Build a Foundation of Conditioning and Explosion

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Build a foundation of conditioning and explosion this fall with STACK's 8-Week Workout, developed in association with Scott Moody of SoccerFIT Academy.

What to Do: Focus on three key elements that drive soccer success.

1. Sharpen Agility and Quickness.
Close to 40 percent of a soccer game is played moving laterally, not straight ahead, so you must train accordingly or you'll miss out on improving a large part of your game. According to Jeff Howser, Duke University's speed and conditioning coordinator, that specifically refers to hip mobility. "Being able to move is the base through which you transfer all of your power into the ground," he says. "The stronger your hips, the more force you can apply and the better your quickness will be."

2. Build Lower Body Strength.
When you build a great foundation, all the other components of a performance program—skills, power, strength, speed and endurance—fall into place. Coach Scott Moody, of SoccerFit in Kansas City (and creator of STACK's 8-Week Workout), explains, "With young players, we want to build a base, of Squat, Lunge and Step-Up, with great form. We want to progress and make sure our athletes can jump and land, move dynamically without losing form, focus or rhythm. This is all related to having great lower body strength."

3. Strengthen the Core.
The only way a soccer player can fight for and win a position on the field is to link his or her upper body to a strong lower body through a strong core. "A strong core is more important to soccer than to any other sport," says Randy Rocha, former strength and conditioning coach for D.C. United and director of the Sports Performance Academy. He adds, "If someone pushes you across the chest and tries to hold you off, your abdominal region and core react." For transfer of strength, assistance with speed and agility, and even help with body mechanics for better endurance, a strong core will help you achieve higher levels of performance.

What to Avoid:
1. Muscle Imbalances.

Soccer players often have overdeveloped quadriceps in relation to their hamstrings. If everything you do on the pitch is one-sided—lots of kicking and distance running—it may seem like all you need to do is work the quads harder. Big mistake. Equally working the hamstrings and glutes is absolutely necessary to avoid muscle imbalance, which can lead to injury and hinder performance. The best way to avoid this: perform exercises that work all three muscle groups. This ensures overdevelopment does not happen and trains your muscles the way they're used on the field.

2. LSD (Long-Slow-Distance) Running.
A great aerobic base and the ability to run for long periods of time are crucial for success in soccer. But, endurance is not the only conditioning component soccer players need. Instead of focusing entirely on LSD, they should simulate the workload of a typical match by practicing change-of-speed and change-of-direction. Such training also develops aerobic capacity, which allows you to withstand a game's constant pace.

3. Being One-Side Dominant.
Most right-footed players have a stronger left leg, because that's the one they use to plant and take on the force and to jump. Soccer players must be able to switch directions and use either leg for shooting, passing and dribbling, so working these skills with both sides of the body is essential. "Shooting strength comes from improved biomechanics and technique," says Pierre Barieu, the U.S. Men's National team trainer who helped prep players for the 2010 World Cup. "In addition to general strength training, we target specific muscles to make sure we have balance all over. We work skills from both sides of the body."

Who's coaching?

Scott Moody/CEO/Founder SoccerFIT Academy

Moody, founder and CEO of the Training and Research Institute for Athletic Development, instructs young players at the F.I.T. Academy. He also works closely with notable equipment manufacturers—such as Cybex, Woodway, Myotest, Fitness Anywhere and Fusion Sport—to research product effectiveness and create programming and educational resources to advance the understanding of sports performance training among young athletes.

How It Helps
Moody's Workout Philosophy

The program considers individual differences. Each athlete's training level is different—in form, ability, and training history (injuries, training age, exercise knowledge). For younger athletes, we offer three levels of a six-year plan for physical and athletic development, specifically designed to drive performance gains on the field—in speed, agility, strength/power and fitness. The program works well for soccer players with a moderate level of training experience.

First, an explanation of our Developmental Model, which consists of three components:

1.    Physical Development—Flexibility, mobility, stability, strength, fitness, speed and power; vital for the physical aspect of soccer
2.     Technical/Tactical Development—Practices, small-sided games, scrimmages and games—all of which improve an athlete's playing level based on knowledge of the game, game strategies and situation awareness
3.     F.I.T. (Functionally Integrated Training)—the base, or foundation, integrates sport skills necessary to be a great soccer player (e.g., passing, striking, etc.)

We want a well rounded athlete who has all three components: the physical ability to achieve high levels of success; the understanding of the game to be in the right spot at the right time; and the proper skills to use in any situation.

To become the best player you can be, you must blend technical development with physical/athletic development.

We first put in some low-level technical drills for speed. Over the first four weeks, we increase the number of sprints to begin to build a base. During the second four weeks, we change the pace to emphasize speed work. This adds a sport-specific feel to the workout. We also add plyometrics—hopping and bounding—into our warm-ups.

For agility work, we look at lateral hopping plyos combined with quick cone crossover movements that enhance the transition and footwork for most agility patterns. During the first four weeks, we add in a basic shuffle-to-run transition. By the second four weeks, assuming that footwork is solid, we shift our attention to creating an agility environment based on anticipation, recognition and reaction in a competitive atmosphere.

Strength and power work starts with dumbbells and focuses on jump-based double-leg movements, single-leg take offs, stability in athletic positions and upper back strength. Our core work hits more on anti-rotation, anti-flexion and anti-extension, which means we train the ability to prevent rotation, flexion or extension when they aren't needed. Having the ability to move how and when we want relates to our stability and body control, both critical to soccer success.

Although our program contains no pure fitness work, we limit rest times, so you're getting some fitness action. This approach, combined with the use of light weights, emphasizes explosive, quick movements and pushes the strength metabolic demands of the workout by forcing the heart rate to recovery quickly.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock