Maryland Soccer's In-season Training Routine

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By Josh Staph

In 2005, the Maryland soccer team had a longer season than any other team in the country. It didn't end until mid December, when the Terrapins defeated New Mexico to win the National Championship. For every challenge Maryland faced during their title run, Barry Kagan was there to keep the players prepared and confident. 

As the Terrapins' strength and conditioning coach, Kagan approaches training with the whole season in mind, not individual games. "You're always going to have those games that everyone labels 'the big game,' but you can't focus on those too much when it comes to training," he says. "If you lose your consistency, you'll experience negative effects, like the loss of conditioning. you try to get back into it, you'll end up being so sore that you won't be able to perform at a high level."

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By Josh Staph

In 2005, the Maryland soccer team had a longer season than any other team in the country. It didn't end until mid December, when the Terrapins defeated New Mexico to win the National Championship. For every challenge Maryland faced during their title run, Barry Kagan was there to keep the players prepared and confident. 

As the Terrapins' strength and conditioning coach, Kagan approaches training with the whole season in mind, not individual games. "You're always going to have those games that everyone labels 'the big game,' but you can't focus on those too much when it comes to training," he says. "If you lose your consistency, you'll experience negative effects, like the loss of conditioning. you try to get back into it, you'll end up being so sore that you won't be able to perform at a high level."

To maintain this consistency and prevent soreness, Kagan trains the Terrapins in small and frequent doses—sometimes up to four times a week. "We lift often so we can keep each lift to about 15 minutes," he says. "It's easier and more effective to get good weight workouts out of the guys before they get on the field. And if I work their legs, they can loosen them up when they warm up for practice."

Kagan keeps lifts short by upping the efficiency and intensity. "While we're resting for one exercise, we hit another one," he says. "We're in such a time crunch during the season, have them go back and forth between exercises. They bring their cleats into the weight room, so after they sneak down for a quick lift, they can throw them on and head straight out to the field."

Kagan's biggest challenge is fitting workouts into multi-game weeks. "It's all about the game schedule," he says. "we have a few days before our next game, we do a full-body workout. When we don't have that much recovery time, it's not unheard of for us to do an upper-body lift the day before a game. Regardless of the schedule, though, we phase out most leg training by late October."

For guys who get substantial playing time, injury prevention, durability and maintenance are the main goals of Kagan's in season program. For the younger players, however, in-season training is a developmental tool. "With them, we are trying to increase strength, so they go a little heavier with their lifts. They continue training their legs with slightly greater intensity throughout the season."

BALANCE/STABILITY ROUTINE

Perform all exercises standing on one leg unless otherwise noted. Perform movements consecutively without resting; then switch legs.

In-Season Reason: This routine teaches the basics of movement, proper landing, balance and proprioception. It's a great way to get the blood flowing for weight room work; it ties into our injury prevention goal, because it works the players' ankle and knee stability and reminds them to keep a soft knee.

Single-Leg Quarter Squat

Perform quarter squats without allowing knee to go past toes

Calf Raise

Raise onto toes; pause; return to start position

Hamstring Stretch

Bend at waist keeping back flat; reach opposite hand toward toes of standing foot

Other Quad Stretch

Bend leg back toward butt; grab foot and pull toward butt

Lateral Hop

Jump from side to side spending as little time on ground as possible. Keep knee soft

Amplified Jump

Jump straight up for maximum height. Absorb landing with soft knee. Repeat

Rotational Movement

Sink hips, bend knee and rotate upper body from side to side with control

Shins

Stand on both feet; raise toes off ground toward shins for 12 reps

THE LIFTS

Power Clean

• Grip bar just outside athletic stance with shins touching bar
• Assume deadlift position with back locked, shoulders up, and abs and chest flexed
• Begin initial pull by extending hips and knees
• When bar is just above knees, explode upward by forcefully shrugging with straight arms and fully extending hips, knees and ankles
• Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest
• Drop under bar and catch it along front of shoulders in athletic stance with knees bent

In-Season Reason: This is one of a couple exercises we use to maintain explosiveness throughout the season. lot of what players do on the field is so fatiguing and repetitive that they don't get to work on their bodies' explosive components.

Snatch

• Grip bar much wider than shoulder width with shins touching bar
• Assume deadlift position with back locked, shoulders up, and abs and chest flexed
• Begin initial pull by extending hips and knees
• When bar is just above knees, explode upward by forcefully shrugging with straight arms and fully extending hips, knees and ankles
• Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest
• Drop under bar and catch it overhead with arms straight and knees bent

Variation: Dumbbell Snatch

Same as above, but perform with a dumbbell in one hand. Repeat on other side.

In-Season Reason: This is another exercise to maintain explosiveness. It initiates the speed component of hip explosion, but since we use a much lighter weight than the Power Clean, it doesn't make the guys uncomfortable if they do it the day before a game. We generally perform this on a non-leg-dominant day.

Squat

• Begin with bar on back in athletic stance with feet just wider than hips and toes pointing slightly out
• Keeping weight back on heels initiate movement by driving hips back
• Squat down with control and good posture until tops of thighs are parallel to ground. Keep knees behind toes
• Drive forward and upward out of squat position, keeping eyes up and chest out

In-Season Reason: We don't squat nearly as heavy during the season, but we still go though the full range of motion—until our quads are parallel to the floor. A high school player or coach should never underestimate the power of leg training. If it's done properly in-season—so that some recovery is available before the next game—it can be very beneficial.

Barbell Lunge

• Stand with bar on back
• Step forward into lunge position
• Keeping front knee behind toes, lower until back knee almost touches ground
• Without changing position of torso, push back off front heel into standing position

In-Season Reason: These work the quads, plus the hamstrings and hips a little. We can work the quads without performing leg extensions—an exercise that is often inadvisable.

CORE

Swimmer Sequence

• Lie on stomach in superman position
• Keeping arms and legs straight, raise left arm and right leg; pause; then lower
• Repeat with opposite arm and leg
• Raise both arms and both legs; pause; then lower
• Repeat sequence 8 times

In-Season Reason: This strengthens the mid and lower back.

Abdominals

Perform one set of 20-40 repetitions of three of the following exercises. Vary your selection each workout.
These are just a few basic exercises; but don't be afraid to get creative and change them up.

Crunch: Perform regular crunches

Bicycle Crunch: With hands behind head, bring right elbow and left knee together; repeat with opposite elbow and knee; repeat continuously

Leg Raise: Lie on back and raise straight legs to 90-degree angle. Lower and repeat.

Medicine Ball Seated Twist: In seated position with feet off ground, hold med ball in front. Twist from left to right.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SOCCER | STRETCHING | CORE | CHEST | EXERCISE