Last Saturday’s match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal at Emirates provided a thrilling taste of what’s to come this season; Liverpool looked sharp and threatening as they passed the ball down the field, securing a 2-0 win.
It’s a promising start for this new-look Liverpool team (all but four of the starting 11 in last Saturday’s game were recent transplants to Liverpool), a team that will continue to coalesce with playing time and familiarity, all under the watchful eye of head fitness and conditioning coach Darren Burgess (on the left in photo).
Darren joined Liverpool from Australian national football following the 2010 World Cup. The Aussie spent three years as fitness and conditioning coach with the Socceroos prior to his Anfield move.
"Basically I'm in charge of the players' fitness levels, so my job is to prepare them to play hopefully 50 to 60 games a season,” says Darren. “Each training session, we know exactly how far they have run, walked, jogged, sprinted and turned, so we keep a pretty close eye on them.”
Darren believes in using the most functional, specific movements and training protocols possible for his athletes. The TRX Suspension Trainer helps him achieve that goal (watch this video to see how).
“I think functional training such as that offered by the TRX allows players to improve their strength and power in a football-specific manner,” says Darren. “Because there are no bars, plates or dumbbells, the players can use their own resistance in any plane and any movement.” They’re movements he feels can benefit players at every level of the game, including the players just starting out, which Liverpool has no shortage of this season.
When it comes to the younger players on the team, Darren’s strategy is to progress players from simple to more complex movements to avoid overtraining and overuse injuries. "Training techniques at 17, 18 might not affect them at that age, but it might come back to bite them at 24, 25, and you can suffer from overtraining and burn out,” says Darren. “Something we've tried to do is monitor these guys pretty closely because they're the future of the club. So we've tried to make sure we implemented strategies to give them adequate recovery and rest in order to prevent them from overtraining."
Darren tailors workouts day to day and week to week to the specific needs of each player and position. The TRX is a regular fixture in the team’s program, being used week-long but in heavier rotation toward the end of the week when “we're looking for a little bit of power and core stuff getting closer to match day,” says Darren.
Another change he’s made since he joined the Reds is to the training room at Anfield itself. “I've actually cleared out a lot of the equipment that was in the gym, and the players are predominately using more functional equipment like the TRX and medicine balls, etc. We've replaced a lot of the traditional equipment with more functional freely movable equipment."
And while they didn’t set out to use the TRX as a diagnostic tool, it has in fact become so and has helped Darren and the rest of the coaching staff to identify some individuals with imbalances. Once imbalance and/or instability is noted, Darren can use the TRX to dig a little deeper and not just help progress players to a higher level of performance but also continue to build the mobility and strength to keep players on the pitch versus on the sidelines.
As a coach, Darren can boil his role down to two mission-critical initiatives: reduce injuries and improve performance. With the TRX, he’s able to do both. “I've had such good success and really good feedback from the players on the TRX,” says Darren. “They can see the application from it to the football pitch. The players certainly feel they're getting stronger and more powerful in all three planes of motion through the program we've given them, and a major part of that is the TRX."
To see top Liverpool players on the TRX, check out our soccer page.