Man Metropolis star Rúben Dias exhibits off his 'Champions' model exercise

Rúben Dias is the Portuguese star footballer who helped Manchester City win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League last season.

Many consider him one of the best defenders in the world. He's undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, but in order to earn his enviable reputation and long list of accolades, such as being named UEFA Champions League Defender of the Season for 2021, Rúben Dias knows that he the same way he has to work hard both in the gym and on the field. Luckily for those looking to follow in his coordinated footsteps, the player shared his "Central Defender Gym Routine" in a YouTube clip posted to Manchester City's YouTube channel, where he and the head of strength and Condition of the team, Simon Bitcon, gave valuable insights into the methodology of training a dominant defender. Here's the workout followed by an analysis of each movement.

The "central defender" training

Here's the routine, filmed on location at the Manchester City team hall:

  • Barbell front squat— 3 sets x 8 reps
  • hip thrust machine— 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Double leg box jump — 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Resistance to A March— 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Cable Pallof Press— 5 sets x 5 reps

The training analysis

Barbell front squat

Front squats target the lower body and primarily your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. "This is really about developing bilateral or double leg strength," says Simon Bitcon, Manchester City's Head of Strength and Conditioning. "And for a centre-back, that's really important because leg strength is important to get up on headers."

The front squat requires more quadriceps recruitment than the traditional variety, which means it places less stress on the lower back when done correctly. However, core and upper body strength is still required to hold the barbell in the front rack position. For Dias, however, the barbell front squat is a great way to develop his ability to accelerate indoors or chase down an attacking player. "It's very important to maintain a good posture," says the centre-back about the exercise. "Position is everything." (And he should know it!)

hip thrust machine

"The main purpose is to extend the hips," Bitcon says of the hip thrust. “So you engage the sprint majors, the glutes, and here… it's all about acceleration. A central defender sometimes finds himself in some deep positions where he actually has to attack the ball. And the most important exercise when it comes to moving through the floor is the glutes, and this exercise is great for strengthening them.”

The hip thrust engages the glutes and also relies on hamstring and lower back support. To perform the move, you need to lock your feet and drive your hips skyward. Just like the elite defender, try to tighten your glutes at the top of the movement for maximum engagement. "I was actually very insistent that (Manchester City) buy this machine," says Dias. "It's a true story," confirms Bitcon.

Double leg box jump

"This exercise is slightly different from the other two," explains Bitcon. "The other two are more strength based, so: higher powers are generated, which is obviously a key factor in power." (Box jumps are) more speed based. So we combine both to create power.”

Box jumps are a plyometric exercise that develops explosiveness, coordination, and lower-body strength. All of these things are essential if you want to become a top-notch soccer player. "Strength is very important for a central defender," says Bitcon. "Because they probably head more balls than any other player on the field, the ability to generate vertical power quickly is really important."

Courtesy Man City/YouTube

Resistance to A March

"Basically, it is used by many athletes who need to sprint fast," Bitcon explains the resistance to A-March. “It teaches the importance of hip extension. It also teaches the importance of ankle stiffness, which is the key factor in sprint power and speed.”

The Resisted A-March is a form of sprint supplemental training in which the movement pattern requires a person to march forward while attached to a resistance cord. The goal is not just to march forward, but to raise the knee with each step so that it forms a 90-degree angle with the hip joint, as Dias demonstrates. Practicing this movement specifically promotes hip flexion and trunk activation. Bitcon also states that this exercise is great for developing the potential force that can be generated by your Achilles tendon to further maximize speed.

Cable Pallof Press

"It's really an anti-rotation exercise," says Bitcon. Anti-rotational exercises focus on developing your body's ability to resist rotational forces. Benefits include a more stabilized posture and improved core stability. The Pallof press was named after renowned physical therapist John Pallof, who popularized anti-rotational movements. In this exercise, stretch your arms forward by grabbing a cable with both hands. You then slide it out right in front of you as an opposing force tries to move your grip to the side. Bitcon says this move is excellent for those who want to stay stable and less likely to get out of position from opposing players.

"For me, the gym and this work off the field is all about finding balance," Dias summarizes at the end of this workout. “More than strength, it's about balance. It's about covering those little spots that you might miss in your daily activity on the field.”

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