An essential aspect of soccer is fitness. You have to have a high amount of endurance to last 90 minutes on a field, transitioning between jogging to sprinting at full speed.
As a dynamic sport that requires strength, explosive power, and cardiovascular fitness, soccer also demands a balance between athleticism and creativity.
Getting fit for soccer varies from situation to situation. The journey to achieve optimal fitness can depend on your initial state of fitness, your desired fitness, and the time before your season begins.
Preparing for Soccer Fitness Exercises
There are a number of different reasons to train and prepare for soccer. For starters, as we’ve already mentioned, you want to be able to last an entire game. While there is a half time break, that is the only established, set time in a soccer game for you to rest.
A soccer game is typically end-to-end for much of the 45 minute halfs, and you can’t take a break whenever you want. There are times when you’ll have to make runs from one end of the field to other, only to find you need to sprint straight back across the field again.
Beyond your general fitness levels, though, is the importance of training to prevent injury and sustain your body. Soccer is a grueling, physical game, and proper training for the game will lower your risk for injury. It will also decrease your recovery time and allow you to play the game a lot longer.
Before you begin any type of training or exercise, it’s important that you warm up. Moving your muscles and raising your heart rate before a workout is crucial.
An easy 5-10 minute warm-up can save you from the risk of injury and raise the effectiveness of your training. Warming up can look like many different drills, exercises, and stretches.
You can use mini-bands to activate your muscles and joints, work on balance, and work on strengthening. Make sure to also include dynamic stretching in your warm-up.
Training to Get Fit for Soccer
Many think that training for soccer really only involves cardio work. And, while having great cardiovascular strength is vital to succeeding in soccer, there are so many other fitness areas you need to focus on.
In soccer, you will be making a lot of cuts, turns, and twists on the field, requiring agility and quickness. To develop this, you’ll need to add certain training to your workouts.
In addition, there is a lot of strength training that you’ll need to add to your workout regime. Strength is required throughout the game, from having the power to kick the ball hard and far, to having the strength to shed defenders and gain positioning.
Here are some different types of training:
Increasing your strength is important for soccer, and you should focus on a well rounded weight training regiment.
Strengthening your lower body is important for actions like sprinting, explosive movements, and jumping in soccer. You can utilize different exercises like squats and deadlifts, calf raises and leg extensions. For a full training plan, you can find one here.
Soccer mostly uses your lower body. However, you shouldn’t just be focusing on strengthening your lower body muscles, like your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. You should also work on your upper body.
For your upper body and core, you’ll need exercises like planks, bicep curls, tricep extensions, and push-ups. If you can, incorporate strength or weight training into your regimen twice a week.
Cardiovascular training, or cardio for short, is the backbone of soccer fitness training. Having good cardio will not only allow you to last the entire game, but it will also let you play better as the game wears on.
Long Distance Running
A healthy dose of long distance running is a good first step. With the average soccer player running anywhere from 5-10 miles per game, you should be running throughout the week.
Depending on your schedule and timing, run several times per week, ranging in distances from 3 miles to 8 miles, with some top soccer cleats for running. If you have wider feet, don’t settle for a larger size, find yourself good soccer cleats for wide feet.
Sprints and Lines
You should also be running short distances to work on your agility and sprinting. 40 yard dashes and 100 yard dashes will help increase your short-distance cardio, while running lines back and forth helps with your cardio and agility at the same time.
Another way to work your cardio is to train with small-sided games (for example 4v4 or 6v6 on a small field).
Play Indoor Soccer
In these small-sided games, you’re engaged in the play more often and move positions much more than you would in a full-field game. This can be a lot more fun than just pure running, and you’ll also be able to work on your soccer skills while you’re at it.
Another type of training is plyometrics. This type of workout will help you increase power and explosiveness when you jump and change directions.
To help you increase your explosiveness in your upper body, you should do exercises like explosive pushups. This style of push ups will allow you to maximize your strength training through a simple plyometric exercise.
For your lower body, use split jumps or squat jumps. After you establish a foundation, increase the weight. You can get that challenge by wearing a weight vest, etc.
