Tony In Training

IF you arrive at Upton Park early on a matchday you will see West Ham United's Sports Scientist Tony Strudwick in action, putting the Hammers players through their paces in the pre-match warm-up.

Tony is responsible for the overall fitness of all the Hammers players, and has a major role in their day-to-day training programmes, ensuring they are in the best possible condition, both mentally and physically, come kick-off.

This Saturday the Hammers face a tough trip to take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Here Tony takes us through this week's training schedule and reveals just how the Hammers stars have been preparing to take on the Black Cats.

"At the start of each week the coaching staff have a meeting to discuss training," explained Tony, who spent three years working with the FA before joining the Hammers.

"Alan Pardew, Peter Grant, John Green and myself will go through how we want to set-out the training schedule for that week. Often we plan training schedules in two-week blocks, but as a coach you have to be reactive as well as well-prepared.

"The structure of training will often depend on the previous weeks performance and result. Alan Pardew has very clear ideas about what he wants to get out of each training session, and I integrate the fitness side of the programme with the technical side. This week's schedule gives a good idea of how the players prepare for a game when they are not involved in a mid-week fixture."


"After the Watford game there was a great atmosphere amongst the players, which they brought with them into training on Monday. We wanted to nurture this positive energy as much as possible, so we put together a session based on ball work and small match situations, which are the areas of training the players enjoy most. Our aim was to boost that positive atmosphere as much as possible by conducting an enjoyable session that we could also get a lot out of in terms of tactical awareness and developing ball skills." 


"Tuesday was our power day, when we focus on strength and resistance work. Although the primary focus of these sessions is building fitness, we integrate as much ball work as possible. This helps the players to enjoy the session more and also work on their football skills at the same time as their fitness. In the morning we worked out on the pitch and then in the afternoon we had a gym session, based purely around resistance training. Players are divided into groups based on their strength needs. For instance, someone like Stephen Bywater who has tremendous upper body strength, will be in a separate group from some of the midfield players, whose focus is more on endurance.  This is a tough day for the players."


"This week Wednesday was our recovery day. This session is sometimes conducted nearer the start of the week, depending on our match schedule. It involves some light recovery exercises as well as ice baths and hydro-therapy to aid muscle recovery. Ice baths have been made popular by the England rugby team and also Paula Radcliffe, and it is a technique we employ to assist with recovery and aid injury prevention. We use the ice baths after games as well as in training, and although some of the players took a bit of persuading at first, I think they are now starting to see the benefits of these methods. It is so important in a contact sport like football to help your body recover properly, so that you are fresh for the next day."


"Thursday this week is our speed day. Again the ball is used as much as possible, but our emphasis here is on improving the range of muscle movement. This is done by doing exercises that increase the elasticity of the muscles. Put simply we do sessions based around bounding or jumping, which give the muscles more stretch and range. Again we try and incorporate ball-work as much as possible and also vary the sessions so they do not become tedious. Although some players are naturally faster than others, speed is certainly something that can be improved with the right training."


"Generally, the day before a game is called our reaction day. Here we base the training around sharpening reflexes, basically preparing the players for the match ahead. This will involve a lot of ball work and one-touch drills - fast stuff designed to really keep the players on their toes. This is also the day that Alan takes the players through set-pieces and other opponent specific match drills. He might have new set-piece routines to go through or after analysing the option work on certain passages of play. The day before the game the players will also be shown videos of the opposition, pointing strengths, weaknesses and what each player needs to be looking for during the game.

Hopefully then, after a good week's preparation, the players will be ready to go out and win three points against Sunderland."