Soccer workout plan: smart soccer strength training for great results

By Lucas Keating, 20 February 2023

If you want to enhance your athletic performance so as to get better on the soccer field, then you have to develop a soccer workout plan that features strength and conditioning soccer workouts. While improving your technical skills is essential, training your body off the field can give you the physical strength and endurance needed to play at your best during the games. As it has been noted in research papers recently, adding strength training to a soccer player's training regimen can significantly improve power, speed, endurance, and strength (1). It must be done in lieu with the other soccer training and drills

Components of a soccer strength training program

So what should a soccer strength training program entail? A soccer leg workout plan should include a mix of exercises that target different muscle groups to improve overall endurance, power, and strength. The strength aspect of your soccer workout should concentrate on developing muscular strength via exercises such as lunges, squats, and deadlifts.

 Indeed, famous soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo's personal trainer has emphasised the importance of these exercises for building leg strength and power (2). In addition to these exercises, core-focused activities like Russian twists and planks are important, as a strong core can boost balance and stability on the field. If is specifically recommended to mix with speed and agility drills

The power segment of your soccer workouts gym routine should center on explosive movements that can help you boost your speed and agility during games. Examples of such movements include box jumps and plyometric exercises. Research has shown that incorporating plyometric exercises into a soccer player's training routine can help to improve sprint performance and jumping ability (3). In fact, soccer player Lionel Messi has been known to incorporate plyometric exercises into his training routine to improve his speed and agility on the field (4).

Lastly, the endurance portion of your soccer leg workout plan should aim to enhance your cardiovascular fitness via exercises such as cycling, running, and jumping jacks. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated that adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to a soccer player's training routine can lead to improvements in aerobic fitness and endurance. HIIT is a time-efficient way to improve cardiovascular fitness and involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise.

Choosing exercises for a soccer strength training program

With so many exercises to choose from, how do you decide which ones are right for you? In this article, we'll take a closer look at what soccer players need to consider when choosing exercises for a strength training program.

For starters, it's important to understand that strength training for soccer is not the same as bodybuilding. Building muscle mass is not the primary goal of a soccer strength training program. Instead, the focus is on developing functional strength that can be applied on the field. To accomplish this, soccer players need to choose exercises that mimic the movements they make on the field.

One of the most important components of a soccer strength training program is lower body exercises that improve strength, power, and explosiveness. Think squats, lunges, deadlifts, and leg presses. These exercises help soccer players to accelerate quickly and change direction with ease. Take it from the legendary soccer coach, Pep Guardiola, who once said, "Speed of movement is the most important quality for a soccer player to possess."

Plyometrics are also crucial for soccer players. These exercises involve rapid stretching of a muscle, followed by a rapid contraction. Plyometrics help players to generate explosive power and speed and improve vertical jump. Some popular plyometric exercises for soccer players include jumping lunges, jump squats, and box jumps. But it's important to note that plyometrics can be high-impact, so it's important to perform them with proper technique and under the guidance of a coach or trainer.

Upper body strength is also an important component of a soccer strength training program, although it shouldn't be the primary focus. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and bench press can help players to win headers and hold off opponents. But as the former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, once said, "Soccer is a game you play with your feet, not your upper body." So, while upper body strength is important, it's lower body strength that should take center stage.

Core strength is another crucial element of a soccer strength training program. A strong core helps players to maintain balance, stability, and control while running and changing direction. Planks, side planks, and Russian twists are all great exercises for developing core strength.

When choosing exercises for a soccer strength training program, it's important to consider the player's position. For example, a striker may need to focus more on explosive power, while a defender may need to focus more on upper body strength. The exercises you choose should be specific to your position and the skills you need to excel on the field.

But don't take our word for it. Some of the world's top soccer players and coaches swear by strength training. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best soccer players of all time, is known for his intense strength training regimen. And the current Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, is a big proponent of strength training for soccer players. As he once said, "Strength is the foundation of everything we do." 

