INTERMEDIATE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
There are two very important reasons to include muscle strengthening in any soccer program. First, strong muscles enable players to perform skills at the highest possible level. Second, strong muscles reduce the risk of injury. For both of these reasons coaches should conduct a planned strengthening routine during every season and, if possible, during the off-season as well. The four areas of the body requiring the most muscle strengthening are the legs, the abdomen (core), the shoulders and arms, and the neck. Strong leg muscles improve kicking and jumping and reduce the risk of injury to the knee. Strong abdominal muscles improve tackling and heading and reduce the risk of injury to the midsection and chest. Strong shoulder and arm muscles improve tackling and throw-ins and reduce the risk of shoulder separations. Strong the neck muscles improve heading and reduce the risk of injury to the head and neck. The following are the next set of “bodyweight” exercises, following the Coaching American Soccer “Basic Strengthening Exercises,” and also do not require a ball or a partner.
Bicycle – While lying on the back, flex at the waist in order to point the legs up in a pike position. Support the buttocks from underneath with the hands. Alternately flex the legs at the knees and hips as if pedaling a bicycle upside down. Perform slowly for at least one minute. Increase the pace if desired.
Leg Isometrics – While lying on the back, with legs outstretched on the ground, try to push the heels through the ground as hard as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times. While lying on the stomach, with legs outstretched on the ground, try to push the insteps through the ground as hard as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.
Jump Headers – Using proper technique, jump to head an imaginary ball. Repeat 20 times, flexing the neck in different directions to simulate game conditions.
Untimed Leg Lifts – While lying on the back, legs together, knees down and locked, feet flexed and ankles locked, lift the legs so that the heels are 6 inches above the ground hold as long as possible. Point the legs up and hold. Place both legs together to the left 6 inches above the ground and hold as long as possible. Point the legs up and hold. Place both legs together to the right 6 inches above the ground and hold as long as possible. Point the legs up and hold. Spread the legs in a V-shape and hold. Bring the legs together as far to the left as possible without touching the ground and hold as long as possible. Point the legs up and hold. Bring the legs together as far to the right as possible without touching the ground and hold as long as possible. Contact the toes to the ground overhead and hold. Bring the legs up 6 inches and hold as long as possible. Bring the heels back to 6 inches above the ground and hold as long as possible. Spread the legs in a V-shape and hold as long as possible. Movements may be performed in almost any sequence.
“V” Twister – Start in the “V-up” position. Twist at the waist by moving the arms together to the left and the legs together to the right. Rapidly reverse the relative position of the arms and legs. Perform 20 twists.
Seals – While lying on the stomach, arms and legs outstretched, bend at the back in order to raise the arms, chest and legs off the ground. Return. Repeat 10 times. As a variation, players may be asked to rock back and forth. Younger players can be asked to clap their hands and to bark like seals.
Shoulders and Arms
One-Armed Push Ups – Starting in the front leaning rest position, move both feet equally to more than shoulder-width apart. Shift the right hand under the center of the chest and hold the left arm by the side. Perform five push-ups. Repeat with the left arm pushing and the right arm held by the side.
Extension Push Ups – While lying on the stomach, extend the arms out in front. Form a solid base with the fingers and the toes. Lift the rest of the entire body off the ground. Attempt five times.
Backward Push Ups – While lying on the back, bring the heels up to the buttocks so that the full soles of both feet are in contact with the ground. Bring the arms overhead and down so that the palms of the hands are in contact with the ground under the shoulders and the fingers are pointed toward the buttocks. Push the body upward at the hips in order to form an arch with only the feet and hands in contact with the ground. Repeat 10 times.
Arm Isometrics – a.) From a standing position, place the palms of the hands together in front of the chest. Push both palms together and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times; b.) From a standing position, place the palms on the hips. Push both palms inward and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times; c.) While lying on the stomach or back with arms by the sides, outstretched at 90° or overhead, palms facing up or down, push both arms against the ground at the same time. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.
Neck Isometrics – While sitting or standing, push with the palm of the right hand against the side of the head, while at the same time pushing with the right side of the head back against the palm, using only the muscles of the neck. Hold stationary while pushing the one against each other for approximately 10 seconds. Repeat at least once more. Switch to use the left palm to the left side of the head. Switch to use both palms to the forehead. Finally, use both palms at the back of the head. Perform all four positions at least two times. Increase the length of time for each, or add the four oblique positions on the head, as desired.
Neck Bridges – for use only with mature players – a.) Front: from the front leaning rest position, equally spread the feet shoulder-width apart and then gently place the forehead in contact with the ground. Carefully place the arms by the sides, equally distributing the weight of the body between the forehead and the feet. Keeping the feet stationary. slowly flex the back in order to shift body weight around the axis of the forehead. Exercise for approximately one minute; b.) Back: from a backward push-up up position bend the neck as far back as possible and contact the head to the ground. Continue is above.
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