Just playing soccer gives you a head start on your conditioning. With its blends of sprints and strolls, jogs and backpedals -- performed one after another for an hour and a half -- in some ways makes this sport seem like an uber-trendy HIIT class out in the open air. But you can certainly benefit from adding conditioning work to gain an edge on your competition. A strength program augments your ability to sprint with power, to send the ball downfield and win battles for control.
Mark Your Calendar
If you are starting from scratch to become a stronger, better-conditioned soccer player, you’ll need to come up with a schedule for your program. If your coach or manager, or team strength coach doesn’t provide one, you can set up your own depending on your current level, your goals and your time available. Look to work on strength ideally Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and conditioning Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can work nearly infinite variations on this suggestion, but try not to neglect strength work -- two days a week is the minimum if you can’t manage three. A soccer game day on the weekend -- say on Saturday -- would dictate that Sunday be a rest day, or vice versa.
If you lack access to your team’s weight room, you can still make plenty of progress with body-weight workouts. Include lunges, squats, calf raises, split squats and squat jumps. Mountain climbers and burpees will also provide a cardio challenge, while dips and regular and wide pushups challenge your upper body. If you can get in the weight room -- or assemble your own barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells at home -- add weighted versions of squats, lunges, step-ups and calf raises.
The Core of the Matter
Stay with body-weight exercises for a strong core, which links your upper and lower body power. Work up to two sets of 25 situps, supermans and planks. Pick up a kettlebell to perform swings and similar exercises, such as the snatch, for an iron-clad core and stronger glutes and hamstrings. Hamstring work is particularly important for female players to increase balance between the hammies and the powerful quad muscles, and to avoid injury.
Go, Speed Racer
One useful way to improve your conditioning to focus on what trainers call speed endurance -- practices that allow your body to run faster, longer. You’ve probably already done plenty of suicides and intervals in your sports career, so maybe you can add what Indiana Tech calls “Brazil runs” for a tremendous challenge. Set aside 45 to 60 minutes to work out on a track or field at least 100 yards long and warm up dynamically. Sprint four sets of 3x100s -- the first figure is the reps, and the second is the distance in yards -- resting three times your run time. Rest five minutes after this and every change of set. Follow with five sets of 4x50s, six sets of 4x35s, and seven sets of 4x20s. Hydrate thoroughly throughout.