Want to get better at the beautiful game? Find out how soccer players stay in shape.
Soccer (or football, if you’re outside the U.S.), which has captured the hearts of over 3.5 billion fans around the world, doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. And that’s a good thing, because a world with more soccer players is probably a much, much healthier world! With the Women’s World Cup going on right now, we thought it would be a good time to post about the health benefits of soccer and some of the training exercises you can use to stay fit on and off the field.
Why is soccer an effective way to exercise?
“Soccer is medicine.” That’s the pretty astounding claim made by Peter Krustrup, a professor of sport and health sciences at SDU Odense. And after weighing the potential health benefits of soccer, it’s easy to see why. Playing for just one hour three times a week may offer incredible health benefits, including reduced blood pressure and a stronger heart. Not to mention that soccer players are regularly listed as some of the hottest athletes around, so in addition to all these legit health benefits, you’ll also end up with a rockin’ bod! Other awesome fitness benefits may include:
- Lower body fat and improved muscle tone
- Improved strength, flexibility and endurance
- Increased muscle strength and bone density
How can I improve my soccer skills?
Understanding the physical demands of soccer will help you recognize your individual strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to develop an effective, personalized soccer workout. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled some great soccer exercises just for you! Although soccer is a creative, skillful sport, strength, power, and speed are crucial. How else are you going to sock the ball 30 yards across the field? Strength training also contributes to an improved overall athleticism and fitness, which holds extensive benefits for any athlete, including:
- Injury resistance and faster recovery
- Improved balance, stability, and agility
- Faster metabolism
- Body weight and plyometric training is also important. By incorporating them into your soccer workout, you can mimic game day action, and increase speed and agility.
Remember, before you kick off your soccer workouts, be sure to check in with a doctor or medical professional.
Wait, what’s plyometric training?
Characterized by jumping, hopping, and bounding movements that demand rapid force, plyometric training is a form of high-impact training used to develop your explosive power. Many athletes find plyometrics to be more convenient than weights for faster muscle development. To introduce plyometric exercises into your soccer workout, consider adding the following exercises:
- Front box jump
- Broad jump
- Dot drill
- Skater jump
- BOSU ball burpees
Soccer athletes are always jumping, sprinting, and kicking, so your glutes and leg muscles need explosive power, something that can be obtained through building strength and endurance. Think about including these soccer exercises into your routine:
- Single leg squat
- Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
- Single-leg drop squat
- Single-leg linear hop
Just training your lower body is not enough. It is important to have strong arms and shoulders to help you fend off defenders and box them away from the ball. Stay lean by doing fewer reps with heavier weights. Build explosive power with these soccer workouts:
- Chest press
- Plank row
- Equalizer dips
- Exercise ball push ups
Your core muscles play several crucial supporting roles that contribute to your overall fitness. A strong, stable core will help to stabilize your limbs, as well as provide power and strength, enabling you to perform at your best on the field. Get washboard abs with these exercises:
- Plank to push up
- Barbell roll-outs
- Lateral V-ups
- Weighted plate Russian twists
Soccer involves periods of slow and fast movement with bursts of sprinting. This means that the heart works at different paces throughout the game. Interval training mirrors the stop-and-go movement of soccer, compared to traditional long-distance training. Plus, it’s got lots of added perks, including:
- Reduced risk of running injuries
- Improved ability to handle lactic acid buildup
- Added variety to your workout
Can you be too fit from soccer?
Although soccer has lots of health benefits, there have been occurrences of healthy young men suddenly collapsing on the playing field. Since the 19th century, this has happened to more than 80 players. The secret killer may be called HOCM (hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy). The most high-profile case was probably that of Fabrice Muamba, a young player who collapsed on the field Thankfully, he pulled through, but others haven’t been so lucky.
On the outside, these athletes look young and fit. In fact, their hearts are so well-exercised that the muscle has naturally reshaped to pump blood more effectively, helping the player adapt to the stress they endure from regular, vigorous training. Unfortunately, HOCM is a genetic abnormality that causes the heart’s muscle wall to become so thick that there is a lack of blood flow back to the heart. Any sudden strain will cause shortness of breath or chest pain, but often the individual collapses into sudden cardiac death. Fortunately, you’re unlikely to experience something like this, especially if you’re just a casual player, but it’s always worth it to stay aware.
Feel like getting into soccer? Okay, you may not be the next Lionel Messi or Megan Rapinoe, but for an all-around full body workout, it’s a great choice of sport. If you’re already a devotee, try incorporating some of these soccer exercises into your workout regime and see if you notice a difference in your play.