Soccer players are among the most physically fit people in the world of sports. Known for their coordination, maneuverability, and endurance, it doesn’t come easy. Thorough and consistent training is a must considering the fact they have to play 90-minute games or more.
Whether you are an amateur or professional football player, you need the right balance of nutrition, training, recovery mechanisms and sleeping patterns to gain a competitive advantage.
Football players mostly engage in functional training whereby their workouts mostly involve molding their bodies to adapt to the sport by focusing on specific parts and muscles of the body.
Eventually, the players’ performance and development are improved by strengthening their bodies, enhancing their movements at the same time improving injury reduction and recovery.
Incorporating functional training along with other workouts in your training schedule is, therefore, is essential to achieve an overall increased game performance in so many ways. They include:
- Strengthens and balances your entire body.
- Reduces the risk of injury.
- Improves your balance, coordination, and agility.
- Strengthens your core and footing important especially during body to body battles.
- Increases your power, endurance, and speed to beat your opponents.
- Strengthens your joints to improve balance, landing, and changing of direction.
- Enables you to improve quickly from soreness or injury.
Functional training can be done by any soccer player regardless of your level of experience or age. Most of the exercises don’t need additional equipment or access to the gym to be done; however, you will need ample space and a yoga mat.
Depending on your soccer schedule, goals, fitness level and age, it’s recommended that you do functional training two to three times a week and try to ensure that your workout lasts between 30 minutes to an hour.
You should also ensure that you allocate enough recovery time between intense functional workouts and team training or soccer games and your standard training. After light workouts, allocate a lesser amount of time for recovery as compared to after intense workouts.
Below are some of the functional training workouts that are safe and effective when increasing your body’s strength and performance on the pitch and have a low impact. They include:
- Power and speed.
- Ball work.
- Injury prevention.
Before starting a run, workout or getting into the football pitch, warming up first, aids in reducing the risk of injury at the same time maximize your performance.
Before starting a run, workout or getting into the football pitch, warming up first, aids in reducing the risk of injury at the same time maximize your performance.
A warm-up should be done 15-30 minutes before a game and 5-15 minutes before a workout and should include stretching and dynamic exercises and light cardiovascular activities.
Importance of Warm-ups
- Increased performance- warm-ups increase endurance, power, the range of motion, coordination, agility, reaction time and mental focus.
- Injury prevention- warm-ups reduces muscle stiffness and tension, prepares the body for intense and difficult movements and also enables you to discover an injury reducing the likelihood of unknowingly worsening the injury.
- Better health- warm-ups improve blood circulation, increase nutrient and oxygen delivery, warms ligaments, tendons and muscles preparing them for intense physical activity and increases body flexibility and temperature among others.
Functional training is meant for all football players regardless of their ages and experience level. Below is a breakdown of various warm-up exercises along with instructions categorized under levels of experience and activity:
Beginner Warm-up Workouts
- One leg stretch-20 seconds
- Plank crawl-3 reps
- Quadricep stretch- 20 seconds
- Open leg stretch- 20 seconds
- Dynamic hamstring stretch- 10 reps
- Standing hamstring stretch- 10 seconds
- Single leg toe touches- 4 reps
Advanced or Intermediate Warm-up Workout
This warm-up is ideal for more experienced soccer players. It focuses on balance, agility, flexibility, and endurance. The workout includes:
- Plank crawl- 2 reps
- Stretching forward lunge- 3 reps
- Pulsing squat- 10 reps
- Holding squat- 3 reps
- Front squat- 5 reps
- Forward lunge- 10 reps
- Reverse lunge+ frontal kicks- 10 reps
- Single leg toe touches+ short frontal kicks- 10 reps
- Push-ups half burpees- 3 reps
- Interchanging stretching forward lunges- 8 reps
Running Warm-up Workout
This workout is meant for soccer players going for long runs. It involves cardio and stretching exercises ideal for everyone. The exercises include:
- Heels up-20 seconds
