Sylvain Distin: Dominate your opponent

For AFC Bournemouth's athletic defender, the secret to winning the physical battle against any striker is using your brain as well as your brawn. He gives FourFourTwo his tips for world domination…
  • Force the striker to play backwards
  • You don’t have to win every challenge
  • It pays to play to your strengths
  • Triceps dips
  • Press-up
  • Barbell biceps curls
  • Pull-up
  • Barbell shoulder press

Get touch-tight

“Get too close to the striker and he’s going to roll you by using his arms to push you around. Didier Drogba was always great at this for Chelsea whenever I faced him. If you don’t go hard on the attacker he’s going to bully you, and if you go too hard he’s going to draw free-kicks. So the best thing to do is to keep your distance from the attacker, but stay in contact and try to make him play away from goal. You don’t want to let him turn you because then he can shoot or dribble.”

Let him have the ball

“As a defender you always want to win the ball, but against some strikers it’s better to let them get it first and then you can look to challenge them. You just have to pick the right time. When the striker receives a pass, wait for him to start his turn and then make the tackle. Competing for balls you have little chance of getting means you’re more likely to make a mistake and let the striker through on goal. Playing this way can be frustrating, but you have to accept it if you want to succeed as a defender.”

Use your weaponry

“When marking at set-pieces, use your assets. If you’ve got a good leap, give yourself two or three yards on the striker and challenge for the ball on the move. If you don’t have such a good leap, stay close to the striker. Put your arms out so he can’t run in behind you – the only place he can go is in front of you. This gives the attacker a chance to be first to the ball, but you can anticipate that. As long as you can feel him, you know where he is. This also enables you to keep one eye on the ball.”


“We do three laps of this, but the first time I only managed two and my head was spinning!” says the Frenchman of his gym plan

Raise yourself onto the parallel bars, supporting your bodyweight with your arms. Bend your knees and cross your feet. Lower your body until your shoulders are below your elbows. Drive back up until your elbows are almost straight and repeat.
Reps: 15
Rest: 10-15 seconds

Lie face-down on the floor and push yourself up powerfully, keeping your back straight. Lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor and then explode upwards to the start position and repeat.
Reps: 20
Rest: 10-15 seconds

Using a shoulder-width underhand grip, pick up a barbell with 20kg on it. Bend your elbows, bringing the bar up to your chest, until your forearms are vertical. Brace your core and lower the bar until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.
Reps: 20
Rest: 10-15 seconds

Stand under the pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up, crossing your feet, until your chin is above the bar. Pause for a count then lower your body until your arms are straight and repeat.
Reps: 10
Rest: 10-15 seconds

Grasp a barbell with 20kg on it, using a shoulder-width overhand grip. Hold the bar at shoulder level in front of your body. Drive up from your shoulders, pushing the barbell up overhead. Lower the barbell down to the starting position. Rest for two minutes and repeat the circuit another two times.
Reps: 20
Rest: 10-15 seconds

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