Research has also shown that strength training can improve soccer players' performance and reduce the risk of injury. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, female soccer players who participated in a 12-week strength training program saw improvements in sprint speed and agility (Faigenbaum et al., 2017). Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a 6-week strength training program reduced the incidence of injuries in male and female soccer players (Hammami et al., 2018). Additionally, developed body strength improves the ball mastery and control skills

Planning a Soccer Strength Training Program

Soccer is a demanding sport that requires players to be fast, agile, and powerful. Strength training can help players build the strength and endurance needed to perform at a high level. However, planning a soccer workout program can be a daunting task. In this chapter, we'll discuss how to determine the appropriate amount of weight, reps, and sets for each exercise, and tips for scheduling soccer workout at the gym to optimize recovery and prevent injury. We'll also cover the role of nutrition and recovery in a successful soccer strength training program.

A Soccer Workout Plan

Before beginning a strength training program, it's important to understand that every athlete is different. Each player has unique goals, and their program should reflect that. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to produce optimal results and improve athletic performance. In order to create a personalised program, consider the following factors:

Once these factors have been taken into account, it's time to determine the appropriate amount of weight, reps, and sets for each exercise. Generally speaking, soccer players should focus on building strength and endurance rather than bulking up (save for soccer leg workout, as the physical condition of legs is important for every player). Here are some tips for determining the appropriate weight and reps for each exercise:

General rules of weight training:

Weeks 1-4:

DayExerciseSetsReps
MondayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Squats38-12
 Lunges38-12
 Leg Press38-12
 Step-ups38-12
 Plyometric Jumps38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--
WednesdayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Deadlifts38-12
 Good Mornings38-12
 Box Jumps38-12
 Russian Twists38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--
FridayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Bench Press38-12
 Dumbbell Flyes38-12
 Dips38-12
 Pull-ups38-12
 Push-ups38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--

Weeks 5-8:

DayExerciseSetsReps
MondayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Squats38-12
 Lunges38-12
 Leg Press38-12
 Step-ups38-12
 Plyometric Jumps38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--
WednesdayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Deadlifts38-12
 Good Mornings38-12
 Box Jumps38-12
 Russian Twists38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--
FridayWarm-up (jogging, dynamic stretching), Pull-ups38-12
 Chin-ups38-12
 Dumbbell Rows38-12
 Shoulder Press38-12
 Tricep Extensions38-12
 Cool-down (static stretching)--

Note: This program is designed to be performed 3 days a week, with at least one day of rest in between workouts. The weight used for each exercise should be challenging but not too heavy to the point of sacrificing technique.

In addition to this strength training program, youth soccer players should also engage in cardiovascular exercise and agility training. Running, cycling, and swimming are all great options for cardiovascular exercise, while cone drills, ladder drills, and shuttle runs are excellent for improving agility and speed.

Nutrition and Recovery for Soccer Strength Training

Nutrition and recovery play a crucial role in the success of a soccer strength training program. Proper nutrition ensures that your body has the fuel it needs to perform at its best, while proper recovery helps your body repair and rebuild after each workout. See our detailed recommendations on the athlete diet plan. Here are some tips for nutrition and recovery:

Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Good sources of protein for soccer players include chicken, fish, turkey, and tofu. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and vegetables, provide the energy needed to power through workouts. Healthy fats, like those found in nuts and avocados, are important for brain function and hormone production.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids like sports drinks. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, and even injury.

Sleep is crucial for recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to allow your body to repair and rebuild.

Stretching and foam rolling can help reduce soreness and increase flexibility. Make sure to stretch after each workout and foam roll on rest days.

In conclusion, we would like to note that the athlete, especially a young ones, can get much value and soccer training recommendations from experienced coaches at the soccer camps organized (hosted) by soccer sports academies or professionals. 

References:

1. Little T, Williams AG. Specificity of acceleration, maximum speed, and agility in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2005;19(1):76-78.


2. Goncalves, B. C. (2019). The 'Ronaldo factor': How Cristiano became one of the world's greatest athletes. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/20

3. Prestes J, Frollini AB, de Lima C, et al. Comparison of linear and reverse linear periodization effects on maximal strength and body composition. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(1):266-274.


4. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(6):376-384.