- Knees up- 20 seconds
- Hip rotations- 10 reps each side
- Hip rolls- 5 reps each side
- Front leg swings- 10 reps
- Shoulder rolls- 10 reps
- Interchanging leg swings with jump-10 reps
Soccer Warm-up Workouts
This warm-up is suitable for football players to be done before starting a game or when coming in as a substitute. They are highly energized, dynamic and focused on agility. They include:
- Push-ups- 5 reps
- Plank crawl- 2 reps
- Knees up + jump- 4 reps
- Pulsing lunges- 8 reps each side
- Front leg kick with a jump- 10 reps each side
- Lateral leg circles- 10 reps each side
- Lateral leg raises- 6 reps each side
- Single leg touches- 4 reps each side
- Close the gate- 10reps each side
- Open the gate- 10 reps each side
Dynamic Mobility Warm-up Workout
This warm-up is meant to be slow and controlled and is supposed to be felt. It increases the range of movement especially in the hips, back, and legs. The exercises include:
- Active leg lowering- 5 reps each side
- Swinging table top- 30 seconds
- Dynamic sit-up with leg reach- 15 reps each side
- Dynamic L backward- 5 reps each side
- Dynamic L- 8 reps each side
When warming up, you are not supposed to push yourself too hard, and you should still feel fresh without stiffness after a warm-up. Additionally, static stretching is suitable when cooling down after physical activity; otherwise, it will drain your power.
Dynamic stretching is a sequence of movements that are sport specific (soccer) that are meant to prepare your muscles for the physical activity ahead. Incorporating dynamic stretches into your warm-up or warm-down is essential in maintaining your peak level performance.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching has several benefits that have a significant impact on your body and performance. They include:
- Reduces the risk of stiffness, soreness, and injury.
- Increases mobility, joint mobility, and flexibility.
- Increases blood circulation by warming up your body and muscles.
- Hastens recovery rate.
- Prepares the body for complex movements and high-intensity exercises.
- Increases your concentration and sharpness.
- Increases range of motion and improve muscle function.
Dynamic stretches should be executed in a slow and controlled manner, flexing your feet in the process and focusing on your breath. Dynamic stretches include:
- Dynamic L- this exercise is classified under mobility training vital especially when preparing for intense training. It’s suitable for warming up your hips and abdominals.
- Dynamic L backward- This exercise is similar to Dynamic L with few variations. It’s a mobility training exercise and ideal when warming up your back.
Soccer is a 90 minute or more game. To be able to last a full match running an average of eight miles, sprinting, jogging and winning battles, you need to work on your endurance. Endurance workouts will enable you to have the ability to kick the ball, jog, run and maneuver around other players never stopping till the final whistle.
Benefits of Endurance Training
- Enables you to be better at decision making and improves your focus.
- Hastens your recovery after games or training.
- Improves oxygen delivery to your muscles.
- Enables you to have the ability to outrun your opponents throughout the game.
Endurance Training Workouts
Along with functional training for endurance, there are some workouts that soccer players incorporate into their training routine to increase their stamina. They include:
- Functional training- To play the longest and hardest, functional training is essential. Isometric exercises are perfect for enhancing your endurance as your target muscle fibers become denser and stronger. The perfect exercise, in this case, is a two-point classic plank that focuses on toughening and strengthening your abs, legs, glutes, and balance- the ideal combination for improving your endurance.
- Cardiovascular exercises- Soccer players need to use large amounts of cardiovascular energy. To develop the endurance required for a full match, you need to perform intensive and regular cardiovascular exercises. Because soccer players don’t run non-stop during a match, when carrying out cardiovascular exercises- running or jogging- they should last between 30 and 60 minutes whereby you will develop the necessary stamina to jog or run throughout the game.
A heart rate monitor is also necessary when trying to ensure you expend the right amount of energy from a workout. For endurance development, your heart rate should fall between 65 to 85% for maximum HR, and most exercises should maintain your HR between 65 to 70% — this range aids in increasing blood volume, oxygen transportation, and capillary density.
