I’ve preached to the choir on this topic before. 109 times, to be exact.
So how about we make today 110? Yes, let’s.
Instead of me ranting and coming across as a nagging mom barking at you to do your laundry, I decided to bring in a guest poster. Because I’m tired of playing mom. And It’s refreshing to hear new voices from other professionals.
Julian Sisman is a soccer coach and personal trainer based in Potomac, Maryland. I’m excited to have him here today to discuss the myriad of benefits of strength training for soccer players. The simplicity of this post is both beautiful and informative.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Soccer Players
In sports training, and especially with soccer training, the conventional wisdom is that strength training and conditioning for young athletes is a big no-no.
There are a lot of parents who are nervous about strength training for their kids. They might believe that they are too young, or there is no need for total body body strength. Or that it will “stunt their growth”. What’s more is, young athletes can also be reluctant to start strength training. They think “strength training”, and they picture body builders. The stereotype of body builders, and others who do strength training, is big, bulky, and slow, all qualities you want to avoid as a soccer player (and as a teenager).
Note from Erica: After training hundreds of soccer players and going through my own program, I never once got “bulky,” nor saw any of my athletes get this way. We (and myself) became more athletic, fast, and more importantly, strong enough to hold off defenders and make it out of slide tackles alive.
Strength and conditioning is essential to give a young athlete every possible advantage on the field and to reach their full potential (they will reach their full height regardless). The reality is, unless you are training hard for it, no one is going to bulk up like a body builder. Strength training and conditioning when it comes to soccer, means power, speed, and overall athleticism.
There has been a great deal of research showing that proper strength training and conditioning greatly reduces the chances of being injured while playing soccer. This applies to injuries such as torn muscles or ligaments and potentially life-threatening ones like concussions. Some studies have shown (1) that the rate of injuries is almost 50% less for those athletes who have undergone strength training.
When someone is training or exercising, improving their movement patterns can also improve their performance on the field. When we say “movement patterns” here, we are talking about single joint angle rotations. The rotation around the joint can change, depending on if a player has gone through strength training. Is this a good thing? Absolutely. When performing movements like drop jumps, there can be a risk of non-contact injury as a result of the landing. Soft landings are obviously easier on the body than hard landings because there is less of an impact.
Note from Erica: Here is an excellent exercise that can also be considered “resistance training” as far as reducing chance of injury.
By going through a standard strength training regimen, athletes increase their peak knee flexion angle, allowing for a softer landing (2). Similar research shows positive results from strength training with hip flexion (3). Although results may vary depending on the athlete doing the training, it seems clear that strength training can help cushion the impact of a fall. Other movement patterns, especially those involved in soccer, are similarly affected.
But what about concussions? How can strength training and conditioning stop a young athlete from banging their head? Well, it won’t. But it can greatly change what happens in the immediate aftermath of the impact.
A concussion is when external force is applied to the head, causing a fast acceleration or deceleration, resulting in the brain shifting inside the skull. So, what can strength training do to help? It can build neck strength. Those with weak necks are at greater risk of getting a concussion than those who strong ones. Having strong neck muscles allows you to better absorb the impact of a hit, as they instinctively tense just before the collision.
Note from Erica: I’d argue that strong back muscles would help as well, to provide the player the strength and stability to handle high forces within the game. And to make you look like a badass.
Kick Distance and Velocity
The ability to kick the ball fast and long is obviously beneficial to any soccer player. The question is, how can you improve this ability in a young athlete? The answer is through strength training. In a study involving young female soccer players (4), incorporating proper strength training into their training increased their kicking distance by over 25%.
Note from Erica: Strength training includes upper body pulling and pushing (pull ups/rows and bench press variations and push up variations), as well as lower body pushing and pulling (squat variations and dead lifts or hip hinges). Also, plenty of reflexive strength work needs to be done to hone inter-muscular coordination and get the body working as one unit.
Note from Erica: Read more here on the benefits of upper body strength for soccer players. Okay, I’m done ranting. Back to Julian.
The team without strength training showed little to no improvement when it came to their kicking ability. The strength training team was a different story. After only seven weeks, kicking distance increased by 10%, and improved by 27% by the 14th week. They also showed improved jumping ability, with a 19% higher vertical jump by the 14th week of the study.
Young athletes go through many challenges as teenagers. Their bodies are changing, and their peers might be at a more advanced stage of physical development. This gives them an advantage on the field that your player might not have (yet). Strength and conditioning can greatly help close this gap, improving your player’s game to the point where they’ll be leaving everyone else in the dust. Not only that, you can rest assured that they will be at a far less risk of injury than other players out on the field.
- Hejna, W. F., Rosenberg, A., Buturusis, D. J., & Krieger, A. (1982). The prevention of sports injuries in high school students through strength training. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 4(1), 28-31.
- McCurdy, K., Walker, J., Saxe, J., & Woods, J. (2012). The effect of short-term resistance training on hip and knee kinematics during vertical drop jumps. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(5), 1257-1264.
- Arabatzi, F., & Kellis, E. (2012). Olympic Weightlifting Training Causes Different Knee Muscle–Coactivation Adaptations Compared with Traditional Weight Training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2192-2201.
- Rubley MD, Haase AC, Holcomb WR, Girouard TJ, Tandy RD (2011) The effect of plyometric training on power and kicking distance in female adolescent soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25: 129-134.
About The Author
Julian Sisman is a NSCA- and NASM-certified personal trainer and USSF “D” licensed coached with years of experience inspiring people and driving them to become their strongest selves. As the founder and trainer of Prepare for Performance, he emphasizes his philosophy of strength conditioning as a method of improving speed, agility, and endurance.