Soccer players must be swift and agile, but this does not preclude them from weight training. Contrary to popular belief, weight training does not always result in bulky muscles that may slow down an athlete's speed and agility. In fact, a proper weight training program will only serve to assist a soccer player in his or her overall game.
Weight Training Routine
Soccer players will benefit from a full array of strength training exercises, but much of a soccer player's weight training should focus on leg strength, power and agility. These types of exercises will enhance the athlete's ability to run, kick and change direction quickly.
Soccer players should weight train between two and four times each week, performing a minimum of eight exercises targeting all the major muscle groups. The amount of weight lifted should be roughly 60 to 80 percent of the player's maximum, and the player should lift to exhaustion. Perform two to three sets of each exercise.
The squat exercise should be a cornerstone of every soccer player's weight training program. This compound exercise strengthens the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and the smaller muscles of the hips and groin. Vary your squats by changing your leg width and positioning, or by performing a split squat with one leg elevated on a platform or step. Consider adding explosive jump squats to your routine once a week to enhance lower body power.
The lunge exercise also strengthens the entire lower body and can be modified to target muscles from a variety of angles. Vary your lunge routine often, performing forward, backward, side, walking, curtsy and jumping lunges on a rotating basis. Soccer players move in every range of motion, so targeting your muscles from a variety of positions is benficial.
Resistance Band Slides
You want to perform exercises that mimic the work you have to do on the field. Resistance band slides allow you to target your hips while performing a lateral side-step in the same motion that you would use when sliding to defend an opposing player. Simply tie a resistance band around your lower legs so that it's relatively taut when you stand with your legs hip-distance apart. Squat down and take a step to the side, working against the resistance in the band. Take 10 to 15 steps one direction, then reverse the movement and take steps the opposite direction.
Soccer players need strong calves to help them push off and lift their body while running down the field. Perform seated or standing calf raises during every routine, lifting your heels off the ground at the same time during one set, then performing two more sets while isolating each leg.
Sit Ups and Torso Twists
Having a strong core will help you as you bend and twist during gameplay. Sit ups will target your rectus abdominus while torso twists will target your obliques. Use a medicine ball to make the exercises more difficult and team up with a partner to perform sit ups while throwing the medicine ball back and forth. This type of plyometric exercise will help improve upper body power.
Soccer players need a strong lower back to help move in multiple planes of motion and change direction quickly. Lay on your stomach with your arms and legs fully extended and methodically lift your legs and arms from the floor as you tighten the muscles of your low back. Lower your arms and legs back to the floor and continue performing repetitions. Focus on lifting your arms and legs by hyperextending your back, not by "throwing" your shoulders or hips upward.
Pushups and Pullups
Soccer players can round out their full body routine with a series of pushup and pullup exercises. If you can't perform full pushups or pullups, feel free to perform modified pushups and assisted pullups. These exercises will strengthen and tone your upper body including your back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. Like other compound exercises, these can be changed and modified to target the muscles from different angles.
Sample Workout Routine
While there are numerous ways to combine exercises to come up with beneficial soccer strength programs, here is one routine to try:
- Squats: Perform two sets of dumbbell squats with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Jumping squats: Perform one set of jumping squats concentrating on landing with knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Walking lunges: Perform two sets of walking lunges.
- Resistance band slides: Perform two sets of resistance band slides concentrating on remaining in a low squat position while moving as quickly as possible.
- Seated calf raises: Perform one set of seated calf raises focusing on lifting both heels simultaneously.
- Standing calf raises: Perform two sets of standing calf raises focusing on one leg at a time.
- Medicine ball sit ups: Pair up with a partner and perform two sets of medicine ball sit ups, throwing and catching the medicine ball as you perform each sit up.
- Medicine ball torso twists: Perform two sets of torso twists while holding a medicine ball in your hands.
- Supermans: Perform two sets of supermans.
- BOSU ball stability pushups: Turn the BOSU ball so the blue dome is facing down. Place both hands on top of the black surface and perform two sets of pushups while balancing on the ball. This exercise will also target your core muscles.
- Pullups: Perform two sets of traditional or assisted pullups.
When developing a soccer weight training routine, don't be afraid to talk to your coach or a personal trainer at your gym to get tips and advice. These individuals can provide you with invaluable information regarding form and safety, and they may be able to introduce you to other sport-specific exercises.