ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Training Tips: Strength and Conditioning for Soccer

Training Tips: Strength and Conditioning for Soccer

Reading Time: 4 minutes 15 seconds

By: ISSA

Date: 2021-08-11T00:00:00-04:00


Soccer is one of the world's most popular sports. It's considered a high-intensity sport involving both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. The physical and mental demands require athletes to have adequate speed, agility, strength, and power.

These physical components are achieved through a strength and conditioning program. Muscular endurance is a major component of performance on the field. Programs for soccer include high intensity-training, weightlifting, and metabolic conditioning.

Weightlifting for Soccer Players

Most soccer practices use a soccer ball for training and drills to improve game performance, such as practicing agility drills with an agility ladder. However, soccer fitness should extend beyond just field work. Focusing on building maximal strength in the weight room is key. This includes working on upper body strength, lower body strength, and power.

There are many benefits for soccer athletes to have strength. Being involved in a strength and conditioning program for soccer helps with,

  • Injury prevention

  • Kick power and distance

  • Agility

  • Endurance

  • Physicality

In youth soccer, you will not find athletes performing weight training as much. Young soccer players focus more on improving the skills of the sport and minimal agility or conditioning. As an athlete grows older, they will find themselves weight training more often. This allows them to focus on other injury prevention exercises as well.

Total Body Strength

While the lower body is used a tremendous amount in the sport, the core and upper body also play a large role. The core is the midline of the body and is responsible for all movement and rotation. It stabilizes the body and contributes to having balance on the ball. In addition, it increases an athlete's physicality against opponents.

Strength is achieved in the lower body through exercises as simple as the squat. Power comes through plyometric exercises like jumps. And speed can be achieved through sprinting mechanisms.

Developing Force

Force production is a huge component of all three of these attributes needed for soccer. Working on both concentric and eccentric training contributes to building max force. Low intensity, fast movements paired with eccentric loading will help. By taking advantage of the stretch shortening cycle, you can build quicker and more efficient movements.

Planes of Motion

For a soccer workout, you want to train as much as you can in the frontal plane. Lateral speed is crucial for the sport. Training in this plane reduces injury and improves agility and change of direction. Include the following exercises in your strength training sessions:

  • Lateral lunges

  • Mini band lateral walks

  • Lateral step-ups

  • Lateral sled drags

Metabolic Conditioning

Cardiovascular endurance is a big part of soccer. Maximal aerobic capacity contributes to overall soccer performance. The size of the field along with constant sprint intervals requires a great amount of endurance.

The ability to sprint repeatedly is important. Getting used to short recovery periods will help an athlete maintain technique when they are fatigued.

Acceleration and speed are part of metabolic conditioning. For a soccer player to be able to maintain this throughout the entire game shows true performance.

A soccer player also frequently changes direction. Reaction time and quick adaptation to the game environment will come down to muscular strength and conditioning.

To target metabolic conditioning in a strength and conditioning program, incorporate the following:

  • Jump roping

  • Change of direction drills

  • Lateral single-leg bounds

  • Side box jumps

  • Agility ladders

  • Hurdles

Both speed and agility contribute to soccer athletes' performance. Offering this training can also boost your business as a strength and conditioning coach.

Sample Soccer Workout Program

The entire program should be laid out based on the number of practices and games athletes have each week. Let's say an athlete has 3-4 practices each week and 1-2 games.

With 3-4 practices, your athlete will receive plenty of aerobic conditioning, speed, and agility work. This is also where technical skills are fine-tuned.

At least 3 times per week athletes should be in the weight room performing strength training only. They can incorporate light conditioning exercise.

Compound exercises should include Olympic lifts and even bodyweight exercises. These should make up most of the training session.

Phase 1

Phase 1 focuses on hypertrophy. During this phase, every athlete uses high volume and low intensity. Building a base of support during pre-season is crucial. Allowing the body to build muscle makes way for the strength phase.

Some soccer exercises to consider for high volume training:

  • Single-leg squats

  • Step-ups

  • Lunges

  • Romanian deadlift

  • V-ups

  • Lateral raises

Phase 2

Throughout the strength phase, athletes begin focusing on some sport-specific exercises. All training during this time encompasses high intensity and low volume. Each athlete has muscle built, so they have a base to build strength off now.

Exercises to implement into the strength training:

  • Back squat

  • Front squat

  • Conventional deadlift

  • Barbell hip thrusts

Phase 3

Phase 3 is known as the competition phase. Athletes are moving into the season and must adapt to their competition schedules. Use low intensity and power development movements. This means fast-paced and quick movements only during the power phase.

Plyometric and power development exercises:

  • Jump squats

  • Power cleans

  • Box jumps

  • Skater jumps

  • Split jumps

Phase 4

The transition phase is the final phase of the strength program. It includes active rest using low intensity and low volume. This is important following a soccer season. The transition lasts from the end of the season into the preseason. Your goal is to help your athlete recover, de-load the body, and rest as much as possible. All without completely stopping exercise.

Recovery is just as important as the training.

To recap, have each athlete perform three total-body strength workouts per week. Make sure to encourage them to perform big power or compound lifts at the beginning of the week.

As the week progresses, they move to lower intensity exercises and focus on the volume. Leave at least one day in between each strength training workout. On those off days perform 15 min of speed and agility drills.

Check out the ISSA's Strength and Conditioning course to kickstart your coaching career. It doesn't matter if you plan to work with soccer athletes or athletes of another sport. This course will get you ready for it all.

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