Bodybuilding and performance: a myth to deflate

Have you ever been told to beware of appearances? In modern football, many are duped. Based on a well-established belief in the collective imagination, bodybuilding and performance are closely linked. In reality, they are not necessarily friends. Often misused by the players, too quickly analyzed by the spectators to judge the actors, bodybuilding is an inherent part of football, without anyone really knowing the risks or the benefits.

In a time not so long ago, we used to find players who were a little plump and out of shape when training resumed in early July, after having chained barbecued chops for some and mojitos for others, during a month. But football has changed. This year, we were treated to the physical transformations of Pedri and Maxence Caqueret, who returned well inflated from their summer break, or Kylian Mbappé who has melted a little. In the collective imagination, lessons are quickly learned about these developments, especially about KM7, which should be faster, but less sturdy in duels. “That’s not necessarily true.sweeps away Xavier Frezza, personal physical trainer of top European players. Just look at the physique of the sprinters. They are very strong and have profitable muscles. »

Physical trainer of the French team world champion in 2018 and Real Madrid under Zizou in 2019, Grégory Dupont asks to take a step back: “You have to analyze muscle mass and fat mass. If the player loses fat mass, he will perform better on sprints and in the ability to repeat them, like marathon runners. If he loses muscle mass, we cannot say that he will perform better, because muscle is essential. »

Mohamed Salah falls off the wire

These shortcuts between bodybuilding and performance perpetuate a myth when the question is deeper than that. “Mass gain is not a footballer’s friendwarns Xavier Frezza. Some go to England, gain 3-4 kilos of muscle, but I don’t see them as better for that. Gaining mass for gaining mass is not interesting, except in certain cases where a deficit is really noted. But not from there to make a bodybuilder. » It is a dosage to find that also points Grégory Dupont, who set up Felis, his company with which he exercises in particular the activity of consultant for RC Strasbourg: “Liveness is important in football, and if the player develops too much, what we call hypertrophy, in the legs or upper body, it will be counterproductive. It’s a balance to find. » Gain muscle, yes, but not just anyhow.

“Gaining mass for the sake of gaining mass is not interesting, except in certain cases where a deficit is really noted. But not from there to make a bodybuilder. » Xavier Frezza, physical trainer

In this regard, the operation is done on a case-by-case basis, depending on the player and his objectives. “At the top level, it is played on the explosiveness, on the supports which save tenths of a second to change directionassures Frezza. With Alexis Claude-Maurice, we worked a lot on that. He also had ankle problems, so this summer we did proprioception. » “If the player moves in the duels, we will offer him a program allowing him to improve his maximum strength or his explosive strength” complete Grégory Dupont. Still not a question of muscle, in short.

Despite these opinions, it is difficult to change received ideas, which are tough even among football stars. During the 2019-2020 season, Mohamed Salah’s muscular overdevelopment was noticed … and yet was synonymous with a drop in performance. The Pharaoh had appeared transformed, lean and muscular on the upper body, without his support being as effective as the previous season.

“I’m used to going to the gym, I don’t feel good if I don’t go and I feel like it’s affecting my morale. » Jeffrey Quarshie, muscular Le Mans player

The Force of Habit

Jeffrey Quarshie also had this experience. New to Le Mans, he achieved his best year in National last season at the age of 31 with 10 goals in the colors of Bourg-en-Bresse. What struck observers was the power released by the striker. However, his career combining football and bodybuilding has been winding. “When I was younger, I didn’t really know my body and had no one to follow me on a daily basis. I developed my body, even overdeveloped, and I had a hard time feeling good on the pitch. , recalls the 1.80m striker, who weighs 78kg and has only 8% body fat. The long-sought “golden mean” he finally found. But to get there, he sometimes had to go against the advice of his coaches: “I’m used to going to the gym, I don’t feel good if I don’t go and I feel like it’s affecting my morale. In Bourg-en-Bresse, the physical trainers had seen that I was tired. With the sessions we had, they told me that I couldn’t combine football and bodybuilding. I went there on the sly, because mentally I couldn’t stopconfides the Manceau. Finally, they saw that it was adapted and that I performed better in matches. Moreover, since the beginning of my career, I have had no injuries. »

If the colossus evokes his career without physical glitches, it is because he is aware of the risks of bodybuilding. In this case, it is a sword of Damocles above the players blinded by a mass gain without real program or balance. A phenomenon that Grégory Dupont attempts to explain: “Some are used to it, have work routines in the gym, and that reassures them. There are players who do not want to stop and always want to build muscle mass, which is harmfulasserts the ex-preparer of Real. That’s why today, we also insist a lot on prevention to avoid injuries. We are looking for the agonist-antagonist balance: the balance between the quadriceps and the hamstring, between the upper and the lower body or even the right leg and the left leg. »

“Some hire friends as personal physical trainers. But you have to surround yourself with competent people to balance the workload, not guys who will want to do impressive things and post them on social networks. » Grégory Dupont, consultant at RC Strasbourg

hello muscles

Injury prevention is also done before the season, accompanied by personal physical trainers before the resumption of training. ” It is a very good thingnotes Grégory Dupont. If the player can reduce the loss of muscle mass during the holidays and also prepare to take this load that awaits him, it is common sense. » A personal physical preparation which also extends to the rest of the year, the fault of a lack of physical trainers (only one or two) for a workforce of thirty players, making it impossible to schedule individual sessions within the club. The most conscientious are then obliged to fill this gap elsewhere. And here again, the threat is great: “I hear everything when some players explain to me what they have experienced with physical trainers. Some engage friends in this role. But you have to surround yourself with competent people to balance the workload, not guys who will want to please the player or do impressive things and post them on social networks. plague Grégory Dupont. “Charlots, there are everywhere” , sighs Xavier Frezza, who hears the reluctance of clubs to leave their employees in other hands. Dupont concludes: “Players need to be made aware of the need to choose physical trainers with experience in sport. » History that bodybuilding does not become definitively a weight.

By Alexandre Le Bris

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