Strength Training for Soccer Players
Strength training for soccer is an important step towards becoming an advanced soccer player, and an all-around complete athlete. Soccer players who incorporate it into their year-round workout program improve in several areas, though these are the three most important benefits of strength training:
- Developing lower body strength: This is essential for jumping, kicking the ball, tackling, and the explosive speed to compete for loose balls in the final minutes of games.
- Developing core strength: Working on your abdominals, lower back, and trunk helps with the sudden twists, turns, stops, and starts that are the foundation of competitive soccer.
- Developing upper body strength: Players with stronger upper bodies are better able to shield the ball, fend off opponents, and play with more overall power and explosiveness.
Despite the obvious benefits of strength training, many players and coaches fail to emphasize it is part of an effective workout program. Strength training too often gets lost in the shuffle, or neglected in favor of cardio and agility training. In the end, players must have the endurance to play hard for a whole game, the agility to play effectively, and the strength to compete against rugged, physical defenders.
Building Core Strength
Developing core strength is the most important part of a strength training program for soccer. A strong core helps a player avoid injury, build agility, and get faster. It helps the upper body and lower body work in unison, rather than be out of balance.
Hot Tip: Warm up
It’s important to keep in mind the importance of activating large muscle groups prior to strength training. Gradually build reps and weights, and combine this with proper warm-up drills to reduce the risk of injury.
Regular soccer movements such as kicking, running, and cutting can place uneven demands on the body. For example, it’s normal for a typical right-footed soccer player to have a more developed right leg. Core strength keeps a body balanced so that all muscle groups are similarly developed and working together.
It’s not enough for soccer players to develop strong quadriceps and calves without working on core strength. Upper and lower body strength becomes irrelevant without a strong core to help deliver the efficient power and speed; also, a weak core tends to lead to instability and injury.
There are many core-building exercises that players can use in a routine. Here are a few examples:
- Medicine Ball Throws
- Medicine Ball Twists
- Medicine Ball Figure 8’s
- Box Jumps
- Side Sit-ups
- High Rows
Many professional players like to incorporate core strength training into the beginning of their daily workout, just after warm-ups and stretching. This is a clear indicator of how vital a strength training routine is for soccer players.
Strength-training Goals by Position
The strength training goals a player has should be created with a few factors in mind. While general core strength is a plus, the goals that a player has should depend, in part, on the position he occupies.
Strength training for most forwards should emphasize agility and balance, making core strength the top priority. It’s helpful for forwards and attacking midfielders to be quick and agile. Leg exercises should create a balance between hamstrings and quadriceps, with an emphasis on lean muscle fiber. Generally speaking, the goal should be to compliment cardio and plyometric work by strengthening muscles and ligaments in the midsection and trunk.
Be sure to develop a long-term workout program with the help of coaches, trainers, or teammates. Coaches and trainers can give helpful advice and point players in the right direction to maximize their efforts.
Defenders face the challenge of creating a workout program that appropriately balances increasing speed without sacrificing strength. Rugged, tough defenders who lack speed can be beaten in one-on-ones by speedy forwards. On the other hand, slight defenders can be pushed around in the 18-yard box. Therefore, it’s important to have a well-rounded strength training program. The best defenders and defensive midfielders work around the year, especially in the off-season.
Goalkeepers need the leg strength for powerful goal kicks, the upper body strength to battle against tough strikers in the penalty box, and the quickness to cover the entire mouth of the goal. Goalies must excel at quick, explosive movements, and plyometric training is perfect for developing these habits. Strength training that supplements plyometric work by building leg and core endurance is a great foundation for a goalie workout program.
Strength Training for Success
To ultimately be successful, strength training should include the following elements:
Competitive soccer players have a lot to gain by adding strength training that includes these elements. Because many coaches and teams fail to emphasize strength training, adding it to your workouts could offer a secret advantage that makes the difference between wins and losses once the season starts.