You’ll notice that a lot of plyometrics involve quick movements and jumps. This is why this style of training works so well for building your soccer fitness – so much of soccer mimics these movements.
For an extreme version of this type of plyometric training, consider joining a P90X gym.
Soccer is a very dynamic sport where you are constantly changing speeds. As such, your training should mirror that dynamic.
In your cardio and weight lifting workouts for soccer, vary the distances and intervals. In its most basic form, this is called Interval Training and should help prepare you for the game and its various speeds.
While this isn’t an advanced form of interval training, the process of varying what you do week-in week-out is vital for a fast moving sport like soccer.
Other Soccer Fitness Considerations
While we’ve put together a collection of general soccer fitness tips, ranging from cardio to strength training, from plyometrics to interval training, we also have a few general topics to share.
Work on Agility
We’ve threaded the need for agility throughout this article, but it has always been as a part of a different type of workout, such as plyometrics.
If you identify agility as an area you could specifically work on, then you’ll want to add some specific workouts to improve this part.
In soccer, you should be able to change directions, make moves, and have fast feet to kick the ball. To improve these areas, set up a simple obstacle course with cones.
This type of training engages muscles like your hip flexors and quads, which are used to change direction and react to movement.
Another simple workout for your soccer agility is to set up a ladder on the ground, Using a fast-feet ladder is also helpful to work on your agility. There are so many different types of exercises to work on while using a fast-feet ladder—the combinations are almost endless.
Fitness Test Specific
Especially if you’re heading into preseason, you might have certain fitness tests that you need to pass before the season starts. Training for these specific fitness tests by actually running them can help with fitness overall.
Having passed the fitness test before will also give you the confidence to pass them again. Some fitness tests in soccer include the beep test, the 120 or Man U test, the 300-yard shuttle test, and so on. Check with your coach or team program about which ones your team uses.
Fitness With the Ball
At the end of the day, you’re not running track and field or cross country—you’re playing soccer. Running fitness with a quality soccer ball for training is important to incorporate in your training regimen because it makes your training much more game-realistic.
With this training, you’ll be prepared when game time comes. Out on the field, you not only have to be fast, but you also need to keep the ball under control.
There are specific, certain exercises and drills that you can perform in your fitness training. Following these tips can help you develop a training regimen to get you fit before your season begins.
Beyond that, training with a soccer ball at the same time naturally improves your other essential skills, such as dribbling, passing, shooting, and crossing the ball.
Training for preseason may have you working against the clock. However, it’s important that you allow your body to recover —especially after a strength training session. Training with an in-recovery mode body can do more harm than good and may actually lead to injury.
Remember, recovery and preparation for training go hand-in-hand. Right after one training session ends, preparation for the next already begins. Cooling down is just as important as warming up.
Part of recovery also includes replacing the fluids and fuel that you lost while training.
Benefits of Being Fit for Soccer
Being fit and in shape for soccer has so many benefits to you. Here are the top advantages to focusing on your fitness levels:
- Endurance: you’ll have the ability to play for the entire 90 minute game, or even longer. Keep in mind that soccer usually goes longer than its allotted time, due to stoppage and injury time. In addition, sometimes games have extra time, in the event of ties, or even a shootout after full time. This is when it is vital for you to be at your best, and being fit will allow you to perform at this time.
- Skill: its difficult to perform at your best when you’re tired, sore, or in pain. Having soccer fitness will allow you (and your body) to focus on playing the game to your best. Your dribbling and passing will improve, along with your aggression and shooting. In addition, your mind will be able to focus on what is important in the game, rather than on how tired you are.
Less Injuries: when you are in proper shape, you get injured less. This is a fact, and will allow you to play more. Injuries can be a huge setback for a soccer player. Not only do you miss out on playing, but your fitness and skills will suffer. Injuries effect you while injured, but also afterwards.
Getting fit for a soccer season doesn’t have to be rocket science. It takes discipline, consistency, and pushing your limits until you are fit enough to play or pass a fitness test.
Depending on the league you’re playing in and your position on the field, your fitness level can look different. Your team might have certain fitness tests to pass. However, following these tips can help get you to game fitness level.