Innovative ideas for pre-season

With each passing year, sports science and knowledge increases, allowing clubs around the world to create ideal pre-season training regimes to maximise their players' skills and conditioning before the action on the field kicks off.

The smallest edge can make all the difference, however, which has led some teams to try something different in an effort to improve fitness, ability, teamwork or togetherness

As teams across Europe complete their preparation for the new season and return to domestic competition, FIFA.com looks back through the history books to find some examples of the unorthodox methods used.

Reds make most of USA resources
English football relaunched its championship in 1946 following the conclusion of World War II, and the inaugural season of the new era would prove to be one of the most fascinating and energy-sapping campaigns ever witnessed.

Dreadful weather conditions during winter caused significant postponements to the fixture calendar, which meant the season would not be completed until June 1947, when Liverpool won their fifth title after finishing one point clear of Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Reds' triumph was in no small part due to their greater stamina, which had been boosted almost a year previously by a trip to USA. At the suggestion of chairman W.H. McConnell, manager George Kay and his players crossed the Atlantic to take part in a ten-match tour of America and Canada.

Kay's men were unstoppable, scoring 70 goals as they won every game, but it was the freely available rich food and drink which left a lasting legacy on the team. The squad gorged on resources that were simply absent at home due to rationing, with one player laughing at the time that "We've done nothing but eat".

The New York Times claimed "the squad averaged a gain in weight of seven pounds a man", and Kay was delighted. "You can get all the dishes anybody could possibly desire in the eating places," he said. "Naturally we are taking advantage of the opportunity."

Four days in the woods
German side Hamburg chose a particularly unorthodox method of team bonding during their preparation for the upcoming Bundesliga season, with the club's coaching staff and players travelling to Sweden to test their survival skills among the Scandinavian wilderness.

Thorsten Fink and his team had to give up their regular luxuries and work together for four days without access to basic amenities. Mobile phones were confiscated from the outset and the group were without running water and electricity. No accommodation was provided and standard sanitary facilities were unavailable.

Defenders were tasked with sourcing and cooking food for their team-mates, midfielders were in charge of the living area, which was solely composed of tents arranged in a diamond shape to symbolise the club's crest, and the forwards were required to chop wood and light fires.

Captain Heiko Westermann told the club's website after their challenge was completed: "I believe there was a mixture of emotions on this trip: anger, fun and exhaustion. I would not like to do it every week, but we all learned from the experience. We functioned well as a group, with everyone contributing their strengths. It was on the whole a success."

Barça success begins in Scotland
Mention St Andrews to any fan of sport and their first thought would almost certainly be golf, as the town, also home to one of the most respected universities in the United Kingdom, situated in eastern Scotland has long been considered a sacred location for the game due to its historic course and club.

It can also lay claim to playing a fundamental role in one of football's greatest success stories, however. Having swapped the warmer climes of Spain to spend the beginning of their 2007 pre-season training at St Andrew's, which included two friendly victories, Barcelona chose to return a year later.

The second visit to Scotland was the maiden opportunity for Pep Guardiola to work closely with the first-team squad after taking the coaching reins from Frank Rijkaard.

The former Barça midfielder grasped the chance with both hands, instilling an innovative, but serious, regime which demanded the best from his new charges. By the end of the season, the Catalans had secured a treble of La Liga, UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey, and a dynasty was born.

Collective demands in China
Pre-season training is decided by each club depending on its own needs and resources, but when a professional Chinese league was launched in 1994, the Chinese Football Association introduced a collective model to improve players' fitness throughout the division.

For winter and spring, every member of the new league embarked on a trip to Kunming and Hainan Island, where training could be conducted in warm weather. At the end of the camp, all players were required to prove their fitness and suitability to play by passing two running tests.

Before the 2012 campaign kicked off in March this year, Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng sought help from a higher power to conclude their pre-season preparation. The squad climbed the nearby Mount Tai, which is considered a holy place in China PR and stands more than 5,000ft tall, and prayed that they would reach the summit of the league during the season to come.