Great soccer athletes can run fast, cut quickly, and jump high. In the past, endurance athletes stayed away from strength training to avoid bulk, which was thought to hinder these skills, but we now know strength training and gaining mass are not mutually exclusive.
Strength training and power training will build strength and power, two very necessary components for speed, a vital skill in soccer. In order to be fast, you need to be powerful and to be powerful you need to train using powerful moves.
When the goal is not to gain size, strength training becomes very specific. Using sports specific training variables, like combining heavy weights with fast moving reps to build power, or bodyweight and plyometric training to mimic game day situations, you will increase a soccer players' speed and agility. Unilateral training, or training one leg at a time, and stability training will also help to reduce injury and train an athlete's body in the way it will be required to work on the field during play.
Machines are not ideal when strength training for sport. While using a machine will improve your strength, they provide you with artificial stabilization. In order to use the machine and make it work, the machine locks you into a specific plane of motion eliminating a key component to functional sports-specific training. You want to train your muscles in the way they will be used on the field, so while the hamstring curl machine will make your hamstring stronger, when playing soccer, your hamstring is used to extend the leg, not curl it into your butt, so doesn't help your performance much.
The following exercises utilize these beneficial training methods while focusing on the posterior chain, a muscle group that includes the glutes and hamstrings, with the primary mover being the gluteaus maximus. Responsible for a player's speed and power, the motion of the posterior chain when properly developed is almost like clawing back into the ground, like a sprinter coming off the blocks, as opposed to pushing your forward.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Stand in a staggered stance with your left foot in front of your right in front of a bench or step that hits you right at knee height. Reach your right foot back, placing the instep on top of the bench. Your left foot should be directly underneath your right hip, or a few inches in front. Keeping your weight on your front heel and your chest up, flex at the knee and the hips to lower into the squat. Your knee should be at a 90 degree angle. Driving through the heel extend through the knee and hip to return to starting position. For extra resistance, use dumbbells or a barbell.
Forward BOSU Lunge
Stand with feet together facing the BOSU, blue side up, about 3 feet away. Step forward with your left foot, landing on the center of the BOSU. Once you catch your balance (which will happen quicker with time) flex at both knees to lower into a lunge. Push off of the BOSU, bringing your left foot back to meet your right and repeat on the other side. To make it harder, use the black side of the BOSU.
Bent Leg Deadlift
Start with your feet shoulder width apart, toes directly under a loaded barbell. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips and knees to lower yourself and grasp the bar, shoulder width apart. This is your starting position. Begin the lift by simultaneously pushing through your heels and extending through the knees and waist, being careful to keep your back straight through out. Extend completely through the hips and knees, driving your hips forward against the bar. Pause, then slowly lower the barbell back to the ground, keeping the back straight, bending at the hips and then the knees. Rest the weight on the ground to get rid of elastic energy in between reps. The movement should be explosive but controlled.
Stand facing a box positioned about 5 inches in front of you. The higher the box, the harder this drill. Bend at your knees lowering your butt to the floor while you swing your straight arms behind you. Jump, springing up through the legs and swinging your arms up for momentum to jump up onto the box. Land with both feet on the box your knees bent to absorb the impact. You want to be as light on your feet as possible, making as little noise when you land as you can. Stand up completely to get full range of motion in the legs while you lower your arms by your sides. Step down from the box and repeat.
Kelly Turner is a fitness writer and contributor, personal trainer and social media and marketing consultant. If she's not in the gym or behind her computer, she's lost, so please call the police. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.