I was asked about strength training for soccer following a public speaking event I did recently at Langley Christian School. I figured now would be a good time to put together a blog post outlining what makes a good program when training for soccer.
Like almost everyone, the girl who contacted me wanted to…
- Lose fat & Gain Muscle
- Look & Feel better
- Perform better in the upcoming soccer season
Thankfully these things are all complimentary goals. If done properly, we shouldn’t need to sacrifice any of the above goals when training for soccer. As a bonus, there likely will be a big boost in confidence when the athlete starts to see their body change, and their performance improve!
Some of the barriers to performance for this individual are:
- Busy Schedule
- Challenges with eating healthy and sticking to their plan
- Lack of confidence that ‘self designed’ training programs will get results
Strategy #1- Start Training Today!
Don’t wait. We can sit and talk about the perfect plan for hours, and even debate with different coaches who have different opinions on what makes training perfect.
Long story short. Start training today, because nobody get’s better by reading and thinking about training for soccer. Things won’t be perfect. Don’t expect them to be.
Put your head down and put the work in and you will reap the benefits. Don’t even wait until tomorrow to do your first workout. Start today!
An even easier ‘first step’ is to book a free consultation
Strategy #2- Build a good strength base when training for soccer
If you read this blog very often, you will know that strength is the basis of all human movement. Gaining muscle boosts metabolism, and enables greater athletic output. I won’t ramble about the benefits of strength today, but will state that it’s a necessary adaptation for all of the goals listed above. Here’s a former client who is now playing at Thompson Rivers University killing it with the trap-bar deadlift.
Strategy #3- Use compound multi-joint movements
Using exercises that require multiple joints saves time, and improves performance when strength training for soccer. You can accomplish a lot more work when you use movements that use multiple joints, and take your body through space.
For example: you could do bicep curls, and then tricep extensions, and then lat pullovers to hit those three muscle groups…or you could do chin-ups and hit all those muscles and more in a single exercise. More work in less time is the definition of efficiency. Spend less time in the gym by training movements, not muscles.
Another benefit of ‘movements not muscles’ is the added carryover to athletics. Joint and muscle isolation exercises have minimal carryover to athletic performance. If you want to perform better, use exercises that use multiple joints, and require you to take your body through space.
Chin ups, squats, lunges, skipping, sprinting, push-ups, bench press, rowing exercises (strength based) etc. all are beneficial when training for soccer.
Strategy #4- Emphasize ACL injury prevention
Non-contact ACL (a ligament in the knee) injuries are very prevalant (especially in females). This is where an ACL is torn without the occurrence of body contact. In soccer, it often happens when an athlete plants their foot, and then pivots in the wrong direction.
This ends in a crying athlete sitting on the sideline, missed playing time, and questions about whether we are pushing our kids too hard.
Single leg balancing drills, and Nordic Hamstring Curls are awesome for establishing good control and reducing the risk of ACL injury. The band assisted variation shown below works awesome for younger female athletes and anyone else training for soccer who lacks the strength to do the non-assisted version.
Strategy #5- Train only 2-3 Days Per Week
You often hear stories of people training 5-6 times a week, but for most people that is neither practical, nor effective when training for soccer.
Nobody get’s stronger in the gym. Everyone get’s stronger when they rest in between workouts at the gym. If you train too frequently, you don’t give your body time to adapt. If you are training hard for 2-3 sessions each week, and aren’t seeing results, the first place to look is at your recovery habits:
- Sleep (Athletes training hard need 8-9+ hours of sleep each night)
- Diet (Are you getting enough quality food)
- Stress (work/school/relationships etc.)
Work hard, and then rest and recover. A training session should last approximately 45 minutes, plus warm-up and cool down.
Strategy #6- Keep conditioning specific, yet general (NO JOGGING)
Soccer is made up of a series of sprints, alternated with periods of lighter activity, or rest.
Strikers need fast breakaway speed to shake off defenders. Likewise, defenders need speed in order to follow their man. When the ball is on the other side of the pitch however, the constant jockeying for position occurs at a much slower speed, and the demand to be glued to your man lessens.
The conditioning portion of training for soccer must match this tempo: alternated periods of high intensity activity with periods of low intensity activity or complete rest.
That said, conditioning can take many forms. Sprinting, pushing/pulling sleds, jumping, burpies or basically any other kind of movement that requires the use of a bunch of different muscle groups can be considered conditioning.
Conditioning is a great place to add variety to your training.
Running slowly for a long period of time, only makes people good at running slowly. So stop jogging unless your sport is distance running. Instead, work as hard as you can for 20-60 seconds for your selected exercise. Rest for a minimum of 2-4x as long as you just worked. Repeat for 5-25 minutes.
Conditioning can be done at the end of a strength training for soccer workout, or on a separate day. If you have multiple practices and games that week, it can be omitted entirely as you are likely getting enough of a training stimulus from that.
Strategy #7- Keep the nutrition plan simple
People way over-complicate nutrition in many cases. The tendency is for people to ‘major in the minors’. They end up worrying about counting calories, limiting gluten, and obsessing over carb to protein to fat ratios, and overlook the most basic nutrition advice: Eat natural food, not processed junk.
If you eat food that has roots or parents 80% of the time, you likely will meet all your nutritional goals! Read your food labels. If it has more than 3-4 ingredients, or you can’t pronounce the ingredient names, find something else to eat.
Strength training for soccer program:
For athletes who are training for the first time, we will keep everything really simple with a basic, yet balanced training program. Exercises in this program include:
- Single leg multi-planer hops
- Walking Lunges
- TRX inverted row
- Nordic Hamstring curls
- Chin ups (use a band for assistance, or just do the lowering portion if needed)
- Side plank with reach through
- Conditioning (optional)
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