Some coaches are still in doubt about the numerous benefits of strength training to soccer players. They often advise young players that lifting weights will ruin their careers by making them bulky and rigid—but that is not the reality.
Strength training in soccer has undergone a lot of scrutiny and criticism from those who think such training is only suitable for weight lifters, wrestlers, boxers, and professional bodybuilders.
Modern soccer coaches must come to understand that encouraging their teams to shy away from strength and resistance-based training will do them more harm than good. This can even be the major reason why their teams are underachieving.
Players who practice strength and resistance-based training, aside from developing their muscles, are usually faster, more aggressive, calculated, stronger, and fitter. The best part is that players who lift weights don’t even look as buffed-up as bodybuilders.
Soccer doesn’t only demand passion and confidence. You are also required to train your mind and body adequately. Strength training is good for both the mind and body which is why you must incorporate them into your routine training as a soccer player.
When playing soccer, you expend lots of energy which often makes you weak, especially if you hardly engage in strength exercises. We shall introduce you to some effective strength exercises for soccer players and also reveal their numerous benefits.
Is strength training good for soccer players?
If strength training isn’t good for soccer players, well-known and celebrated players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Paul Pogba wouldn’t be caught doing them.
Many things are required to become successful in soccer—and we believe strength training is part of them. When people think of strength, they often envision the green Hulk with his oversized biceps and broad chest not knowing that strength means something different in soccer.
Having big muscles and a broad chest as a soccer player might make you look a bit odd on the pitch. These characteristics can also impact your soccer career negatively by reducing your average agility and speed.
Soccer strength deals with endurance, stamina, and grit on the pitch. Without having a properly developed strength on the pitch, you will find it hard to last the entire 90 minutes, challenge opponents, and score goals.
We must clearly understand the distinction between strength training in soccer and other major sports like boxing, rugby, and weight lifting. Soccer players often lift weights to tone their bodies and build lean muscles, not necessarily to bulk up as some people believe.
Nevertheless, it is always important to balance weight lifting with other soccer exercises. Ideal strength training exercises are designed to build strength in all or specific muscles in the body.
We strongly advise that you structure your strength training to develop all body muscles. For example, building your leg strength and leaving out your upper body can affect your balance.
Likewise, building the strength of your upper body and leaving your lower body can negatively affect your stamina and speed. Below are some examples of strength exercises that are suitable for soccer players.
1. Dumbbell bench press
The dumbbell press is a strength exercise that develops the chest muscles, shoulder, and triceps of soccer players. By doing the dumbbell press daily, you will build lean muscles quickly and also burn calories.
Bench pressing with the dumbbell will help you prioritize your chest muscles because it provides an added range of motion. Start this exercise by lying on your back on a bench.
Ask a friend to hand you the weights while in this position. If there is no one around to assist, first sit down and place the dumbbells in front of you.
Raise them and place them on your lap. As you lie down on your back, simultaneously raise the dumbbells in front of you such that your arms are straight and pointing upward. Your feet should be flat on the ground.
The right way to hold the dumbbell is for the bases of the dumbbells in each of your hands to be facing each other. Hold them up for about one or two seconds before slowly bringing them down.
When bringing it down, make sure your forearm remains straight while your upper arm pushes backward until it aligns with your shoulder. If done correctly, your elbow should form a 90 degrees angle.
Ensure that the dumbbells aren’t shaky under your grip. If they are, it is a sign that you are carrying too much weight and that can be potentially dangerous. Simply exchange them with a lighter weight.
The plank exercise is generally designed to strengthen your core and also activate other associated muscles in your body such as your lower back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings. It is good for soccer players not just because it tones their bodies but because it prepares them for the pitch.
The plank is similar to pushups but doesn’t involve the necessary upward and downward movements like pushups. It only requires you to prostrate your entire body on the floor like a plank, tighten your abs, and use both of your arms to support your body weight.
3. High knees
The high knees exercise is designed to activate your hip flexors, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. It also improves coordination in your muscles, your balance, and muscular endurance.
They can also build power across your lower body when done with explosive knee drives in high intensity. To perform the high knees exercise, you need to stand erect with your feet spread hip-wide apart.
Raise your left knee towards your chest region and subsequently lift your right knee towards your chest region immediately after the left knee descends. Keep alternating both legs as you either stand in a stationary position or move about the training area.
4. Jump rope
Jump rope exercises are popular and easy to practice. They build the chest muscles, back muscles, triceps, biceps, forearms, abs, quads, and calf muscles.
It is a quick and effective strength and endurance exercise to engage in. Aside from making you fit, the jump rope exercise can also improve your eye coordination and balance.
It is done by holding a long rope at your hip level with both hands and then swinging the rope around you by turning your wrists. While the rope is swinging, you are expected to keep jumping over it.
5. Weighted sled drags
This strength exercise is good for soccer players because it can work on your grip muscles, biceps, shoulders, and back. It is also perfect for building strength, resilience, and power. The weighted sled drag causes your muscles to contract after a long period of practice.
To execute the weighted sled drag, simply position the sled on a flat surface in an area where you can travel in a straight line for 25 to 50 meters. Harness the weighted sled to your torso and start dragging. Drag for about 50 meters before stopping and drag for another 50 meters backward.
6. Deadlift exercise
This exercise remains the most effective upper body strength exercise for soccer players. It improves your posture while increasing your core strength and stability.
The deadlift exercise is designed to work on muscles in the lower back, legs, and core which are crucial muscles to soccer players. Start practicing the deadlift by standing behind a barbell with your feet spread shoulder-width apart and toes across the bar.
Relax your hips backward and slightly bend your knees, lean forward, stretch your hands down and grab the bar using an overhand or mixed grip.
Squeeze your glutes while lifting the weight and don’t overextend backward when you stand with the barbell. Keep dropping and lifting the weight for 5 to 10 reps or as desired.
Advantages of strength training
Strength training or resistance exercises add numerous benefits to the life of soccer players. They can be merged with numerous exercises and drills.
You can’t claim to be a professional soccer player if you haven’t worked on your strength. Below are a few benefits of strength exercises for soccer players.
Strength training, aside from helping you develop strength and lean muscles, also builds up your confidence and composure on the pitch. You will have much confidence and play better once you become aware of your increased energy level.
Soccer is as mentally involved as its physical aspect. Therefore, if strength training manages to improve only your mental strength, endurance, and confidence, it indirectly improves your overall gameplay.
From ice baths to steam baths, soccer players go through a lot of routines to recover and prevent soreness of muscles after each game. How effective all those post-match muscle recovery routines would be would depend on your muscle fitness.
Soccer players that don’t build their muscles will likely have a longer recovery time. If you still feel muscle soreness a week after your soccer game, it is a sign that you need better muscle fitness.
We all understand that injuries can keep soccer players off the field for a very long time and even lead to the end of their soccer careers. Some injuries can be avoided by practicing the right kind of muscle training.
Functional exercises that involve joint movements like squats and deadlifts increase joint flexibility. The more flexible your joints, the more difficult it will be for you to experience joint injuries.
Improved performance on the pitch
Building your upper body can give you a competitive advantage over your opponent on the pitch. For example, during a tussle for the ball, you can use your muscular upper body to shield your opponent from getting the ball.
Likewise, building your leg muscles can improve your speed and shot power. A toned muscle will improve your stamina making it harder for opponents to take the ball away from you.
Increases your energy levels
A soccer player without adequate stamina and energy will be humiliated on the soccer field. Strength training can help you work on your core strength which further helps in improving your stamina and energy levels.
Players who can’t play at 100 percent of their capacity are often benched or substituted after halftime. We all know that you have to enjoy long game time to improve your performance and value.
When strength training is properly performed, it can have a significant impact on the well-being and overall health of soccer players. Strength training can also increase the strength and toughness of your tendon, muscles, ligaments, and even bones.
Regularly engaging in strength exercises will help in the adaptation of your skeletal muscle. Your physical attractiveness also increases when you start practicing strength exercises.
This might even get you several endorsements from big brands out there. Apart from entertaining soccer fans, it may just be the secret to better earnings to live the life of your dreams.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!