Playing the game isn’t enough to develop the fitness required for optimal performance and reduced injury risk in soccer. Increasing your fitness will help you play better, recover more quickly, look and feel better and stay injury-free. Whether you’re a goal keeper, central midfield player or striker, the following aspects of fitness are important:
Aerobic Fitness – a combination of the following is recommended:
- Interval sessions e.g., 4×4 minute intervals. After a 10 minute warm-up, run hard for 4 minutes, then walk or jog for 4 minutes.
- Repeat 4 times and then finish with 10 minutes of jogging followed by static stretches held for 20-30 seconds.
- Fartiek Runs – 2-60s hard efforts, with 2 minute recoveries between, within a normal training session
- Small-sided games e.g., 4x minute games with 4 minute rest between
- Traditional running e.g. 20-30 minutes, relatively hard, with 5 minutes each at the start and end.
- Skill-based circuits – set up a course on the pitch that includes soccer-ski and soccer-specific movements (shuttles, weaving, cutting, jumping, etc.). Move through the course as fast as possible for 4 minutes then rest for 5 minutes. Repeat 4 times.
To strike a ball and compete for possession effectively and with the same intensity at the end of a game as at the start, you need both muscle strength and endurance. If you don’t have access to a gym, perform the following and other own body-weight exercises regularly: Lunges, squats, calf raises, crunches, back extensions and push-ups.
Flexibility is the range of pain-free movement about a joint. Poor flexibility has been linked to increased injury risk and reduced performance. The stretches that you need to do to improve flexibility (mainly static) are different to those you should do in your warm-ups (dynamic). You should get in the habit of stretching every day, from as early an age as possible, maybe while watching your favorite TV programs or the news.
Make sure your muscles are warm before starting stretching.
- Slowly stretch the muscle to the pont of tension – should be uncomfortable but not painful
- Hold the stretch at this point for at least 30 seconds – think about your breathing (deep in and out)
- Slowly release the stretch and repeat 2 – 3 times per muscle on both sides of the body
- Don’t bounce into the stretch, as the muscle will contract to protect itself and will not be stretch properly
Speed is the fast movement of the body or parts of the body.
Agility is the ability to change direction quickly.
Quickness is the ability to accelerate quickly, either from a standing position or after a change of direction.
All three are crucial in soccer and are influenced by your reaction time, explosive power, leg strength, technique, balance and coordination.
Perform sprint routines once or twice a week – maximal sprints, accelerations, etc.
Set up quick feet routines on the grass – use lines, cones or hurdes.
- Perform each exercise at, or close to, maximal intensity, early in the training session (after the warm-up)
- Allow enough recovery between every repetition so that every repetition is maximal
- Include random bursts of speed, in random directions, within your aerobic training sessions
- Don’t train when injured or excessively tired
Good balance and coordination are essential to:
- Provide a firm position when passing, crossing, shooting and tackling
- Develop agility and quickness
- Avoid trips and falls
- Help cope with uneven surfaces
- Land safely and effectively
- Get a partner to add an element of surprise to your drills, e.g., throwing a ball for you to volley back part way through a quick feet drill
- Practice walking along a straight line, or balancing on one leg, with your eyes closed
- Perform exercises on a cushion or wobble board if you have access to one
- Practice “the 11″ regularly