It’s the first day of soccer practice to start the new season. All the new and returning players arrive at the pitch. The coach drops a bundle of new soccer balls down and everyone grabs a ball and heads towards the goal. What’s the first thing each player does? They rocket the ball toward the net in an effort to score a long-range screamer.
Having a strong, powerful shot is beneficial for soccer players for several reasons. For one, it allows you to hammer home quality chances with authority, preventing the keeper from making a save. And two, it makes you a threat to score from distance, turning you into a more dynamic player who demands greater attention from the defense.
Having a weak shot, on the other hand, will strike little fear into the defense and will allow the keeper to easily save many of your attempts.
How do you go about building a thunderous shot? Do you stay extra time after practice and kick until you can’t kick any more, hoping that your leg strength and power will come eventually? Although extra on-field practice is never a bad idea, it’s not the most effective way to increase shooting power.
You have to train in the weight room just as hard as you do on the pitch if you want to add velocity and distance to your shots. If that’s your goal, you should be training your lower body for both speed and power. Here are five exercises to help soccer players increase their shooting power.
1. Front Squats
Front Squats put more emphasis on the quadriceps and core than Back Squats do, and they’re easy to scale for any athlete. A dumbbell or kettlebell can easily replace the barbell to allow the athlete time to master the movement in a “Goblet Squat” position before adding a barbell. The fact that Front Squats more effectively target the core than many other squat variations is key, as shooting a soccer ball with tremendous power requires a significant contribution from the core musculature.
This isn’t to say Back Squats should be avoided entirely, however. Box Squats, in particular, are an excellent exercise for building hip strength. Without adequate hip strength, you won’t be ripping many shots past the keeper anytime soon.
2. Sumo Deadlift Variations
Deadlift variations should already be a staple in every athlete’s training program. I prefer the Sumo (wide stance) Deadlift because of the additional emphasis it places on your hips and glutes. As previously mentioned, hip strength is going to be a key factor if you want to get some extra mustard on your shots. The key function of the glute muscles is to move the thigh, so they also play a crucial role. If you’re new to the Sumo Deadlift movement, you can first practice it with a kettlebell (as shown above) before progressing to a barbell.
3. Split Squats (and Step-Ups)
Now that you’ve got the main compound lift out of the way, it’s time to focus on the finer details. Picking the correct accessory movements can make or break your pursuit for kicking power. Heavy Dumbbell Step-Ups onto a box are one of my favorite ways to build functional strength. They strengthen the quadriceps, knees, ankles, hips and glutes while teaching you to balance and activate your core to stay steady. Split Squats (with our without weight) are another key exercise for developing athletic power.
Training your hamstrings, glutes , rectus abdominis and erector spinae, the Split Squat will help you power up your shot. Two benefits of these exercises are that their unilateral in nature, meaning they focus on one leg at a time. Considering that you shoot a soccer ball while standing on one leg as opposed to two bodes well for their translation to this key skill.
4. Low-Back Extensions
Low-Back Extensions may not be considered a “big exercise” in the traditional sense of the term, but the benefits they provide for athletes are immense. If you’re new to the movement, there’s a good chance you can reap many of these benefits without adding any additional weight to the exercise.
Low-Back Extensions are a potent posterior chain builder, honing in on the muscles of the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. A stronger posterior chain won’t only help you shoot the ball harder, but it’ll help you run faster, jump higher and avoid injury more effectively.
5. Ab Wheel Rollouts
When setting up for a power shot, your last stride toward the ball will likely be the longest. But that also means your feet will be the farthest apart—a position where it can be easy to lose your balance. What’s the best way to make sure you don’t get knocked off the ball before you score the game-winning goal? Train your core!
Although compound movements like the Deadlift and Front Squat indirectly train the core, exercises like Ab Wheel Rollouts target it more directly. Ab Wheel Rollouts are one of the absolute best core exercises for athletes, since they train the core to perform its natural purpose: to resist extension. A strong, well-trained core will be able to resist the energy leaks that can sap power from your shot.
The Stronger Shot Workout
This workout includes all of the aforementioned exercises and can serve as an excellent lower-body lift for soccer players.
Heavy Front Squats
Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift
- Sets/Reps: 1×12, 1×10, 1×8, 1×6 (aim to increase the weight on every set)
Dumbbell Step Up
- Sets/Reps: 4×6 reps on each leg (so 12 total reps in each set)
- Sets/Reps: 3×8 reps on each leg (so 16 total reps in each set)
Low Back Extension
Ab Wheel Rollouts
- Sets/Reps: 5×30-second intervals of any Plank variation
Photo Credit: Jan Kruger/Getty Images