- Repeated fast runs with brief breaks- Cardiovascular exercises may be important in building endurance. However, fast workouts with short breaks in between are essential too. Practicing sprinting, for instance, will keep you prepared for about 10-15% of a game. You may practice sprinting by making 10-15 sets of 20-yard sprints with a 30-second rest between sets adjusting your body to quickly starting and stopping. You can also run around the pitch changing speeds as you run to help work on your reflexes of quickly changing your actions and also adapt to the ever-changing physical demands of a game.
- Interval training- this form of training improves soccer skills significantly. When training, you change between various activity levels at the same time giving your heart time to recover periodically. You may start with a low-intensity exercise like jogging before bursting into a high-intensity exercise. This trains your muscles without straining them improving your speed and strength without unnecessary wear and tear. Most professional footballers follow the 80/20 rule whereby their workout consists of 20% high and medium impact exercising and 80% low impact.
During a soccer game you will mostly be jogging, sprinting, pacing, dribbling or standing still; hence this training helps your body to quickly jump between various activities with ease.
Power and Speed
Football is a fast game, and so should you. Building your speed on and off the ball and also being able to fire explosive shots from any angle can be achieved through power and speed workouts. Below are some of the benefits:
Benefits of Speed and Power Training
- Beat opponents to the ball.
- Dodge easily past opponents.
- Unleash stronger passes and kicks.
- Greater power in the air.
- Faster reactions while playing like deflections.
Power and Speed Training Workouts
- Sprint training- in this training, you make long, medium and short sprints over straight distances. You should also incorporate diagonal, forward, backward and side-to-side sprints to mimic movements during a match
- Flexibility and mobility training- it’s paramount to recover with dynamic movements and to stretch to keep your body mobile, loose and light. When your body is rigid, stiff or tight, it becomes difficult for you to effectively unleash your power and speed without creating strain to your body.
- Plyometric training- this form of training includes hopping, jumping or similar exercises that focus on expending maximum force in a short time. Regardless of the technique, you decide to use so long as it’s safe and adequate, your explosiveness will improve.
- Joint strengthening training- performing exercises that strengthen your hip, ankle, and knee joint not only do you improve your balance and stability but also gives you the ability to quickly change direction or jump. It also reduces the chances of injuring yourself.
- Fast footwork and coordination training- the smoother and faster your feet are, the higher your movements will be. Practice with a partner, cones, ladders or use skipping ropes to perfect this part of your game.
- Functional training- functional training increases muscle strength of your body. While improving your power and speed through functional training, your core strength, balance, coordination and mobility and more also improves-aspects that will refine your power and speed.
Mobility training is a big part of being a soccer players, especially when having a busy soccer schedule. It enables you to lose and reduce soreness, stay flexible and keep moving fluidly. It has some benefits to players which include:
Importance of Mobility Training
- Your agility to dodge players increases.
- You become faster at changing speeds and direction.
- You gain more control of the ball and your body.
- Increases your fluidity movement and range of motion
Mobility Training Workouts
Mobility exercises are gentle but effective, low impact, work your coordination and flexibility and maintain perfect alignment of your entire body.
Functional dynamic exercises are good for increasing mobility and ideal during warm-ups and warm-downs. They include:
- Active leg lowering- this is an excellent exercise for stretching and working your pelvic area and strengthens your glutes and legs.
- Knee arches- enhances spine flexibility, quad flexibility, knee mobility, and anterior tibialis stretch.
- Inverted hamstring or single leg RDL- improves ankle balance and stability and hamstring flexibility.
- Side lunge with or without rotations- knee strength, ankle mobility, adductor flexibility and by adding rotations, aids in trunk and lats mobility.
- Ankle focused squats- ankle flexibility and mobility.
- Side splits- groin and adductors strength and stretch
- Front splits- stretch hip flexor, pelvis symmetry, and hamstring stretch.
- Back bridge- lats stretch, shoulder mobility, hip flexor stretches, glute firing, and spine mobility.
- Knees and toes squat- improves knee and toe mobility and strength.
