The 2018 World Cup has given many people the chance to witness the colorful art of soccer. Each team is a canvas painted by the swirl of the various roles of each player.
There are sharp players like Lionel Messi who weave around defenders and create space through the midfield by maneuvering into different open areas. There are strong, powerful players like Romelu Lukaku who hurtle past defenders to get a strike on goal. There are resilient center backs like Thiago Silva who prevent forwards from penetrating into their goal box. And there are crafty players like Neymar who can creatively dribble themselves out of pressure.
The different positions in soccer are part of what makes the game exciting and unpredictable. There is something magical about each player making their own contribution to the cohesiveness and success of the squad and dazzling with their own unique talents. Wouldn’t it be boring if every player on the pitch were the same? If this were the case, I am not sure soccer would leave us on the edge of our seat.
Since different positions have different demands, it is best to train for what yours requires to optimize your role and help elevate your team’s performance. With that said, here is a diverse menu of speed, strength and power drills players can utilize to best prepare for their specific position.
1. Center Defense
The center defenders are the backbone of the team, so they must be the ones who are durable, able to hold off the opponent’s strikers, and use their bodies to go in for tackles with confidence. Not only should these guys have a tremendous amount of strength and power, they must have the speed to defend a counterattack or catch up to a forward’s quick bursts of diagonal runs and turns around them.
Here are some drills center defenders can utilize to build these unique skills.
Speed Drill: Turn + Sprint
Strength Drill: Foam Roller Push-up
Power Drill: Prowler Power Push
2. Outside Defense
Do you have strength, speed and anaerobic endurance? If so, outside defense is your position. I’d argue this is one of the most physically demanding positions in the game, especially if a team’s formation is attack-minded. Outside defenders are not only tasked with preventing the opponent’s outside midfielders and strikers from blowing by them, but they’re also making runs up the field when their team is in possession and need to get numbers forward. However, if there is a turnover, they must react quick and run back on defense to protect their goalkeeper.
Speed Drill: Roll to Sprint
Strength Drill: Eccentric Single-Leg Deadlift
Power Drill: Transverse Jumps
3. Center Midfield
The center midfield is the nucleus of the team. This position requires incredible speed and reactive agility, as well as strength and power in all planes of motion. They must be able to dribble in tight spaces, turn rapidly to change the point of attack, and take space at speed when penetrating the opponent’s defense. Though known as a technical position, training the physical component will help to improve their maneuvering skills and lateral and transverse agility.
Speed Drill: Reactive Cutting
Strength Drill: Lunge Matrix
Power Drill: Lateral Bounding
4. Outside Midfield
Just like outside defenders, outside midfielders are running for the majority of the game and must possess the ability to sprint repeatedly without getting gassed. They must be able to keep their speed without fatiguing. Since they fly up and down the sideline to get off crosses, take on defenders and push the ball forward with urgency, they should not only be the fastest and most conditioned players, but they should train single-leg strength and power to be durable for these running demands and reduce their chance of injury.
Speed Drill: Multi-Planar Prowler Pushes (20-40 yards)
Strength Drill: Bulgarian Split Squat
Power Drill: Power Step-Ups
A fast forward who can get creative and explode by an opponent is exhilarating to watch. After all, forwards are the ones closest to the opponent’s goal and are responsible for finishing most of the big scoring chances in soccer. However, the physical demands of the forward involve strength to protect the ball and hold off defenders when being pressured, power to explode into space with diagonal runs through the defensive lines, and short distance speed to be unstoppable in one-on-one battles.
Speed Drill: 10-15 Yard Accelerations
Strength Drill: Split-Stance Deadlift
Power Drill: Hex Bar Jumps
Photo Credit: Reinaldo Coddou H./Getty Images