Are you serious about being a successful high school soccer player and contributing to s championship program? A serious high school soccer player takes ownership of their conditioning. A year round conditioning program is essential to individual and team success. It is very rare that a varsity soccer player only participates in fall soccer and is idle the rest of the year. This program assumes you play competitive club soccer in the spring (or another sport).
If you participate in a different sport in the winter, spring or summer you may need to supplement your training accordingly. Contact your coach if you have questions about customizing the program to you athletic participation schedule.
The conditioning program is divided into 5 stages over 12 months: (1) off-season, (2) pre-season club, (3) in-season club, pre-season (4) high school and (5) in-season high school. Each stage has a different specific training focus with an ultimate goal of being in peak condition for your high school soccer season.
This program focuses on 3 major areas of soccer specific conditioning: (1) Endurance (2) Strength (2) Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) and Flexibility. In addition to these stages you should include working with a soccer ball to refine your skills. Playing the game (scrimmages, indoor soccer, pick up, matches) is an essential part of proper conditioning.
Annual Conditioning Schedule see Appendix I
Endurance Conditioning Summary
Endurance training is focused on both improving your aerobic and anaerobic conditions and maintaining your condition during the season. Some soccer player actually lose fitness during the in-season phase because they may have limited playing time, limitations due to schedules or injuries.
AEROBIC endurance conditioning improves your body’s ability to deliver and use oxygen. It will allow you to sustain an overall higher rate of work for a whole soccer game. You will also recover more quickly after high intensity exercise. This is important when you play 2-3 games a week.
There are two types of aerobic conditioning used in this program:
Continuous Training – Exercising at a continuous, steady pace for a prolonged period of time. A good example is jogging at a steady pace for thirty to forty minutes.
Interval Training – Shorter bouts of higher intensity separated by rest intervals. Interval type training is more intense and soccer-specific. After a few weeks of continuous running to ease players back into training, interval training should predominate in the pre-season.
ANAEROBIC endurance conditioning will help you to recover more quickly from successive bursts of speed and power. While anaerobic endurance training is very tough it can also have the greatest impact on your performance. It is a great confidence booster to feel fresh and alert whenever you receive the ball.
SCRIMMAGES are a great conditioning activity if the played with intensity. It is a myth that you can “play your way” to game ready condition by just playing scrimmages or pick up games. However, scrimmages are a good way to avoid burnout in the off and pre seasons. You are more likely to get an injury if you just try to play your way into shape.
REGULATION GAMES it is very difficult to create the actual intensity and environment of a real soccer game in training and scrimmages. Therefore, play official games is an important ingredient to complete conditioning.
Endurance Conditioning Exercises
Cross training activities such as indoor soccer, basketball, swimming, skiing can substitute for traditional running exercises
Exercise #1 – Continuous Running
Run for 20 to 30 minutes at a continuous pace, preferably on grass. Intensity can be dictated by heart rate although it is by no means essential.
Exercise #2 – Fartlek Training
Fartlek training is less monotonous than continuous running and more specific to soccer. It involves running for 20 to 30 minutes at varying paces and intensities. Here is a Fartlek session suitable for soccer:
Warm up with a steady jog for 10 minutes
Run hard, for 75 seconds
Jog for 150 seconds
Run hard for 60 seconds
Jog for 120 seconds
Repeat 3-4 times
Cool down at a steady pace for 10 minutes
Drill #1 – Increasing Lap Run
Use the markings of a soccer pitch for this drill. Start in one corner facing down the touchline. Jog three sides of the pitch and run 3⁄4 pace down the final side (which should be the goal line) back to the start. Next, jog two sides of the pitch and run 3⁄4 pace down two sides back to the start. Now jog one side and run 3⁄4 pace down one side. Finish with a 3⁄4 jog around the entire pitch. This can be repeated for 2-3 sets or keep to just 1 set and combine with other interval drills.
Drill #2 – Diagonal Pitch Run
Using the markings of a soccer pitch, start on the touchline at the halfway point and with the ball run 3⁄4 pace to the corner flag. Run 3⁄4 pace diagonally to the opposite side of the pitch at the half way point. Jog along the half way line for recovery back to the start. Continue by using the other half of the pitch without the ball (leave at start position). Repeat 3-5 times and rest for 2 minutes. Complete 2-3 sets in total or combine with another interval drill.
