Your goalkeeper needs a substantially different approach to training than your field players. The fitness demands of a goalkeeper compared to those of a field player are like “comparing a sprinter to a distance runner in track and field,” writes coach Debra LaPrath in “Coaching Girls Soccer Successfully.” The goalie needs to burst from one end of the 24-foot-wide goal to the other and collect shots coming in at 30 to 70 mph. Drills need to create the fitness to jump in multiple directions and dash across limited distances.
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Bounds, hops, jumps and similar plyometric exercises work on the goalie’s ability to jump high and dive far, LaPrath notes. Greg Gatz, conditioning coach for the University of North Carolina soccer teams, recommends in “Complete Conditioning for Soccer” a deceptively simple box drill to boost explosive power. The goalie jumps up to an elevated box, bench or step; start with a surface only at knee height. Have the goalie concentrate on projecting the hips up and out. Instruct the goalie to jump down with both single- and double-leg landings.
Upper-body strength also needs to be a priority so the keeper can grab crosses and hold on to shots. Pulling exercises such as the seated pull-down, body row, dumbbell row, dumbbell curl and press, and seated medicine ball twist provide the needed strength, Gatz writes. Italian fitness coach Lorenzo Di Iorio, who trains the pro club Udinese, in his “Soccer Goalkeeper Training Manual” recommends resistance training for the chest, abdominals, back, deltoids and biceps.
The goalie needs to be able to sprint anywhere from 10 feet to the full 24 feet across the goal mouth. This requirement underscores the need for anaerobic fitness for the goalie who works in intense bursts, compared to the aerobic fitness and endurance needed by field players who stroll, jog and sprint for a full game. LaPrath recommends for example having the goalie lie on his side as if he has just made a save. He tosses the ball around 6 yards away, jumps to his feet and sprints to make a second save.
The goalkeeper can also join in general fitness drills, such as intervals and fartleks, with the rest of the team. Goalies can benefit from fartleks that consist of alternating intervals of sprints and jogs of no more than 30 seconds, Di Iorio states. Such drills build a base fitness level, encourage team bonding and encourage mental toughness in the keeper, LaPrath observes. Skills drills also contain an element of fitness training, as the keeper works on catching, punching, parrying, punting and sending the ball on goal kicks. Di Ioria advocates setting up a circuit training area for goalkeepers with a mix of skills work and cardiovascular work, such that the goalkeeper makes practice high saves, followed by shuttle runs, and low saves followed by intervals of juggling the ball.