Are you a footballer who thinks that playing soccer is enough training for your legs? Think again.
In my last blog post, I discussed why strength training is important for the soccer/football athlete.
To give a little bit of a recap:
Strength training helps athletes become more resilient and injury resistant.
It assists in speed and power development.
It can help older athletes prolong their careers.
It is a way for young & developing athletes to learn more about how their bodies move.
It also helps athletes improve their motor control and coordination.
Footballers do not get to the top of their game simply by playing more often. Top-tier collegiate and professional athletes spend time strength training in-season and out of season. It’s an often forgotten about aspect of a program in youth soccer, and this needs to change.
So let’s go over some strength exercises I provide to my footballers to get them to the next level of their game. If you’re unsure how to perform these exercises, make sure you check out the youtube video below. If you are looking for a specific exercise, look in the description section to find at what time in the video it begins.
The Sled Push is a great full-body strength exercise. You work your legs, core, and arms all-in-one. It also incorporates cardio, power, and strength all into one exercise. This should get your heart rate up! Try 10-40 yard pushes for 5-6 passes with a heavy weight, arms extended, knees driving forward.
The Goblet Squat is a great quad and lower limb development exercise. You’ll also get added benefits of core and upper extremity with this one too. Carry a weight in front of you as if you’re getting ready to drink from a large goblet like a Viking. Drop into your squat maintaining a neutral spine and push out through your shoelaces. Try this for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. The added benefit here, it challenges ankle mobility. If you’re struggling to squat as a soccer player, ankle mobility may be an issue. So try propping your heels up on some plates and see how you do.
The Multidirectional Lunge is a great addition to any footballers’ program. As a soccer player, a change of direction occurs every 10 seconds or so. This exercise helps improve lower extremity strength and resilience. Perform a forward, lateral and backward lunge all in one (you can add a curtsy lunge if you feel like being fancy). Try this for 5-6 rounds on each side, weighted or unweighted.
Side Plank with Hip Abduction should be a staple in all footballers’ programs. Why? Core and hip development are key to moving well. Want to target your lateral hip musculature at 100%? This is your go-to. This is not easy. Start with 10-second holds for 5-6 reps and increase your hold time as you feel fit. Try to progress to holding for ~ 1 minute on each side. If this is too hard, start in a modified (on-knee) plank position first.
The Single-Arm Carry is another example of a multi-purpose exercise for footballers. It helps with strength, stability, and balance and works your entire body. Coaches and players can make this exercise harder by adding a march or in-line walk. Pick up a fairly heavy weight in one arm and walk! Try 40 yard passes for a few repetitions or 3-4 reps of 30 seconds in each hand. Feel your core, arm and glutes start to burn!
The Copenhagen Plank (Hip Adductor Plank) needs to be a staple in all footballers’ programs. Research has shown it helps prevent those nagging and common groin injuries. Position yourself as if you are going into a full side plank. Find yourself a bench, chair, box and throw your top leg on it. Lift yourself up as if you’re performing a side plank and bring your lower leg to meet your opposite leg. Start with 10-second holds and progress up to 20-30 seconds. Try 5-6 repetitions several times a week.
The Single-Leg (SL) RDL is the unilateral version of the standard Romanian Deadlift. It’s great for footballers to develop hamstring and glute strength and single-leg stability. Start standing with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the opposite leg off of the floor. Hinge at your hips, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor. Squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward and return to standing. Try 3-5 sets of 8-12 of these!
Unilateral Step-Ups are another great exercise for the footballers’ strength repertoire. It can help with complete lower extremity strength, balance, and power. Utilizing a step height that is comfortable, put one leg on the step. Push through your lead leg (without pushing too much from the leg on the floor) and step up! Perform 3-5 sets of 8-12.
The Trap Bar Deadlift is an all-encompassing full-body workout for the soccer athlete. The ultimate goal for this lift is to do 2x your body weight! Grab yourself the trap/hex bar in your gym! Load it to your comfort. Maintaining a neutral spine and utilizing your best hip hinge, lower yourself to grab the bar. Push through your shoelaces and return to a standing position. A neutral spine should be maintained throughout. Perform 6-10 repetitions for 4-5 sets.
Push-Ups are here simply because soccer players need to remember their upper body too. Granted, push-ups are also great core work too. Try 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps! If you need to, drop to your knees to modify!
Bulgarian Split Squats are a great squat variation for footballers. This single-leg version helps players develop lower extremity strength and power. It emphasizes quad and glute development. Find yourself a bench, box, or chair. Place one leg on the elevated surface (the top of your foot may be flat on the bench or you can be on your toes). Step forward with your lead foot so that your knee is slightly bent. With an upright trunk, slowly lower your back knee towards the floor. Your front should form an approximate 90-degree angle. Return to standing by pushing through the front foot. Try this exercise for 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps! It will be challenging.
The Hip Thrust is a great exercise to generate more power through your posterior chain. It emphasizes full hip extension and is a great exercise for your gluteal musculature. To perform, start seated on the floor. Place your upper back on a bench or elevated surface. Place a barbell or dumbbell across your lap (this can also be performed unweighted). Push through your heels and press the bar straight up until your heels are in line with your shoulders. The bench should not move and your upper back should remain on the bench. With your upper back remaining on the bench, lower your hips to just a few inches off of the floor. Try this for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps!
By no means is this an all-exhaustive list. I can tell you another exercise I would also incorporate is Nordic Hamstring Curls! There are many other exercises that soccer players can add to their strength programming. I chose these, as they are ones I incorporate into programming often. If you have questions about other exercises not on this list, ask a question in the comments below.