Soccer players who compete one day a week in a game need to devote five other days a week to their workout routines, notes Greg Gatz, conditioning coach for the University of North Carolina’s soccer teams. This allows one rest day. If you play two games a week, keep a single rest day and set up your other four days for workouts, he advises. The U.S. men’s national team adheres to an even more rigorous schedule of workouts. Fitness coach Pierre Barrieu schedules daily weightlifting to prevent injuries in the run-up to events such as the World Cup.
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A warmup and dynamic stretching needs to precede every workout; allow 10 to 12 minutes for that before continuing with your strength work. Dynamic stretching finds more favor among college coaches such as Gatz than static stretching, which requires you to flex or extend your limbs and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Jogging, side shuffles, forward lunges, skipping, Spiderman crawls and the carioca or grapevine step warm and stretch your muscles dynamically for a safer workout.
Circuit training from station to station in a gym allows you to work on your strength and endurance as the centerpiece of your workout routine. Gatz recommends performing five exercises each in four soccer-specific circuit workouts that address the lower body, the upper body, the total body and core. Gatz’s sample workout lists classic strength exercises such as squats and lunges, seated pull-downs, incline pushups, medicine ball standing full circles and crunches on the exercise ball. Your coach or trainer can help tailor a circuit for you and provide a card listing exercises, sets, reps and weights.
Barrieu recommends 15 exercises to strength the body, especially the legs and core, with an eye toward injury prevention. Single-leg reaches and the front bridge work on the core. The hamstrings, often a vulnerable area for soccer players, receive attention in the eccentric hamstring curl, which requires a partner to hold your ankles while you kneel and slowly fall forward, then push back up to the starting position. Adductor side lifts, side bends and side lunges strengthen the obliques and hips against injury.
Goalkeepers need explosiveness, so U.S. men’s team goalkeeper coach Timothy Mulqueen recommends intensive lower-body workouts to include the Bulgarian squat, dumbbell Romanian deadlift and exercise ball single-leg curl. For the upper body, especially important for this position, he recommends in his book “The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper” a mix of dumbbell bench presses, rotational pullups and the dumbbell triceps pullover. Crunches, side pillars and hip bridges on the exercise ball with the leg raises further build needed strength for the goalie. The medicine ball rapid response exercise requires you to throw a 2 kg medicine ball against a wall 10 inches away from overhead, the forehead and chest levels to build the rotator cuff and triceps.