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Fitness and efficiency

Coaches lay foundation for successful term

Jürgen Klinsmann has made many changes in his short time at the Bayern helm, including the performance centre, an eight-hour day for the professionals, language courses and a new footballing philosophy. The approach to fitness has changed too. Instead of easing into pre-season with a relaxed kick-about, the club's Euro 2008 stars spent their first day back in Munich exclusively in the fitness area of the new centre.

The players performed a series of tests to set benchmarks for stability and flexibility, with further tests over the following days to measure sprinting, stamina, leaping ability and upper body strength. Every player also reported to Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt for orthopaedic screening. "That's a first this year," reports Bayern fitness coaching chief Oliver Schmidtlein. "We're not diagnosing illness, we're checking for weaknesses.“

Individual training

Any areas for improvement were then analysed by Schmidtlein's team of performance coaches, producing a profile for each player based on the tests and the screening programme, and ultimately resulting in a training schedule tailored to each individual. However, this does not spell the end of team training at the club. "We spend maybe ten minutes before and after sessions with the individuals," Schmidtlein reports. All other workouts take place in groups.

Basic fitness naturally played a major role in the early weeks of pre-season, but Schmidtlein, Thomas Wilhelmi, Marcelo Martins and Darcy Norman have also been working on areas such as stability. The players have for example hopped and balanced on one leg over mini hurdles. "Controlling your weight on one leg is vital in football," Schmidtlein explains.

Effectiveness means speed

Basic strength exercises also feature prominently in the overall fitness schedule, in which the actual weights employed by the players are less important than precise and correct repetition. "We're continually making corrections," explained Schmidtlein, "we want the players' movements to be as effective as possible.“ Efficiency of movement means greater speed on the field of play, especially when changing direction, for example.

One benefit of the new performance centre is providing plenty of space for the exercises, although the fitness area at the club is nothing like a conventional gym or fitness studio. "The equipment you find in normal fitness studios wouldn't be appropriate at a football club," Schmidtlein points out.

Be fit, feel fit

The players' progress during the course of the season will be tested on an ongoing basis. "We're hoping to see the effects within the first half year," Schmidtlein observed, although one element which cannot be quantified is the psychological benefit of the programme. "One aspect to consider is whether a player perceives himself as quick," Schmidtlein explains, "we want the players to think of themselves as big, strong, fast and explosive.“

Superbly conditioned bodies and minds form the foundation of a season in which the club hopes for great success. "Jürgen Klinsmann favours a quick, athletic, active and aggressive style of play. We're trying to lay the groundwork for that," explains Schmidtlein. However, pure fitness training will play a less central role in the later stages of pre-season, as sessions increasingly take place out on the practice ground. As Schmidtlein acknowledges: "Bayern is not about to become a fitness club. Football training remains the most important thing.“