Soccer success largely requires speed and athleticism.
Many plays consist of single-leg actions, stop-and-go movements, hard cuts and explosive sprints. In order to perform all of these actions efficiently and explosively, you need strong, powerful legs. Adequate leg strength will also help you reduce your risk of injury while performing these actions. A well-balanced strength ratio between the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes is key to increased athletic performance, as these are the muscles that allow us to sprint, bound and jump.
With that in mind, adding these five exercises to your routine will help you build strong legs and gain an advantage over your competition. Adding these exercises to you routine will help build strong legs that will give you that extra edge.
1. Front Squat
Targeted Muscles: Quads, Glutes, Spinal Erectors, Upper Back
Sets and Reps: 5 Sets with 4-6 Reps
The Front Squat is a great exercise for improving athletic performance. It helps the athlete install a proper athletic movement pattern while building thoracic spine mobility and core strength. This exercise will help to develop the powerful lower-body muscle groups important for kicking and running.
2. RDL (Romanian Deadlift)
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Hamstrings, Spinal Erectors, Trapezius
Sets and Reps: 4 Sets with 5-6 Reps
The RDL does an excellent job at targeting the posterior leg muscles, which play a huge role in the ability to run and jump. The RDL also increases hip mobility and hip strength, as well as hamstring strength and stability. Soccer players are known for having overdeveloped quads, which can increase the risk of an ACL injury, so strengthening the hamstrings should be a high priority for many soccer players.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust
Targeted Muscles: Glutes
Sets and Reps: 3 Sets with 6-8 Reps
The Barbell Hip Thrust is an exercise that can tremendously increase the strength of your glutes, in part because it allows you to use a relatively heavy load. The glutes produce huge amounts of force and play a pivotal role in sprinting and jumping, as they are the main hip extensors of the body. The Barbell Hip Thrust allows for optimal glute activation in a simple movement that requires minimal equipment.
4. Lateral Lunge
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Medial Glute, Hip Adductors, Quadriceps
Sets and Reps: 3 Sets with 6-8 Reps per Leg
The Lateral Lunge is another exercise that targets the glutes and quads, but it also targets the medial glute or hip adductors. Not only will this exercise help increase the strength of the adductors, but it also helps increase adductor mobility. A muscle that is strong and moves in the proper range of motion is one that has a low risk of injury.
5. Split Squat
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, quadriceps, Hamstring
Sets and Reps: 3 Sets of 6 Reps per Leg
Single-leg exercises should be a part of every athlete’s workout plan. Many pivotal plays during the course of a soccer match will see a player have one foot on the ball while the other is on the ground. Increasing single-leg strength will allow the athlete to accelerate, decelerate, jump and cut off one leg with more power and explosiveness. Although the Split Squat develops single-leg strength, it also increases single-leg stability. Although the glutes and quadriceps are the main muscles at work here, the hamstring, gastrocnemius and glute minimus are all working as stabilizers.