Plyometrics are jump-training exercises that focus on exerting maximum muscular force in short intervals. They are particularly beneficial to jump heading in soccer. Soccer plyometrics are some of the simplest and most effective training exercises for the game. While most sports strength-training involves long, slow repetitions to increase muscular strength and mass, plyometrics consist of quick, explosive movements more in keeping with the nature of soccer. The benefits of leaping higher, moving quicker in all directions and adding more explosiveness to your game are easily translated to on-the-field success for all players.
The nature of the training increases efficiency of fast-twitch muscle fibers, resulting in gains in both power and strength. In addition to building your game, it’s also a great way to rapidly build muscle and burn fat. Plyometric techniques are not a replacement for cardio work, which is still essential to building the stamina soccer requires. It’s also important not to overdue plyometric work. Beginners, particularly, run a risk of sustaining injury because of the intensity of the work, which is designed for short intervals and thus can seduce athletes into doing too much.
Plyometric drills usually consist of quick, 30-to-60 second bursts of sharp, high-intensity movements. Further, it is extremely important for everyone to be conscious to avoid training with plyometrics on hard surfaces. Plyometric exercises should primarily be performed on softer surfaces like grass, dirt fields, or padded indoor areas, to reduce wear and tear on joints and knees.
Some basic plyometric exercises for soccer are:
Knees bent, jump straight up. Concentrate on powerful leaps and smooth landings, transitioning quickly into next jump. Arms are usually in front, hands close together just below the chin. Weights can be held in the hands to build progression. Do short series of quick squat jumps. Brief rest and repeat.
Same positioning as the squat jump, but in jumping, also tuck the knees upward in the jump, thrusting the arms downward for maximum core impact. Again, perform in quick series of repetitions.
Lateral Bench Hops
Leaning forward, firmly grip a workout bench with both hands. Keeping your feet together, hop from one side of the bench to the other in continuous back-and-forth bursts, landing on the toes and pushing off and back over quickly. Keep your chin up to keep your spine extended. Perform a series of rapid repetitions.
Side Lunge Bench Hop
Again, using the short workout bench, place one foot atop the bench from the side of the bench. Jump up to replace your foot on the bench with your other foot, dropping off the other side of the bench, then jump back, alternating sides quickly. Stay upright and balanced, weight over the one foot on the bench.
With a ball at your feet in front of you, jump and tap the top of the ball, keeping control, as you alternate feet tapping the ball. Vary to hopping and touching the ball foot-to-foot, maintaining control and staying as stationary as possible. Then mix in dribbling the ball with one leg behind the other, continuing to hop and staying basically in the same spot. Finish by jumping and moving legs over the ball alternately without touching the ball, as in a ball-fake situation.
Multi-Plane Hurdle Jumps
Set up four 6-inch plyometric hurdles (or any obstacles of that height, forming a square. From a standing start, jump into the square then rapidly jump to the side and back into the square. Jump in and out repeatedly, moving clockwise until a series of complete circles have been finished.
Utilizing an agility ladder laid on the floor or ground, move into the first rung on the balls of the feet. Move “up” the ladder across each rung, left-to-right, and then forward into each successive rung until at the end. Then repeat backwards “down” the ladder back to the start position, always on the balls of the feet and emphasizing quickness and balance in your progression.
For more advanced, soccer-specific plyometric training, consider:
From a standing position, jump and come down one leg forward, the other knee coming down towards the ground. Immediately relaunch, alternating legs. Emphasis is on explosiveness out of the landing crouch back into the next jump. This exercise enhances stability and explosiveness. The optimal range of work is 3-to-4 sets with 5-to-8 repetitions in each set. (Some practitioners prefer to work on one leg at a time in a set, rather than alternating. Simply jumping and landing with same leg forward each time, then switching in next set)
Single Leg Lateral (or “Skater”) Jumps
This is another lateral jumping technique performed by jumping from one side to the other, pushing off one foot and jumping to the side, landing on the other, then jumping back again. The planting of the landing foot and then powering back up again is another stability-enhancing move. Experts recommend 3-to-4 sets with 10-12 jumps each time. The more power you put into the jumps, the more improvement you will get.
Lateral Box Jumps
From the side of an elevated platform – ideally a foam or wood “plyobox” or stacked boxes – jump laterally onto the top of the target and then return to the starting position, repeating the jump trying to maximize height. Ideal repetitions are 4-to-6 times in 3-to-4 sets on each side of the box. Steps or other types of platforms can also be utilized as a target where exercise boxes are not available.
Kneeling Box Jumps
From a kneeling position in front of an elevated target, jump to a crouch, then immediately jump to the top of the box. Using your hips and upper body (swinging your arms up and forward) leap to your feet, then immediately leap to the top of the box or platform. Variations include just a straight broad jump leap from a standing start and leaping and landing on one foot or the other or both, any combination that allows for growth and improvement in a specific muscle area. For the kneeling box jumps, 4-to-6 sets of up to five reps is ideal.
Continuous Broad Jumps
From a balanced, standing start, simply jump forward as far as possible, at least three quick reps. Variations include hopping and landing with one foot, anything that focuses on explosive jumps and powerful landings pushing into next jump. The goal is to jump farther with each jump. 4-to-6 repetitions in 4 or 5 sets is optimal.
Many of these plyometric exercises don’t require specialized equipment or utilize simple substitute items such as a bench, a chair or concrete block. Flights of steps also work in many instances. To increase workout intensity after mastering the basics, a weighted vest or resistance band can be added to up the training value.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
– The emphasis on jumping develops quad muscles and has an ancillary benefit to ball-striking which players will particularly enjoy. The major benefits, universally acknowledged by trainers and fitness experts, are to build power and strength, tighten muscle formations, prevent muscle loss and speed the body’s ability to burn fat.
– Again, athletes may have a tendency to overwork in the short intervals, but best results are achieved in shorter, quicker repetitions. Do not engage enough to strain muscles and cause injuries. And don’t forget the cardio work!
(MICHAEL D. ASHLEY contributed to this article.)
© Copyright, John C. Harves