Strong legs to kick the ball accurately and far are a major part of the picture for a soccer player. But you really need a total-body workout to include your core, the essential foundation of success in soccer as in all sports. Your upper body needs to keep up too, so you can throw in the ball effectively and hold off challengers trying to push you away from the ball. Total-body workouts not only provide you with greater strength, they reduce the chance of injury, observes University of North Carolina Greensboro coach Michael Parker in “Premier Soccer.”
The core structure includes all the big and small muscles that connect the center of the body, notes University of North Carolina strength and conditioning coach Greg Gatz in “Complete Conditioning for Soccer.” These muscles initiate and decelerate motion and affect all your motions as a soccer player. Your core workout can include back extensions, the seated medicine ball twist and the hanging knee raise, if you have access to an overhead rack or bar.
Your total-body workout needs to include pushing exercises to develop strength in the front upper torso and pulling exercises to develop the upper back. Pushing exercises can start with the bench chest press, pushups and upper-body step-ups, where your hands walk up to and over a box from the pushup position. You can also push up on a soccer ball, as players such as Japan's Homare Sawa and her teammates do for total-body fitness. Pulling exercises obviously include rows, as well as pull-downs, side raises and dumbbell curls.
Squats and lunges, with barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls or just your own bodyweight, give your leg muscles a good challenge. Add single-leg exercises to improve both your strength and balance at the same time. Options include single-leg squats, with your rear leg supported by a box, as well as single-leg deadlifts, as you hold either dumbbells or kettlebells.
Organized athletes often work from a training card with their name and a list of the exercises, as well as columns for dates, repetitions, sets and amount of weight lifted or machine weight settings. Gatz observes that soccer players beginning a total-body workout may want to list nine to12 exercises, dropping the number over time as intensity increases. Five or six exercises may suffice as your experience grows, although you may also become intrigued with the benefits of total-body workouts and create a demanding circuit workout, especially in the offseason. Female soccer athletes may want to work to develop upper-body strength particularly, Gatz notes. Women can also perform leg-strengthening exercises to avoid injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament.
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