Get Fit For Soccer
While it may not seem like it at a glance, soccer is an extremely demanding physical sport, requiring a combination of strength, stamina, and coordination in order to perform well.
For those not used to high endurance activities or sports training, preparing for the soccer season may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have poor stamina. The key to preparing adequately for the soccer season is to make sure you train all of these aspects evenly.
Focusing entirely on strength is great for weight lifting and such, but without the stamina and coordination to go with it, you'll end up getting winded very quickly and have trouble keeping up in the long run as the game goes on, and without the footwork and coordination you'll get out played by more experienced players.
Here are some ways to get fit and prepare for soccer during the off season, so you'll be in tip top shape and ready to go once soccer season rolls around.
Proper Equipment Is Important To Get Fit For Soccer
Before you even get started with doing exercises, it's important to be prepared to work out. This involves having the right equipment and being ready to push yourself.
The most important thing to have with you is a water bottle, filled with water. While Gatorade and other sports drinks have electrolytes to help with fluid retention, nothing can beat plain old water for actually rehydrating your body, especially if it’s a hot summer day.
You'll also want to wear loose clothing that doesn't restrict your movement, as well as soccer cleats so that you can get used to how they feel.
Cleats are designed to grip the turf, so you'll get a lot more traction from them than you would a regular sneaker.
Depending on if you're training solo, as well as what kind of drills you're doing, you may also want to bring shin guards, a stop watch, and a towel to dry off with as needed.
It's important to warm up properly before training. Getting your body moving will help prevent muscle spasms and tightness during your workout.
The purpose of the warm up is to get the muscles moving and loosened up, so activities like light jogging, squats, sit ups, and dynamic stretches help activate your muscles and prepare you for your workout. Your warm up should be for at least ten minutes, even longer on cold days or in the early morning.
Stretching is just as important as the warm up. You'll want to do full body stretches, working every body part from your legs and ankles to your back and neck. Proper stretching helps prevent strains as well as keeps your body limber and allows for better mobility.
A lot of the more dynamic stretches also mimic a lot of the body movements you'll be performing while playing, such as swing kicks.
Stretching also gives your heart and lungs a brief rest after your warm up, allowing you to refocus before you start training.
You should perform these three steps before every training session. From here, you can decide which exercised you want to focus on during each session.
You can either focus on your weakest point first, or go for a more well-rounded approach. If you have multiple training sessions in a week, you should perform exercises on a rotating basis, so any you didn't perform this session are going to be on the set list for the next training session.
A major part of soccer is ball handling. Someone skilled at handling the ball can easily outmaneuver and outplay their opponents, juggling the ball back and forth and around the opposition in order to gain more ground, or set up the ball for a pass on the fly.
Ball handling drills include dribbling, juggling, and using a wall to pass the ball to yourself. Since it is such a fundamental part of the game, ball handling is the exception to the rotation rule above, and should be incorporated at some point into each training session.
There are two varieties of running drills, either sprinting or running. Sprinting is mostly for building speed, and is extremely tiring. As such, it should be done shortly after the warmup if possible.
When sprinting, set a distance, generally between 30-50 meters to start. Start your timer and run to the end point as fast as you can.
Rest for a moment, reset the timer, and sprint again. Do this a few times before taking a slightly longer rest to rehydrate before moving on to the next exercise. As your stamina improves, you can begin increasing the distance up to about 200 meters.
When running, the goal is to improve your overall stamina and endurance. Run at a moderate pace for about 3-4 minutes, then rest and walk for about 2 minutes before running again. Repeat this process a few times, being sure to focus on form and breathing rather than on speed. As your endurance improves, you can extend the length of time you run before taking a break.
Doing strength training about 3-4 times per week, even if it's not part of your normal soccer training routine is important. The strength will allow you to kick harder, as well as build your overall endurance as your muscles will be able to support your activity for longer.
You can either do body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, and pull ups, or if you have access to weights you can do presses, rows, curls, and other weight based exercises. If you are using weights, it is best to do high intensity, low repetitions to focus on building strength.
Your core is essential in performing many of the actions in soccer, and is involved with a lot of body movement in general. You core helps with starting, stopping, changing direction, as well as overall balance and coordination.