Drill #1 – Shuttle Runs aka “Doggies”
Place 5 cones out 10 meters/yards apart. Starting on cone 1, run to cone 2 and back, then cone 3 and back, 4 and back, then 5 and back. The sprint should be flat out and with emphasis on sharp turns. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Rest another 30 seconds and repeat for a third time. This is one set. Rest for 2 minutes with active recovery such as walking or juggling a ball. Complete a total of 3-5 sets.
Drill #2 – BBs Shuttle
Similar to doggies. Start at the end line of a soccer field. Spring to the top of the six yard box and back, sprint to the top of the penalty box and back, sprint to the half-line band back, sprint the full length of the field and back. This is one. Rest period is for 2 minutes by using active recovery such as walking or juggling a ball. Repeat 3-5 times.
Drill #3 – Union Jacks
Starting at one corner of the pitch, sprint to the touchline at the halfway point.
Immediately turn and sprint along the halfway line to the center circle. Jog from the center circle to the far touchline. Turn and sprint diagonally to the opposite corner flag. Immediately turn and sprint to the centre of the goal.
Jog back to the start and repeat (a total of 2 times). This is one set. Rest for
2 minutes with active recovery. Do 4-6 sets.
Strength Conditioning Summary
Soccer player are notorious for wanting to skip the strength training and just wanting to play with a ball. Stay motivated. Keep the end goal in mind. The commitment to strength training will go along way towards your personal and team success.
In fact, the right kind of strength conditioning can turn an average soccer player into a truly superb athlete and a significantly better performer on the field.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Increased speed and acceleration
Improved agility – stopping, starting, turning and decelerating
Greater ability to hold the ball up and resist challenges
Increased jumping power to win more headers, score more goals and make more saves
Reduced risk of injury both chronic and acute
Superior kicking power – greater range of passing, more powerful shots
More forceful tackles, less prone to injury
Greater short-term endurance
This program is not just about lifting weights and muscle mass. That is bodybuilding. You will be focusing on soccer specific strength training. Furthermore, the progression of the program is important to peak performance.
You will focus on 5 stages of strength training (1) Foundation (2) Advance foundation (3) Maximal Strength (4) Power & Endurance (5) Maintance. You only need to do strength training 1-3 days a week.
You will use 4 different techniques for strength conditioning: (1) Foundational (2) Maximal (3) Endurance Circuit (4) Power Plyometrics.
FOUNDATIONAL strength training benefits:
To prepare the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons for more intense work in subsequent phases
To strengthen underused stabilizer muscles
To balance the right and left side of the body
To redress the balance between the flexors and extensors (soccer players, for example, are notorious for having over-developed quads from repetitive kicking actions (which may account for the prevalence of hamstring injuries in the game).
This phase should also heavily emphasize developing strength and power in the muscles of the trunk region.
Never skip the Foundational phase. This can lead to injury.
MAXIMAL strength conditioning is designed to increase overall strength to develop explosive power and strength endurance. It makes sense to first develop as much muscular strength as possible and then convert that later into power and muscular endurance with sport-specific drills.
It is important to think of maximal strength conditioning as a step towards better game performance. Don’t get stuck in this phase. Bulk does not mean better soccer. Think of this phase in the strength training plan as a means to an end. Becoming the best soccer player you can is not about how much weight you can lift; it’s about how powerful you are and how well you can apply that level of power over and over again on the pitch.
ENDURANCE CIRCUIT conditioning helps you tolerate fatigue. The higher the level of soccer you play the greater demand for strength endurance.
Assuming you have a built up a good level of maximal strength from the previous phase, you can now work on applying as much of that strength a possible over prolonged, repeated bouts.
A higher number of repetitions with a lower weight is used to develop muscular endurance. Even more relevant to sports like soccer is lifting lighter loads for set periods of time rather than a set number of repetitions.
One of the best modalities for developing strength endurance is circuit training. Circuit training is simply a series of exercises performed consecutively – as opposed to performing several sets of one exercise before moving on to the next.
POWER PLYOMETRICS conditioning goal is to improve your power. The end-goal of any soccer strength conditioning program is to increase a player’s explosive power. Until this point, all previous resistance training has been about increasing strength (or muscular endurance). Without a final, all- important phase to convert newfound strength gains into explosive power, you won’t tap your full, physical potential on the field.
As a good strength foundation has already been laid, the exercises in this phase are designed to increase the speed of contraction in the working muscles.
The modern game of soccer demands that athletes have more speed and power. Today’s players are faster and sharper than ever.
