If you want to compete at your best at soccer, you need to commit to preseason training, so that your strength and cardiovascular fitness peaks in time for the first game of league competition. In preseason, players such as American men’s team standout Jozy Altidore, who plays professionally in Europe, focus every day on a combination of conditioning, work in the weight room and scrimmages designed to increase ball skills and tactical understanding of the game. Even preteen players can follow a scaled-down workout plan to get ready for the season opener.
Your workout plan needs to be individualized to your soccer level and started about two months before the first game. The plan’s elements need to work together to help your speed, flexibility, agility, balance, strength and core training. You’ll need create a detailed chart of what exercises to put in your workout, how many sets and reps of each and which days to conduct them, based on either coach or trainer input or your own study of training principles. Ideally, you revise the program design when competition starts to build in rest from games.
This group, which includes young players age 8 to 13 with little or no training experience or soccer beginners, obviously needs a far simpler preseason workout plan than older soccer players, writes University of North Carolina conditioning coach Greg Gatz in “Complete Conditioning for Soccer.” Speed training needs to focus on basic running mechanics. Acceleration drills can include runs up stairs, ramps or small hills.
Agility and balance training helps young players learn how to stop quickly and the proper footwork to change direction. This can include rope jumping, forward and backward shuffling, crossover steps and single-leg squats. Strength and power work can involve two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps of presses, step-ups, body rows and standing medicine ball twists. A conditioning element is intrinsic to these drills, especially if they are conducted with minimal rest intervals.
Soccer players age 14 to 17 can continue with foundational fitness work with more soccer competition added to the mix, Gatz states. Speed drills can add light resistance such as a weighted vest or resistance cord. Add plyometric drills such as hops and jumps. Agility exercises can progress to using complex footwork drills with an agility ladder. Strength work begins to include dumbbell squats, lunges, step-ups and squat jumps. The body's core, so crucial to athletic success, gets work with back extensions, medicine ball seated rotations and medicine ball vertical chops. The recommended frequency is two or three times a week in preseason, dropping to once or twice a week when the season starts. Conditioning can include 300-yard shuttles, dribble-and-shoot drills and Fartlek or similar interval training.
Athletes 18 years or older have mastered earlier forms of training and can get even more ready to compete based on preseason work. Speed work can include sled towing, S-curve runs and running that incorporates 180-degree turns and racing off again. Agility work involves sprints between two half-sized agility ladders and shuffling over mini-hurdles. Single-leg squats, barefooted or with eyes closed, help with balance. Strength work now adds Romanian deadlifts, stability leg curls and barbell back squats as well as intermediate-level dumbbell exercises. Sprints and one-versus-one games aid conditioning.