Paying special attention to your core will help strengthen these areas, and you should devote some time each work out, or even set aside a special work out session just for working the core muscles. Exercises that help work your core are V-ups, sit ups, bicycles, leg lifts, and dead bugs.
With the exercises out of the way, there are also specific drills to work on that will not only help improve your strength, agility, and endurance, but also help with your skill and coordination, giving you practical experience in preparing for the season.
Run suicides are great for working speed, high intensity endurance, and dexterity all in one exercise. Set up a series of markers, one at your starting position, and a series of markers at varying end points, each a little farther than the last.
Run to the first marker, then immediately stop and sprint back to start. Repeat this with each marker until you finish the set, then rest. This is a very high intensity drill and can quickly wear out even the most experienced players, so be careful not to overdo it.
Also known as High Knees, you raise one knee up to about hip or chest height if you can. Then, in one swift motion, switch legs.
You can do this either timed or for distance. Not only do high knees work the core, but also train you to lift your knees when you run, which helps you avoid being tripped.
Agility ladders are a great tool for working footwork. There are a series of footwork drills you can perform using an agility ladder, ranging from zig-zag drills, forward and back drills, and side step drills.
Agility ladders primarily work your accuracy and agility, helping with your maneuverability. Having better agility and maneuverability help with your coordination, which are essential for improving dribbling and ball handling techniques to help outplay your opposition.
Practicing penalty kicks will help improve your accuracy and help you actually score goals when it comes time to put your skills to the test in a real game.
You'll want to practice kicking from multiple angles and distances so that you get a feel for how you'll need to kick the ball and how to approach scoring from anywhere on the field.
If you want to focus on pointed shot targeting specific areas of the net, aim either for a specific part of the goal post like the corners, or set up targets to aim for.
It is also important to practice kicking with both legs, as it not only will make you more versatile, but allow you to change up your kick on the fly without having to reposition.
While kicking is a huge part of soccer, working headers is also very important. About 20% of all goals are scored from headers, so it's certainly not something that should be overlooked.
Simply start by juggling the ball using only headers at first, then as you get more comfortable, start incorporating foot juggling into the mix as well, keeping the ball from hitting the ground as long as possible, or if you do feel you are going to lose it, attempt to head it into the goal to improve your accuracy with headers.
When setting up exercise routines for training, you'll want to combine workouts from each category into each of your sessions.
Start with the pre-training warm up and stretching before every session, then pick either running or strength training drills.
Once you finish those, get into the practical exercises like agility ladders and run suicides. Once you have the endurance, you can do an extended workout where you work the entire list, but for those just starting out, it is recommended that you break it up into sections.
If you are training in a group or even in pairs, there are more practical drills you can do in order to practice your skill and maneuverability against a live opponent.
These types of drills will help prepare you for how to read your opponent's moves by watching their body language and their feet, as well as how to scan the field for threats and openings if training in a group.
While solo training is great for building the physical attributes necessary for competing, group training helps build the instinct and quick decision making involved in making superior plays and good judgement calls.
1 v 1 Drill
In the 1 v 1 drill, the goal is to be the first to get the ball down the wing of the field and score. The drill builds agility and footwork, as the goal is to outmaneuver your opponent and make your way down the wing without losing possession of the ball.
One player can start in possession working their way down the full length of the field, or both can start in a neutral position at about mid field and work from there.
Watching your opponent's moves and predicting their actions is key when being a wing player, and this drill is perfect for improving those skill sets.
This drill compounds on the normal penalty kick drill from before, but instead of kicking a stationary ball from multiple angles, you are being passed the ball.
This helps improve your ability to adjust your kick and position on the fly based on where the ball is coming from, as well as the presence of other players on the field.
While doable with two people, this drill really benefits from multiple players as they can provide additional interference in landing the goal, or even multiple angles for the ball to be passed from at any given time.
One Touch Shooting
Oftentimes, there isn't time to set up a shot or reposition, and the only opportunity for a striker to take a shot is in the moment as the ball is coming towards him.
This drill helps train on how to maneuver and adjust your body to make these kinds of shots. You run up to a set marker while holding the ball, drop the ball and kick before it touches or as it touches the ground.
Since the position and direction of the ball changes slightly with each drop, it helps you learn how best to angle your kick appropriately. Having someone work goal is helpful for this drill as it further helps improve on accuracy.
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