Research has shown that a muscle stretched before contraction will contract more forcefully and rapidly (like an elastic band). This is essentially what plyometric exercises do – they stretch muscles rapidly and then immediately demand a powerful contraction.
Strength Conditioning Exercises
Weight lifting basics:
Don‘t try to lift too much too soon.
Perform a warm up consisting of light aerobic exercise and dynamic stretching before starting a strength training session.
Lift the weights with a smooth and even rhythm. Pause for a second at the top of the lift and then lower the weight in a controlled manner.
Remember to breathe. Most people find it easiest to breathe out on the exertion or the actual lift and breathe in as the weight is lowered or returned to the starting position.
Increase the weight gradually over time as the exercise becomes easier and easier. Once you can comfortably perform the set number or repetitions increase the weight by the smallest amount i.e. 2.5kg or 5lbs.
For bodyweight exercises such as push ups and crunches increase the number of repetitions as the weight cannot be increased.
Remember that although a strength program should get progressively harder, it does so in a series of peaks and troughs. Don’t try to increase the weight every single session.
Use a buddy/partner when using free weights.
Selecting the Correct Load/Weight to Lift
Developing maximal strength, strength endurance and explosive power requires different weights or loads to be selected.
Load is often expressed as repetition maximum and is simply defined as “the most amount of weight you can lift for a set number of repetitions”. For example, one repetition maximum (1-RM) is the most amount of weight you can lift once and no more. If you can lift a weight for ten repetitions and no more that is your ten repetition maximum.
To develop strength endurance you should aim to select weights that you can lift at least fifteen to twenty times. To develop maximal strength (see below) choose a weight that you can lift no more than five or six times or your 5-RM.
There are lots of ways to determine your one rep max. Always have a spotter when determining your one weight max. Better yet, work with a professional trainer or the weight lifting teacher at school.
Here is a link to a web site that can help you determine your one rep max:
FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH EXCERSISES
The beginner program incorporates a greater number of exercises to strengthen all the major muscle groups, joints and ligaments. The program should last for at least 6-8 weeks and up to 12 weeks with 2-3 sessions per week.
ADVANCED FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH EXCERSISES
The foundational phase is still important for experienced lifters. This program should last 4-6 weeks with 2-3 sessions per week. It contains fewer exercises and loads are slightly higher than the beginner program.
MAXIMAL STRENGTH EXCERSISES should last for 6-8 weeks with 2-3 sessions performed each week.
ENDURANCE CIRCUIT EXCERSISES A strength endurance phase should last 4-6 weeks during the late pre-season.
POWER PLYOMETRICS EXCERSISES
Plyometrics can be deceptively strenuous. You won’t feel tired after a routine there is often a temptation to do extra. However, it puts joints, ligaments and tendons under an unusual amount of stress. Failure to follow some simple Dos and Don’ts can quickly lead to over-use injuries and burnout.
Here’s a list of general guidelines to make plyometrics both effective AND safe:
A solid strength base is required before starting a plyometrics program.
As a rule of thumb you should be able to squat twice your bodyweight or leg press 2.5 times your bodyweight.
Warming up is crucial. Spend 10mins jogging or skipping followed by 5-
10mins of stretching the muscles involved. Don’t forget to stretch your lower back. See Section 5 for more details
Do NOT be tempted to add extra sets and repetitions even if you feel fresh at the end of a session.
Perform plyometric exercises on a soft surface such as grass or a synthetic running track.
Rest completely between sets, 3-5 minutes at least. Quality is all-important.
Perform each action and each repetition with maximum speed, effort and technique.
A plyometric session should not contain more than 120 ground contacts for any muscle group.
Do NOT use ankle or wrist weights for extra resistance. This will hinder the speed of the movement and increase the risk of stress injuries.
Try to keep you torso erect during the movements — it prevents undue strain on the lower back.
If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
The program is split over two days. This is simply to incorporate a wider range of plyometric exercises and to minimize the amount of similar repetitive strains on placed on the body.
Speed, Agility & Quickness (SAQ) & Flexibility Conditioning Summary
Speed and quickness separates the outstanding players from the average.
As you progress to a higher and higher level of soccer the speed of the game will increase. To excel you must be a quick player.
Soccer-related speed, agility and quickness exercises will be introduced during the mid to late pre-season. Speed and agility training is all about quality. Unlike endurance and strength training, a SAQ session should not leave you exhausted or gasping for breath.
SPEED training or sprint training will help to improve you speed off the mark, acceleration and power.
AGILITY training allows you to change direction without the loss of balance, strength, speed or body control.
