health advice, speak to a physician or other qualified health-care professional, and for nutrition advice, speak to a qualified nutrition professional (e.g., registered dietitian). The use of information on this site is solely at your own risk.


(1) Silva JR, Brito J, Akenhead R, Nassis GP. The Transition Period in Soccer: A Window of Opportunity. Sports Med. 2016;46(3):305-13. Available at:

(2) Soligard T, Myklebust G, Steffen K, et al. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;337:a2469. Available at:

Technical Terms

Detraining: This is when we lose the physiological adaptations (e.g., fitness, strength, muscle size) that we developed by regular training. The state of being detrained is informed by the principle of training reversibility, which states that while physical training results in several physiological adaptations, stopping or drastically reducing training reduces the physiological adaptations we developed, either partially or completely.

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