Specific seems to be the buzzword nowadays.
First, the term “sport specific” has been touted as a form of training that mimics a specific skill of one’s sport in the gym.
1. Improving a soccer throw-in by doing throw-ins with a weighted medicine ball.
2. Improving a baseball swing by doing attaching a bat to a resistance band.
3. Improving your 100M sprint time by attaching a spontaneously combusting jet pack to your back.
I’d argue many people have been guilty of trying to make workouts more sport specific by doing crazy shenanigans similar to the list above.
However, strength and skill should be trained totally separate. Without getting into a dissertation on the topic, here is an extensive article I wrote called What Sport Specific Really Means.
Because “sport specific” has garnered more popularity across the strength and conditioning field, “position specific” has arose as well.
And it makes sense.
When we look at football, a quarterback will require different training than a running back.
And in soccer, a center defender will require different training than a center forward. Well, sort of.
Before I get into my argument on the matter, let’s look into the various physical requirements of each position.
These guys should be the strongest on the field, no doubt. More often than not, they’re matched up against the opponent’s striker, who they must prevent from turning and facing goal, and doing anything they can to avoid them from getting shots off. They must be able to hold off the opponent using the entirety of their core (this includes the hips) and upper body.
What the 4 and 5 need:
Upper and Lower Strength
Exercises: Maximal strength Pull-Ups, Squats, Deadlifts, Push-Up Progressions
A little different than the 4 and 5, the 2 and 3 may need more conditioning and speed work since they are covering more distance. Especially if a team is playing a formation that plays out the back and requires the outside backs to get forward with the attack, the 2 and 3 need to be have some degree of repeated sprint ability and anaerobic capacity.
What the 2 and 3 need:
Exercises: Box jump variations, various conditioning drills, resisted sprints, maximal strength exercises
These guys may be the most “fit” on the team, meaning they can run up and down the sideline all game without blinking an eye. It’s no biggie. They must also be able to “burst” over 100 times in a match and accelerate quickly to receive a wide or diagonal ball to get past the other team’s defensive lines.
What the 7 and 11 need:
Strength in Frontal Plane
Exercises: Resisted sprinting, heart rate based conditioning, 300 yard shuttle, tempo runs, lateral strength drills for better 1v1 execution and lateral speed/power
These are the guys that twirl, swirl and maneuver around the other team’s opponents. The 10 may be the one who does this the most, while the 8 and 6 must play make within tight spaces. So they all must have a high level of multi-directional ability as well as endurance and strength.
What the 6,8, and 10 need:
Exercises: Lateral Sled Drags, Rotational Medicine Ball Throws, Lateral Bounding, Transverse Plane Jumps, Pull-Ups, Squats, Deadlifts, Various agility and mobility drills
The 9 should be just as strong as the opponent’s center backs so he can protect the ball. He also must have multi-directional speed to be able to turn and get off a shot on goal quickly. His core must be stable so he can hold his ground and not get knocked over from a defensive tackle. Short distance speed is also critical for him when making diagonal runs.
What the 9 needs:
Short Distance Speed
Exercises: Resisted sprinting, Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, Deadlifts, Lateral power drills, Pallof variations and core anti-rotation work:
Of course, all of these exercises are just glossing over the tip of the iceberg.
Now let me just contradict everything I just said. You know, just to stir the pot.
All of this begs the question: do we really need to train position-specific? Should it actually be a thing? Do ALL center backs need to do maximal strength drills? Do ALL outside midfielders run 300 yard shuttles while the forwards are doing weighted pull-ups and core exercises?
Oddly enough, training position-specific may limit our players.
As an example, what if you had a 4 or 5 who were already strong, could deadlift 2x their bodyweight, and who do a stellar job at holding off the opponent’s forwards? But maybe their jumping power and speed are piss poor and they can’t save a counterattack?
An outside midfielder could already have an excellent level of endurance and speed, get a sub-50 300 yard shuttle, but they are weak and get pushed off the ball all day. The solution, in this case, wouldn’t be more running just for shits and gigs because they’re outside midfielders. Sure, their endurance should still be maintained and not gutted in their program, but the solution should be to hone in on strength a bit more.
To that end, position specific training needs to be re-evaluated by the soccer fitness coach.
I think it comes down to not the position, but rather, the player.
So with that said, coaches need to ask:
‘What does the player need? Where are the player’s physical weaknesses? Where are they lacking that maybe we need to up the ante on in the gym?
Just something to think about. But either way, enjoy the exercises. ;-O