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Strength training or resistance training involves the performance of physical exercises that can be designed to improve strength and endurance.
Strength training exercises will target all muscles in the body to avoid injury during the season. Strength training could be specialized to position specific and as general training.
Strength training in football has different types that coaches work on to improve players. The different types of strength training include;
Maximum strength is the maximum force a muscle group can generate at a specific time. In soccer, maximum strength helps hold off opponents and shield the ball. It is also used in the later stages of rehabilitation after injury to help a player achieve full body strength before returning to the lineup. Maximum strength increment will improve speed and jump height in players.
Maximum strength forms the foundation of muscular speed and power.
- Muscular endurance
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to perform repeated, high-intensity movements. Soccer requires high muscular endurance to perform activities like sprinting, jumping, kicking, and changing direction.
Soccer-specific strength endurance is more likely to be achieved through circuit training. Circuit training is a form of body conditioning involving endurance, resistance, and high-intensity aerobics. This type of training can incorporate movement patterns used when playing soccer.
Power is a product of force and the speed of movement. Power is essential in soccer as it is used in actions such as sprinting, changing in direction, jumping, and kicking—the greater the power developed in a specific movement, the faster the outcome.
Soccer-specific power is easily achieved through a form of training called plyometrics.
Plyometrics is a type of exercise training that uses the speed and force of different movements to build muscle power. Plyometrics bridges the gap between strength and speed by combing the elements in a single movement pattern.
Soccer players’ strength training is based on improving core strength, upper body strength, and lower body strength.
The core involves:
- The abdominal muscles (pyramidalis, rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques, and transversus abdominus).
- Back muscles (semispinalis, multifidus, and rotatores).
- Muscles around the pelvis (iliac, sartorius, and pectineus).
Core strength is crucial as it is where power, endurance, strength, and balance originate. The core determines a player’s speed, agility, and charging.
The core allows the upper and lower body to work in cohesion. Players develop core strength through exercises such as plank (side and front), abdominal crunches, flutter kicks, supermans, and mountain climbers.
Upper body muscles involve the pectoral, deltoid, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, biceps, and triceps. The upper body plays an essential role while running. It helps propel the body forward, maintain balance and increase overall speed.
Since soccer is a contact sport, having a strong upper body will help the player overcome opponents and maintain possession of the ball. Players develop upper body strength through bench presses, pull-ups, dips, rows, and shoulder presses.
Lower body muscles involve the quadriceps, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. The lower body is responsible for kicking, running, moving from side to side, and jumping. Players can make explosive moves when they gain lower body strength.
The lower body muscles work together to act. An example, when kicking the ball, there is a linear relationship between foot velocity and the ball velocity. The speed of the foot combines with hip rotational torque, quadriceps, and hip flexor. Players develop lower body strength through squats, lunges, deadlifts, and leg presses.
Soccer Strength Training Program
The training program allows players to have a balanced workout session, focusing on all aspects of strength training. It helps to avoid over-training and overreaching.
The training program helps players know their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Training is based on the different forms of resistance training power, muscular endurance, and muscular strength. It is done through the following
- Number of repetitions
- Number of sets
- Duration of recovery between sets
- Amount of resistance (defined as %1RM)
The training is divided into two on-pitch exercises and gym-based exercises.
On-pitch exercises are performed with the purpose to:
- Train muscular endurance (using body weight)
- Train power
Gym-based exercises are usually performed with the purpose to train
- Maximal strength
A soccer training program has four phases. The phases vary in duration since it is player specific. Players have different areas that they want to train.
During scheduling, the player must incorporate the team’s program to avoid overtraining specific muscles.
During this period, players work on building functional strength.
Participating in soccer places many uneven demands on the body during the season. Players have preferred feet or sides when playing on the pitch. It causes some muscles to develop more than others leading to some joints experiencing more stress. The risk of getting injuries is high at this point.
Players can reverse these changes during the off-season. The goals of this phase include:
- Balance the right and left sides of the body
- Prepare the joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons for the workout in subsequent phases
- Redress the balance between flexors and extensors
- Strengthen muscles that were underused during the season
This phase is crucial as it lays a foundation that determines the quality of strength and power a player will gain later. It will help the player be able to adapt and prevent injuries.
During this phase, players work on building maximal strength.
This phase is dependent on the playing position of a player.
A striker can’t have the same exercise program as a fullback or a central defender. It is because the requirements of the positions are different.
During this stage, players use higher loads to archive maximal strength.
The goal of this phase is to develop the highest force possible. It prepares the player for the next stage to help convert strength into soccer-specific power.
This phase focuses on muscular power and strength endurance.
After building strength, the player focuses on changing it to a soccer-specific power and endurance depending on the player’s position.
Soccer demands roughly equal amounts of explosive force and strength endurance. Players use this stage to archive both traits.
Plyometric training should replace sessions in the weight room in this phase. It improves physical performance and the ability to perform tasks.
This phase focuses on maintenance.
After working out and achieving the desirable gains, the players must maintain their shape during the season.
Players should follow the program to avoid stressing the body as it may cause injuries. Trying a new routine will affect the player’s performance.
Players split the program into smaller cycles during the season to fit in the nine months. It will keep the player’s body free from injury.
Benefits of strength training
- High energy levels
Stamina is vital in soccer, and building strength will increase stamina levels. It will enable a player to perform roles assigned without struggling.
Stamina will help players fine-tune their skills.
- Decreased risk of injury
Functional movements such as squatting and deadlifting strengthen the muscles that stabilize joints such as the hips and knees. Strong muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones can absorb more force without straining or tearing.
- Increased power output
Soccer players require power to perform tasks like shooting, jumping, crossing, and set-piece taking. Strength training helps players gain muscle strength to complete the tasks.
The players can easily win aerial battles when they challenge for the ball. An increase in power will also increase the ball’s velocity when kicked, allowing it to move fast.
- Improved agility
Agility is the ability of a player to change direction in response to a moving ball or opponent. Strength training helps a player execute turns and stop at ease without getting injured.
- Increase in speed and acceleration
Speed and acceleration are essential traits in soccer. These traits help a player chase the ball and also dribble at a high pace.
In soccer, speed is judged on two bases, when the player has the ball and when the player doesn’t have the ball. Strength training improves both attributes.
Acceleration is how fast one reaches sprinting speed. Defenders require this attribute to chase down attackers when they make runs behind them. Attackers can create passing lanes when they get behind the defensive line.
- Improved body mechanics
Working on strength will improve balance and stability, coordination, and posture. It will help a player gain control of the ball and dribble without losing possession.
- Faster recovery
A body conditioned with strength training heals faster due to the increased metabolism. It helps a player have a shorter rest period and be available for selection for the next match.
Soccer players are smaller compared to rugby players. It is because being bulk moves one’s center of mass further from the ground, making changing direction more challenging. In soccer, a player’s strength is not viewed by how big the muscles are but by whether the player can manage to perform roles without struggling.
Stretching should be included after strength training. Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury, and adequately rehabilitating sprain and strain injuries.