8 Random Thoughts on Soccer Performance Training
The other day my good friend and fellow performance coach, Mike Robertson wrote an article about random thoughts he’s had over the past couple of weeks on strength, speed, and conditioning.
This prompted me to add to my already on-going list of random thoughts I have in regards to Soccer Performance Training.
So, here are a few of the thoughts I have while training athletes.
1. In-season training IS important. There’s always a lot of talk about what soccer players should do in the off-season with regards to strength and conditioning. But no one talks about the importance of maintaining strength throughout the year. Especially when the majority of the athletes have already specialized and aren’t playing multiple sports. Stop thinking of training as seasonal and start implementing into your routine on yearly basis – even if it’s only 1x/week during the season.
2. Build up the backside. I’ve written about this before – read it here, but it can’t be stated enough. The majority of the athletes I coach are great “pushers” meaning squats and push-ups are much easier to perform than “pulling” exercises such as deadlifts, rows, and pull-ups. In order to stay healthy and reduce the likelihood of injury the glutes, hamstrings, and back need to be strong.
3. Get faster with single-leg strength. “She needs to get faster” is something I hear all the time from parents and coaches. Fancy speed drills and ladders won’t make players faster – at the base of speed is strength especially single-leg strength. Focus on strength and quality of movement first and then speed will come. Here are a few examples:
4. Quality of movement is critical and the warm-up is a great place to emphasize it. If getting faster and building up the backside are key elements to helping elevate your game to the next level then start layering the basic mechanics in to your warm-up and master the hell out of them.
5. Games are for everyone. Some of my favorite memories playing professionally and with the National Team are when we played games to warm-up, to break the monotony of training, or as a conditioning tool. Yes the National Team did play tag and tic-tac-toe games – it’s a great way to build camaraderie and just have fun. Bottom line – training should be fun.
6. Focus on the quality of your passing. Want to really take your game to the next level – focus on different types of passing. Long range, chip passes, bent balls – all with the correct weight on them so that it’s easy for your teammate to handle. One of the weakest areas in the women’s game is the quality of passing. We have become so hyper focused on “skill” work in tight areas that we forget that soccer is played on one of the biggest sporting fields. All of the tight touches in a 5-yard radius don’t do you any good if you can’t consistently connect your passes.
7. Undulate your reps for upper body strength. We all can agree that lower body strength is important but upper body strength is just as crucial when it comes to overall performance – ie. holding off defenders, improved movement quality, and speed. One way to quickly bring the upper body “up to speed” is to undulate high and low reps. For example, on day 1 the athlete might perform incline push-ups for 20 reps for 2 sets, then on Day 2 perform 6-8 reps on a much lower incline for 3-4 sets. This isn’t rocket science but I have seen it work much better than just straight sets and reps.
8. Movement skill for increased aerobic base. I think we can all agree that conditioning should be geared towards the demands of the game. However, early on in the training process conditioning can be more general to build a bigger more efficient aerobic base. By using movement skills such as skipping, high knees, backpedals, various movement skills not only allows for further movement quality work but helps elicit a broader base so going forward the conditioning work can become more specific and higher intensity.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but it’s a random collection of thoughts that I experience on a daily basis while training my soccer players. I would love to hear any of your thoughts that pertain to soccer performance training that you think could be added to this list.
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