Defenders have one main job on the football pitch – to stop the opposition scoring. But when you consider the different types of player they face each week, the varying demands of their position become clear. It takes a very well-rounded defender to cope with the threat posed by both Neymar and Andy Carroll, for example.
That means top-class defenders need to cover every base with their fitness routine, with weight training, recovery work and a healthy diet all supplementing their time on the training pitch.
Gary Cahill has a well-honed approach to his overall fitness that has kept him in shape to win every major trophy it’s possible to win with Chelsea and earn more than 50 England caps. In short, we could all learn a thing or two about staying in shape from Cahill, so the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK (the FA’s charity partner) asked him how he does it and shared his answers exclusively with Coach.
What is your typical gym routine?
In the gym I’m usually doing a lot of core work and upper-body work. They’re the main things for my position. I do some leg work but not as much because of the workload we do in training. For my core I do sit-ups and planks and I use the weighted cable machine that helps to work your trunk. For upper-body work I do bench presses, overhead presses, biceps curls and a lot of dips.
Do you train in the gym with your teammates?
At the club we do a power session if we can fit it in as a group. Some clubs leave it to individuals, so if you feel it’s not needed or not part of your game you don’t have to, but we do a group gym session and also some sprints as well.
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What are your recovery tips? Do you use a foam roller or compression gear?
I like to do pool work after I’ve played. Everybody is different – some do foam rollers and some do ice baths. I like to do the ice bath and I like to be in the pool because I find that helps my body to recover.
Who are the strongest players in the gym?
The keepers dominate the gym. They’re powerhouses. Massive!
What are your golden rules for a healthy diet?
Just to eat well – it sounds easy but it can be difficult because we burn off a lot. If I wasn’t training and I was eating what I eat now, I would probably be massive because I eat a hell of a lot of food. But that’s because we train a lot so we need to fuel in the right way.
The main thing is understanding your diet. We’re lucky in that respect because we have food made for us and we’re trained to understand it. You get to educate yourself about your food. That is the key. If you have a heavy [training] day, eat more. If it’s a light day, eat different foods. So it is really about educating yourself about food.
What is your hardest training session with England?
I couldn’t say any particular session but the most intense workout tends to be the day after we meet up, so two days before a game. We have one day of recovery and then the match the day after.
What is your most enjoyable training session?
Probably ones like today where we played a three-goal game. Everything is a bit light-hearted and less serious, and everyone is having a laugh and a joke. When we’re preparing and training for a match, everyone is mentally focused and switched on, but there are times when you can have a laugh and we take that opportunity. It’s good fun.
Gary Cahill is supporting the Bobby Moore Fund International, in which England play Brazil on Tuesday 14th November. The Bobby Moore Fund is the FA’s official charity partner. For more information on how you can support Cancer Research UK’s life-saving bowel cancer research, visit bobbymoorefund.org