Soccer is a running game that involves short bursts of speed. In general, players need to be in good shape. Some sports require aerobic conditioning and others require anaerobic conditioning. Soccer is a sport that requires both. During the course of a game, players cover long distances and a lot of the running involved is at top speed.
When an offensive player is racing a defensive player to the ball, it’s a sprint. When a midfielder runs the distance of the field from goal to goal it’s more like a long distance run. It’s been estimated that soccer players run between 4 and 5 miles a game. So obviously some of the training should incorporate endurance and sprinting skills.
Fitness exercise for the sake of fitness is probably the least liked part of soccer practice for players. It’s best if conditioning can be linked to other drills rather than have players strictly run. While the players are focusing on something else their lung capacity and muscles are being trained. Most drills are great for conditioning if they’re done with high intensity.
It’s important to build endurance. Players can be sent out for occasional long group runs with a ball. Four times around the field is about 1 mile. The more that endurance is built while working on ball handling the better. Youth players don’t like training and will not take well to long runs since they already seem to have a lot of endurance and energy.
Line runs are a type of endurance drill that combines sprinting and endurance and players of all ages like to do it. During this exercise, the team is told to jog in a line around the field. The last player in the line sprints up to the front of the line. When that player gets to the front, the new last player in line sprints up to the front. This process continues until everyone has had a least one turn being last. Line runs combine sprinting and endurance training, which is the most realistic simulation of a game situation. The coach can make up any running pattern that he or she desires or any distance as long as the players are running along the lines.
Leg strengthening exercises can also be part of the practice. Strong leg muscles protect joints and knees from serious injuries. Exercise like these probably don’t need to be used at every practice and when they’re used shouldn’t take more than ten minutes of time. The high knee exercise will help strengthen the quad muscle. Basically, players run a certain distance raising their knees up to their chests. This exercise not only is strength-building but also helps with endurance.
The stronger a player’s core, the better soccer player he or she will be. Soccer requires the whole body and is a very physical game. When a player has control of the ball, a defender will try to push him or her off of the ball. This legal as long as the body is used to do it. If a player’s core is strong, he or she will less likely be pushed off of the ball.
Players are active in practice as it is and strength training and speed exercises are already part of what they do. So there’s no need to overstress training drills in practice. Also, weightlifting is not for youth players and probably should be avoided. As long as players realize that as they grow older they’ll need to prepare their body for their sport, they should be fine.
For the advanced athlete, here is a great DVD that provides soccer specific training to improve speed, quickness, and endurance:
100 Conditioning Drills for Soccer
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