How Saint Louis Soccer Stretches the Upper Body

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By Scott Mackar

Everyone understands the importance of leg strength for soccer players; they need it to fly by opponents and fire shots and passes. But soccer players who concentrate too much on their lower bodies and overlook strength and flexibility work for their upper bodies leave themselves open to injuries and hinder their potential to max out their game-day skills. To prevent either from happening, Tom Kelso, strength and conditioning coach for Saint Louis University men's soccer, has his team perform upper-body lifts that work both strength and flexibility. "I put them through push and pull lifts that work through a full range of motion to balance the opposing muscle groups and work their flexibility," he says. "Range of motion allows athletes to maximize their skills, and upper-body flexibility plays a large role in applying force to those skills."

The Billikens perform the Dumbbell Bench and Seated Row exercises at least twice a week year-round, cutting down the volume during the season. Kelso likes these two lifts "because they strengthen and stretch your shoulder joints and help on the field with injury prevention and range of motion."

Sets, reps and rest vary between 1-3, 6-20 and 1-2 minutes, respectively, because Kelso wants to overload their muscles and augment flexibility work.

Dumbbell Bench

• Lie with back on bench, holding dumbbells at upper chest
• Drive dumbbells toward ceiling until arms are straight
• Lower dumbbells with control so elbows come down past shoulders

Coaching Points: Make sure you get all the way to the bottom and back to the top of the motion to ensure you get the full stretch. Let the weight down until you feel it stretching your pec region; then drive it back up in a controlled fashion.

Seated Row

• Place hands shoulder-width apart with palms facing each other
• Sit straight up, keep core and lower back tight, and shoulder blades pinched slightly together
• Pull arms back, driving elbows past body
• Control weight back to start position

Coaching Points: Perform the exercise with a controlled speed. Go through a full range of motion, and use control and the same rep speed so you're consistent throughout your progressions.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock