Train to Dominate the Pitch

I am obsessed with soccer.

I have a Celtic FC tattoo on my elbow.  I made my wife go to a League of Ireland match on our honeymoon and my entire weekends are scheduled around the Premiere League. 

I played the game (poorly) my whole life and coached my whole adult life.  My father played and coached his whole life, and his father did the same. This obsessive trait is more ingrained to Henigan DNA than our ravishing good looks.

Growing up I never touched a weight or a resistance band.  My coaches thought lifting weights or strength training would make me bulky and slow.  That was the curse of the pre-internet era- information was hard to verify so we believed a lot of myths that simply were not true. Strength training would have made me a better player.

2017 is different. Strength is necessary to improve as a player.

The game has sped up and demands a strong, physically adaptable player.  Gone are the days of the waifish striker making his name by riding the line and making the perfect run.  A one-dimensional player who cannot physically tackle, attack set pieces or press the backline will not make it far today.

Strength training will make soccer players faster, more agile and better able to handle the rigors of the physical game.  

Strength training for soccer is more than just seeing how many plates you can load onto a barbell. You need to utilize a broad spectrum of resistance training.  By focusing on developing proper movement patterns and strengthening the body through overloading optimal execution of movement you can become a stronger player.

An attribute all the top players have in common is a strong, stable core.  All of these exercises will train the core (abs, obliques, lats, glutes, spine muscles) to generate and resist motion in order to build an adaptable midsection capable of shielding any defender.

Here are the 5 most effective exercises soccer players need to incorporate into their training.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Why You Need To Do it:  If I had to write all the benefits of this exercise this article would end up longer than Crime and Punishment..  I'll try to keep it to the point.  

  • Strengthens Quads, Glutes and Hamstrings
  • Improves hip stability, range of motion and overall hip health
  • Builds balance by forcing the athlete to create force with only one limb
  • Improves athletic performance.  Think about it, how often are you standing with both feet on the ground during a match? If you say "a lot" welcome to the bench.
  • Challenges your core to keep stable and braced through a new range of motion.
  • Many ways to hold weight- at the side, on the back, racked on the front or against the chest in the Goblet position.

Contrary to popular believe you do not need to train on unstable surfaces to develop balance- squatting on a bosu ball is a complete waste of time.  To develop balance you need to naturally offset your body’s natural center of gravity by loading one side of your body (holding a weight in only one hand) or by putting your body in a position where it can only generate force with one limb. 

Coaching Cues: 

  1. Laces or toes on the bench
  2. Keep your chest up, don't lean forward!
  3. When lowering, concentrate on pushing the elevated foot back
  4. When driving up press all your weight through your heel

Kettlebell Swing

Why You Need to Do It:  The Kettlebell swing is the most efficient exercise an athlete can do.  Kettlebell swings can be included in almost every workout program, without sacrificing the original intent of the program.  They are a simple way to target the glutes and hamstrings, while burning a ton of calories.  The explosive aspect of the movement will get your heart rate racing, causing you to burn some serious fat while strengthening your lower back.  They're also a lot of fun.

  • Strenghtnes Core
  • Learn how to accelerate and decelerate with your hips
  • Strong Glutes, Big Butt
  • Pain Free Lower Back

Coaching Cues: 

  1. Heels dug into the ground
  2. Flat back throughout exercise
  3. Hips generate force
  4. Loose Arms

Download our Kettlebell eBook!

 

Pallof Press

Why You Need To Do It:  The most important function of the core is stability. Training your core to be stable during motion will make you stronger.  For this reason, the Pallof Press is the most effective and applicable core exercise for athletes.  It forces your core to function across many spectrums of movement (anti-rotation, anti-flexion, anterior stability), all of which are necessary to build a strong athlete.  

By training these patterns instead of doing 1,000 crunches you will build a core that will function during times of high demand, like second half stoppage time.

  • Develop core stability
  • Better posture

Coaching Cues:

  1. Athletic Stance. The more narrow your feet the harder it will be.
  2. Stand tall and keep your eyes forward.
  3. Exhale as you press and pull the belly button in towards the spine.
  4. Don't lean too far forward.
  5. If you don't have access to a cable machine you can substitute a resistance band.

Alternating Dumbbell Press

Why You Need To Do It: Upper body strength is a pivotal function of an athlete.  A strong upper body can help an athlete sprint faster, and ward off a rash challenge.  This exercise will help teach you how to build shoulder integrity and stability.  The shoulder needs to be stable to maintain control of the weight both during the pressing and holding part of the exercise.  The alternating nature of this exercise will challenge the pecs, shoulder and triceps more than a regular press.

There is a practical reality to training your upper body one limb at a time.  Parents look away now.

The last time you were defending a corner, did you grab your man with one hand or two? The last time you shouldered a man off the ball did you use one limb or two?

You very rarely (if you don't want to get carded) use both hands

  • Strenghtens chest and shoulders
  • Balanced upper body strength
  • Teach your lats and obliques to work in unison
  • Stable shoulders

Coaching Cues:

  1. Start with the DBs extended and both feet on the ground
  2. Slight arch your back
  3. Keep your elbows directly beneath the DBs
  4. As you are lowering the weights concentrate on pulling it into your chest, do not just let it fall

One Arm Goblet Squat

Why You Need To Do It: If you want to excel on the pitch you need to squat.  This is a great squat variation that will allow you to improve your hip hinge pattern, work your anterior core stability (notice a theme in these exercises?) and also increase your rotary stability.  By holding the weight in one hand you are forcing your body to stabilize and resist the urge to rotate with the weight. 

  • Strengthens glutes, quads and hamstrings
  • Rotary stability will help build strong obliques and safe guard your spine
  • Grease the groove of the hip hinge patten
  • Increase shoulder stability in a friendly, pain free manner

Why You Need To Do It: If you want to excel on the pitch you need to squat.  This is a great squat variation that will allow you to improve your hip hinge pattern, work your anterior core stability (notice a theme in these exercises?) and also increase your rotary stability.  By holding the weight in one hand you are forcing your body to stabilize and resist the urge to rotate with the weight. 

  • Strengthens glutes, quads and hamstrings
  • Rotary stability will help build strong obliques and safe guard your spine
  • Grease the groove of the hip hinge patten
  • Increase shoulder stability in a friendly, pain free manner

Coaching Cues:

  1. Heels flat on the ground
  2. Weight resting in front of one shoulder
  3. Opposite hand in front or to the side of the body, do not let it rest on your body
  4. As you squat push your knees apart and keep your chest up
  5. Press all your weight through your heels to rise up
  6. Rise until your glutes are completely locked out

The biggest regret I have is that I never spent any time in the weight room.  Imissed out on reaching my potential as a player and athlete.  I missed a chance to build a resilient body that was stronger and faster.

Soccer is becoming one of the most popular sports in America.  As the game evolves the way players train must evolve.  To compete at a high lever players must be strong, balanced and explosive. It is not good enough to only run in preparation for a season.  You need to include smart strength training that will build attributes that directly apply to the pitch. 

Incorporate these 5 exercises into your, your child's or your team's exercise program to build the strength necessary to dominate on the pitch.  

Don't know where to start? I can build a program for you or your team. Check out Online Training!

If you need a more hands on approach check out our Soccer Performance Training and get in touch!