With the 2018 FIFA World Cup title being fiercely contested for in Russia, we thought we would take a look at the physical attributes and skills that are required to excel in the sport of soccer, and how best to train for these fitness elements.
Soccer (or “football”) is widely accepted as one of the most popular sports in the world, with a continuously growing number of enthusiasts and players across the globe. In Australia alone, it might surprise you that 1.1 million people participate in club level football, beating out the likes of golf, AFL, netball, basketball, rugby, tennis, cricket and every other sport.
With much emphasis being placed on technical skill development in current training programs, players can develop a real competitive advantage by also focusing on their strength and conditioning. Enhancing physical abilities can not only have an impact on skill development but can also reduce the risk of injury and improve overall performance in a match.
The three major fitness components required in soccer are speed, agility and endurance. You must be able to sprint, explode to the ball and change direction, and maintain working at a high rate for a long time.
Let’s take a look at how each of the components are used in a game and the best ways to improve the elements through different drills and exercises:
Soccer players need to be able to accelerate quickly and powerfully as well as perform multiple bursts of rapid speed. Whether chasing down an opponent, gaining possession of the ball or breaking away in an attack, pure sprinting speed is an extremely important skill. Using a combination of both sprint and strength training will help to improve speed. Some examples of fundamental strength exercises for speed are:
- Power Clean
- Push press
- Sled push
Agility refers to the ability to move and change direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while under control. It requires quick reflexes, coordination, balance, speed, and correct response to the changing situation. The ability to stop, start, cut and sprint are crucial skills for soccer players and as such are important fitness components to train. Exercises and drills to help improve agility include:
- Ladder drills
- Cone drills
- Lateral plyometric jumps
- Powerband drills
For players to repeat the short bouts of high-intensity activity for the duration of a game, a good aerobic base is required. Running at any intensity for 90 minutes requires a high level of stamina, and if you combine that with sprinting, tackling, jumping and kicking, you can see why endurance training is so important. Aerobic training for soccer players should include the following types of sessions:
- Continuous training – running at a moderate intensity continuously, without rest periods
- Interval training – higher intensity for shorter bouts separated by rest periods
Aerobic based training can be easily incorporated into training sessions, and can be coupled with soccer based skills and drills rather than pure running sessions.
So while there is an obvious need for coaches and players to focus on soccer based skill development, the importance of improving and increasing physical capabilities should not be overlooked. The faster, more agile and more conditioned a player is, the more likely they will be able to increase their output and performance come match day.
If you’re interested in helping people improve their fitness levels, or perhaps helping local soccer teams with their fitness training, a career in fitness could be for you. Find out more about our Cert III & IV in Fitness and study to become a personal trainer today!