QUICKNESS training will help to improve your foot speed and co-ordination.
FLEXIBILITY has to be the most undervalued of all the components of fitness. Not only can it help to reduce the risk of injury, good flexibility also improves athletic and technical performance. Increased flexibility will improve your speed, agility and quickness.
Flexibility training should be given high priority in any soccer conditioning program – and not just as part of the warm up. It should also feature heavily right throughout the year.
This program focuses on two different types of flexibility.
Dynamic Flexibility is the ability to perform dynamic movements across the full range of motion at a joint. Imagine kicking your leg out in front of you as high as possible (as if kicking an imaginary ball). The higher you can kick during this movement is a measure of the dynamic flexibility in your hamstrings and hip extensors.
Static-passive Flexibility is the ability to hold a stretch using your body weight or some other external force. Imagine raising your leg out in front of you and resting it on the back of a chair. As you gently lean forward you stretch the hamstrings.
Speed, Agility & Quickness (SAQ) & Flexibility Exercises
A typical speed session might consist of approximately five sets of ten repetitions. Try to keep a work to rest ratio of 5:1. For example a six second sprint should be followed by approximately thirty seconds walking recovery.
Exercise #1 – Alternating Starts
The basis of these speed drills is a 10-20 meter/yard sprint. You should focus on accelerating as quickly as possible by powering away with your arms and legs. Complete a sprint and walk slowly back to the start to repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Do five sets of ten repetitions.
Exercise #2 – Hollow Sprints
Sprint for 30 meters/yards, jog for 30 meters/yards, sprint for 30meters/yards, jog for 30meters/yards. Walk slowly back to the start and repeat.
Exercise #3 – Downhill Sprints
Running down a light hill will help to develop leg speed and co-ordination. It’s often called over-speed training. A small grassy embankment is ideal as long as it’s not so steep that you need to brake as you run. You should be able to run at full speed without feeling like you will fall over. Keep distances to 10 meters/yards and walk slowly back to the start.
Exercise #4 – Uphill Sprints
Running uphill will help to develop acceleration power. The incline can be steeper for uphill sprints. Keep distances short (10 meters/yards) and allow plenty of time to recover.
AGILITY AND QUICKNESS EXCERISES
As with speed drills, agility and quickness drills are not meant to be physically demanding. The movements should be very high quality and are best performed when players are fresh. Perform some agility drills alongside the speed drills above. They can also be worked into other training sessions or used as part of an extended warm up.
As with speed drills, keep the work to rest ratio to roughly 5:1. For example a 5 second sprint should be followed by approximately 25 seconds walking recovery. There is no need to time this with a stopwatch.
Exercise #1 – Sprint Lateral Shuffle
Set up a series of markers similar to the diagram to the right. Starting at the first marker sprint to the second marker and side step to the third marker.
Continue until the end. Rest and repeat in the other direction so side steps lead with opposite foot.
Exercise #2 – Super Shuttle
Set a series of cones out in a cross formation. See the diagram to the left. Run backwards to the center cone, side step to the right cone (or your left as you look at it on the diagram), side step back to the centre cone still facing the same way. At the center cone turn and sprint forward to the end cone. Now run back to the center cone, side step to the right, side step back to the center, then turn and sprint back to the start.
Exercise #3 – Agility Ladder Patterns
Agility ladders are excellent for improving foot speed, coordination and overall quickness. They can cost anywhere from $30 for shorter ladders to over $100 for more elaborate designs. If a pattern leads with the right foot then repeat it leading with the left. Start slow. Only increase foot speed with the pattern is mastered. In a short time you will be amazed at how fast your feet move through the ladder. There are many possible patterns.
Perform dynamic stretches at the start of a training session or pre-game warm up. They should follow 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise so the body is completely warm. You can also incorporate the drills and movements below into agility sessions. Dynamic stretching exercise should be performed in sets of 5-10 repetitions.
Static stretching is one of the safest and most effective ways to increase both static-passive flexibility AND dynamic flexibility. It’s best to perform these types of stretches at the end of a training session or game when the body is completely warm and muscles are most receptive to changing length.
· You should be thoroughly warmed up before performing these exercises
· Stretch to just before the point of discomfort
· The feeling of tightness should diminish as you hold the stretch
· Breath out into the stretch. Avoid breath holding
· Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds
· If tightness intensifies or you feel pain stop the stretch
· Shake out limbs between stretches
· Complete 2-3 stretches before moving onto the next exercise