Coordination and control of your body is a major contributor to your soccer skills. Lack of coordination means poor passing techniques, weak skills, poor body-to-body performances and slow change of direction.
Mastering coordination of your body and a ball enables you to move the ball around with ease at the same time set excellent plays from all angles. It also has other benefits which include:
Benefits of Coordination Training
- You learn to make accurate passes with either foot.
- Strong balance especially during body-to-body interactions.
- Quicker decision making
- Deceiving dribbling to dodge attacking players.
- Perfect ball control.
Coordination Training Workouts
Coordination workouts are meant to improve your control, balance, swiftness and more. Below are some coordination workouts to help you improve your soccer skills:
- Knee tuck classic plank- When doing this exercise, you must keep your body’s trunk still and engaged at the same time moving your raise head and leg, flexing your raised leg, synchronizing your movement and focusing on your breath. This improves your strength, balance, and control.
- Skip rope- Skipping a rope improves your coordination in that you have to time your jumps with how fast you are swinging the rope. Do this exercise jumping with both feet first then with one foot as you increase speeds.
- Balance on one leg- this exercise enables you to work on your balance and coordinating as you try to prevent yourself from falling. To do this exercise, stand on an unstable surface like a pillow with your hands on your waist, lift one foot, bend the other foot at the knee and hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs.
All best soccer players have one thing in common; they are fast in most aspects like feet, ball control, and decision making. However, all this is not from talent but instead training. Ball work training enables your movement to become smoother and efficient at the same time increasing your agility and coordination.
Benefits of Ball Work Training
- Prevention of injury.
- Improves your dribbling skills
- Getting around opponents becomes easier and quicker.
- You get to be able to change direction quickly.
- Your reaction to game play improves.
Ball Work Training Workouts
Ball work exercises are focused on balance, coordination, and agility which are the basis to fast movements and footwork. Some of the footwork exercises include:
- Push-up burpee- this exercise improves your endurance, control, and power of explosive movements. The exercise engages your entire body as you change directions and also adjusts and strengthens your joints as you land on the floor.
- Reverse lunge knee-up- This workout improves your coordination and balance while adding different movement intensities (power and explosive and slow and controlled)
- Jumping lunges- this exercise enhances power, coordination, balance and quick movements of the body. It also improves ankle strength.
Some teams and players find it difficult to go an entire season without injuries. There many external forces beyond our control but there are some contributing factors that we can control. Below is a quick peek into some common injuries in soccer:
- Overuse injuries- Achilles tendinitis and shin splints
- Muscular injuries- pulled or strained leg muscle.
- Knee injuries- cartilage damage
- Lower extremity injuries- broken feet or toes, torn ankle ligaments, ankle roll, and ankle sprains.
Some of these injuries may be caused by external factors like a dangerous tackle from an opponent. However, most of them can be prevented through simple and consistent prevention exercises.
Benefits of Injury Prevention Training
- Reduces risk of injury.
- Strengthens joints-ankles and knees.
- Quicker recovery from injuries and games.
- In case of an injury, it’s less likely to be severe.
- Enhances game performance.
Injury Prevention Workouts
Injury prevention workouts are meant to reduce injuries and rehabilitate injuries successfully. The aim is to keep your joints stable, strengthen your entire body and allow more fluid movement.
The exercises themselves are low impact whereby we challenge our bodies physically at the same time reducing the likelihood of injuring ourselves while doing these exercises. The exercises include:
- Warm-ups- warming up before a game is vital as not engaging your muscles properly for an intense activity is the fastest way to get injured.
- Stretching- Stretching increases your range of motion, flexibility and mobility preparing your body for movements of a workout or game.
- Split squat
- Step down
- Single leg deadlift.
Maintaining a healthy mix of the various soccer workouts discussed will significantly improve your soccer skills and performance. You should also remember to warm-down after a workout to restore your muscles to their optimal length-tension relationship and reduce your breathing and heart rates. Keep in mind it’s training that makes world-class players.