The weight room can be an intimidating place. Especially if you’re the youngest, smallest or weakest player on your soccer team.
High school soccer players often get the reputation of being petite and weak. And if I’m being 100 percent honest, my high school soccer team used our weight room hours to flip through soccer catalogs and find the coolest pair of boots. We figured we were soccer players—we needed to be small and quick on our feet, not a bunch of muscle heads, right?
In most high school soccer programs, weight training is a foreign concept. Many coaches grew up in a time where proper training wasn’t taught, and strength and conditioning coaches weren’t available, so naturally, they may not find it important to get their team inside the weight room. But this doesn’t mean the modern high school soccer player doesn’t want to train. In fact, when I brought a proven strength training plan to my high school soccer kids, they were all-in on the concept. They had no former training with the exception of a few Bicep Curls in their basement done with the intent of filling out their shirt sleeves. They were essentially a blank slate, and we had a chance for them to improve many areas where their games were lacking.
The players welcomed the new challenge and the results were tremendous. This group of players went on to record the best record and the most wins in school history. Although those achievements cannot be solely attributed to the strength training program, I believe it played a key role in their success.
Soccer is a grueling game. It entails 80 to 90 minutes of constant running, hard contact with no pads, constant cutting, elevating to win 50-50 balls, trying to kick a small ball as powerfully and accurately as possible, etc. Choosing to run countless miles in the offseason is a popular conditioning option for most soccer teams, but consistently winning one-on-one battles during the course of a soccer game takes a whole lot more than good endurance. That’s why I believe strength training is crucial for every soccer athlete.
So let’s say you’ve decided you want to take your training seriously and prepare for the upcoming soccer season. Your coach doesn’t know much about training and your school doesn’t have access to a strength and conditioning coach. How do you go about getting stronger? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. No Weight Room? Use Your Body Weight
If you don’t have access to a coach or weight room, start with basic bodyweight movements. Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, Planks, Squats, Lunges and Sprints will provide you with a strong foundation, and all can be progressed with slight tweaks to become more challenging. Pistol Squats, for example, are a big step up from your standard Bodyweight Squat. As long as you are moving with proper form, you are very unlikely to get injured with these type of bodyweight exercises, yet the strength you can gain can be astonishing. Simply mastering basic bodyweight exercises and making them a regular part of your routine will seriously elevate your game.
2. Get Down With GPP
GPP stands for general physical preparedness. This means your body is built and ready to withstand anything you throw at it, which is perfect for soccer players. GPP generally entails training your posterior chain (non-beach muscles) such as the hamstrings, calves, lower back, glutes and rear delts. Basically anything on the backside of your body between your neck and your ankles should be trained. There’s a reason the muscles on the front of your body are often referred to as the “show” muscles while the muscles on the back of your body are referred to as the “go” muscles: Those pecs may look great in the mirror, but it’s the muscles in your posterior chain that will really make the difference come game time. Some of my favorite ways to train the posterior chain include Glute Hamstring Raises, Sled Pushes, Sled Pulls, loaded carries and Planks.
3. Keep it Simple, Keep it Strong
There are thousands of exercises at your disposal, and just about as many different pieces of equipment you can utilize. But for young athletes, basic exercises such as Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Rows and explosive movements will yield the greatest gains. You can scale all of these exercises to meet your training level and stay injury-free while you gain strength. When it comes to building your strength workouts, keep it simple by choosing one heavy compound movement, two to three accessory movements, one to two core movements, and a conditioning exercise. New athletes should aim to train for 40 minutes to one hour in the weight room, two to three times a week. Don’t forget to fuel your body sufficiently with proper nutrition and rest, or else all that work in the weight room won’t be worth much.