The scientific community in charge of the study of physical activity and sport, including physical trainers, are increasingly looking into the functional study of the body. The latest evidence shows the importance of including the structure of the foot in the athlete’s daily work.
In previous articles we talked about the CORE, or central area of the body, as a fundamental element in the transfer of forces between some extremities and others. This time we leave aside the body to focus on its interaction with the environment.
We all worked on the strength of the upper and lower body. We put a lot of emphasis on the goalkeeper’s ability to shoot far, to clear with strong fists, to jump very high, etc. Without a doubt, strength work on these elements of the body is essential in any gym or training room. It is work of the utmost importance. However, looking at and reflecting on the functionality of the body, we may be neglecting other parts of the body that are also important.
Does a goalkeeper’s performance only depend on the strength of his body?
No, not necessarily. The common element that every goalkeeper and football player faces is the environment: dirt pitches, natural grass pitches, artificial turf pitches… Whatever the circumstances, the goalkeeper must relate to a medium on which he applies the force of his body in order to be able to play. This is where another question arises:
How does the goalkeeper apply force to the ground? What structure is responsible for this task?
The answer is simple, the feet, but we have probably never paid attention to this structure. The foot is undoubtedly the most important anatomical structure when it comes to transferring force to the ground. As such, we must study it, understand it and, above all, involve it in our daily strength training. We are well aware of its importance in the adoption of a correct body structure, as well as the need for it to be strong in order to guarantee correct activation. In addition to this information that appears in the image, the foot itself has a vital function in jumps, collapse saves, runs, etc. A goalkeeper with a stronger foot will probably have a lower percentage of strength loss in a dive than one with a weaker foot. In the end, the goalkeeper’s body is like a football team: if one structure or one player fails, the result has repercussions on the rest.
although it is also responsible for exerting strength. That is why training should be focused on improving these two aspects.
On the other hand, the plantar arch together with the toes are the last structures in contact with the ground. It is important to work on them to ensure a good transfer of forces between the body and the ground. It is no use having a strong quadriceps if the foot is weak and cannot exert force on the ground. Within the work of the plantar arch and toes, the first toe or big toe is undoubtedly the king. This toe, due to the mechanics of any action, is really the last anatomical structure in contact with the ground. This is why the work of all the musculature surrounding it becomes paramount.
A strong foot and toes ensure that we are faster, that we jump higher, that we can change direction, or accelerate faster. Having understood their role, the question clearly arises:
How do we train the goalkeeper’s feet, do we do it in isolation or integrated with the rest of the body?
Either variable is valid and possible. Every day we see proposals for isolated footwork. Using rubber bands, small balls, weights or even your own body weight, you can work on the feet in isolation. A classic example is the work of holding a towel with the toes, which works all the flexors of the toes. We also see people working on unstable surfaces, which indirectly increases the activation of the foot muscles in search of stability. Or even people working barefoot in order to improve the proprioceptive information we take in from our feet.
In short, as I said, the range of possibilities is wide, but at the same time it is slightly limited as there are few places where we can find work adapted to the needs of the goalkeeper, or at least work that can be used as an idea for adaptation. As we have been talking about in previous articles, there is a lot of information on physical preparation, but none of it is specific enough. It is fine to work on the foot muscles with the examples of exercises that we have mentioned before, but it is certainly not the best way to involve this work in our day-to-day life.
On the other hand, integrated footwork is less common and certainly more interesting. Involving this structure in leg or upper body work is a good option. Even designing specific exercises whose globality involves all the structures we have been talking about for some time: legs, CORE, feet, etc. Optimising time and resources without neglecting the body as a whole is one of the aims of functional training.
In order to improve training and provide our trainers with more resources, in future articles we will make a practical proposal along these lines. Stay tuned because you will discover a simple and practical way to improve the structure that allows us to optimise the performance of our goalkeepers. As the Olympic motto says: “citius, altius, fortius”. Faster, higher and stronger through footwork.