How to Improve your Football Game: Sports Scientist and Strength Conditioner Alex Berger

This week here at OnTheBallBlog, I sat down with Alex Berger, a Sports Scientist and Strength/Conditioning Coach. Alex has spent 6 years coaching amongst some of the best football clubs across England, experiencing football at the highest level in both the English Championship and Premier League. Some of the clubs he has worked with include Millwall Lions FC, West Brom Albion FC, Charlton Athletic FC and Leister City FC .

Throughout this blog, Alex shares with us his experiences and knowledge of what it was like training the present and future generation of footballers at the top level. Here is your chance to get a strength and conditioner coaches’ perspective to how football players can improve their game in the gym and on the field.

Alex Berger at Charlton Athletic FC

Tell us a bit about yourself; your qualifications, experiences in the industry and current position in what you do.

I’ve always played football myself & having never been good enough as a player, for me the next best thing was to work with professional footballers. Specifically, I gained more of an in-depth interest in sport science, rehabilitation, preparation techniques and Strength & Conditioning for team sport athletes after injuring my knee, badly tearing my meniscus and patella tendon. This stopped me from playing for more than a year and during this time I started a Bachelor of Sport Science.

From there, I gained a hunger to continually enhance my knowledge & have gone on to complete a Honours Degree by Research, Analysing GPS variation in football matches, and more recently a Masters of Research in Sport Science looking at Stretch Shortening Cycle efficiency in Youth Footballers.

My journey working in professional football in the UK took me to;  Millwall FC, Leicester City FC, West Bromwich Albion FC & most recently Charlton Athletic FC where I was the Lead Academy Sport Scientist, working to bring through next generation of U23’s footballers into the 1st team and was lucky enough to work with some amazingly talented professional footballers.

Currently, I’m working as a Speed Development Coach for the Roger Fabri Speed Academy & at Sydney Grammar School as an Athletic Development Coach. I’m also using my knowledge and skills to help pro players prepare for the next A-League season.

What is the importance of weightlifting for a professional football player?

The importance of Strength & Conditioning, and specifically Strength training for the professional footballer is of MONUMENTAL importance to keeping players on the pitch. There is a stigma in football, that strength training will make you bulky and slow, this MAY be true if you are training like a body builder, however, the importance of strength training, isn’t only to benefit muscles alone. It can help develop the tissue resiliency of; tendons, ligaments, how far a muscle can stretch without tearing, encourage muscles to work with better synchronicity and address weak links in the chain.

We know that Sport and Football has only gotten quicker and more physically demanding over the last 10 years, so not only do you need to make sure you are resilient and stay on the pitch, you’ve got to be able to produce and withstand more force quickly, be much more powerful, jump higher, accelerate harder and be able to produce these high intensity efforts more frequently during a match. Strength training acts as the building blocks for many of these physiological requirements.

Alex Berger at Millwall FCU18’s Academy

How often should a professional footballer be weightlifting and sprint training, how long until results begin to show?

How often a Professional footballer should be lifting per week depends on his or her training age in the gym, what they are used to and how hard they recover. However in season, with 1 match per week: I would typically have players perform a pure strength training session x 1, a robustness and tissue resilience session focusing on strength through a large range of motion x 1, a low volume power session x 1 and hitting at least 90% of a players own Maximum Velocity (speed) during sprinting x 1 per week, as well as a variety flexibility and balance work throughout the week. Probably the biggest thing I see professional players not doing well enough though, is not putting enough effort into their recovery.

What is the biggest aspect for football players to focus on away from the football pitch?

The two most important aspects for a professional player to focus on away from the pitch would definitely be recovery and nutrition. Recovery should start the moment players exit the pitch or gym from training, this includes adequate protein, carbohydrate and water intake. General rule of thumb is 2L/Day (much more on training and match days or if its hotter), and the more intense the session the greater requirement for Carbohydrate intake. As a footballer a high protein intake is going to be really importance to maintain a lean muscle mass, but also to begin the process of rebuilding muscle damage due to matches/training or gym training.

Recovery wise, I encourage players to figure out what makes them feel good, is that a sleep in, going for a walk, getting into the ocean, jumping on a bike, yoga, breathing, having a nap in the sunshine, reading a book. What helps you relax and feel good, will help you recover. So, figure out what works for you, because everyone is different.

Alex Berger at Leister City Fc

Out of all players you have worked with in a professional football environment, who would you say is the hardest working person off the pitch?

The hardest working player off the pitch would have to be Wassim Aouachria a player who I worked with at Charlton Athletic who did EVERYTHING in his power to gain strength, fitness, improve his nutrition and was ALWAYS demanding of me to do extras. Sam Edozie and Darko Gyabi from Millwall Youth Academy now at Manchester City FC were also machines that were in the gym early before training and the last ones to leave the gym during strength days.

During your time working amongst Professional Sportsman, what would you like to pass on to the next up and coming generation of footballers?

  1. Enjoy it – if your not enjoying it what’s the point 
  2. Never be satisfied, always have a hunger to do better, to be better, improve every session, every game 
  3. Believe in your self and that there is no other option but for you to succeed 
  4. Develop your physicality early, get strong, learn how to sprint efficiently & get someone to show you how to do things properly & appropriately for your level and goals.

Kristian Brymora is a beast also, that i’ve got heaps of admiration for how he goes about his physical development and preparing himself for matches and training. Watch this space!

Alex is known to be the best in the speed development and football conditioning business along with creating specific programs to improve an individual in every beneficial way possible. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alex, he is a very professional and knowledgable person who has bolster my game in every aspect on the pitch.

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this blog with Alex Berger. To get in touch with Alex for personal enquiries or general questions be sure to hit up his Instagram Page @strengthcoach_berg as well as all of his social media accounts and website tagged below.

Instagram: @strengthcoach_berg

Website Bio: https://www.speedacademy.com.au/alex-bio/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandre-berger-896b4b91/

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