Changing Direction with Santa Clara Soccer

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By Scott Mackar

You're heading down pitch with the ball, but your feet are moving as fast as the mascot statue in front of your school. You've got a problem. One way to get rid of those block feet is to strengthen the muscles that help you to move forward, backward and laterally.

Eva Popper, strength and conditioning coach for the nationally ranked Santa Clara Broncos women's soccer team, explains: "We really work the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, because those are the muscles directly connected with change of direction and ACL injury prevention. I put my athletes through a routine that works those muscles, emphasizing proper mechanics before adding any real weight."

Perform each of these drills 1 time, resting 60 seconds between them. Repeat the entire set 3 times. Perform routine 2-3 times a week in the off-season and 1 time per week in-season.

Sit-to-Stand with Theraband®

• Stand in front of bench
• Tie Theraband® around tops of knees
• In athletic stance, lower to squat position until sitting on bench
• Return to starting position
• Perform 15 reps

Coaching Points: Exert lateral pressure against the band to engage your gluteus medius and ensure proper knee alignment. Bend from your hips and knees. Push your hips back toward the bench so your knees don't go over your toes. Make sure you don't gain momentum from your upper body as you stand.

Bench Split-Squat With Forward Lean

• Stand in front of bench and put one leg on it
• Lean forward and perform single-leg squat
• Return to start position
• Perform 12 reps on each leg

Coaching Points: Distribute the work evenly to your glutes, hamstrings and quads on the performing leg. Keep your posture inclined forward so your shoulders, hips, ankles and back leg are in line. Make sure your knee doesn't go over your toes or point in towards your big toe.

Single-Leg Lateral Bound To Balance

• From standing position, bound laterally off left leg
• Land on right leg in semi-squat position keeping left foot off ground
• Hold for three seconds
• Bound off right leg to left leg; hold for three seconds
• Perform 5 reps on each leg

Coaching Points: Focus on accelerating through your hips and knees while engaging your glutes and ham-strings. You want a soft landing, extending through your hip and knee. As you hold the landing, make sure your knee doesn't go over your toes or point towards your big toe.

Seated Hamstring Curl

• Push weight down with both legs
• Resist weight to starting position with one leg
• Perform with opposite leg
• Perform 10 reps on each leg

Coaching Points: Make sure the transition from the concentric to eccentric phase is slow and controlled. When you switch to one leg, return the weight to the start position slowly so that momentum doesn't carry it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock