Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://enhancedfp.com)

Soccer Players Need To Lift

By DMorgan
Created 04/24/2010 - 11:26am

  Today I want to talk about soccer athleticism and dispel the notion that strength training is not important for improvements in speed and power.  It is time that all of you soccer players who think that lifting heavy weights is for football players only to think again! It seems like so many soccer players and athletes in general favor cool looking exercises with fancy equipment thinking it will give them the “cutting edge” when the truth of the matter is they just need to get stronger using basic exercises. (of course biomechanics or how your body is aligned is important in order to display strength because if your alignment is off, its like driving a race car with a flat tire.  In other words, your muscles have strength and power but since you’re not aligned properly the force you produce gets dissipated upon ground strike.  More on alignment in the upcoming days.) Today I want to talk about strength and use a few studies to  convince you of its importance.

Soccer is a game that places many demands on the athlete;  high levels of power in short bursts including accelerating up to 20 yards, longer distance sprinting, changing direction, and jumping. While the energy requirements for soccer players with the exception of the goalkeeper are more towards the aerobic side of things than a sport like football, it is the moments of powerful expression that often determine the outcome of the match.
The results of studies using male high school aged soccer players up to professional players as subjects exhibit a strong relationship between leg strength in the back squat exercises and the various field tests. Maximal strength in the half squat exercise has a significant correlation with speed in distances measured up to 30 meters and vertical jump ability (Ronnestad, 2008; Wisloff, 2004). In high-school-aged soccer players as well, it was found that leg muscle volume (overall muscle size) and maximal half-squat strength are significantly related to 5-meter sprint times (Souhaiel, 2009).  In a group of female soccer athletes utilizing high-load back squats as the means of strength training (average increase of 33.7%) they demonstrated an increase in rate of force development by 52.3%, and running economy at anaerobic threshold improved by 4.7% while no changes were observed in the control group (Hoff, 2001).

One study on soccer players concluded that maximal power in a half-squat exercise was attained with a load of 60% of 1-RM strength, representing 112% of the athlete’s body weight. Performance in the speed and power tests selected was significantly related with all the half-squat variables measured, especially with loads of 75 – 125% of body weight. Therefore, if an athlete improves their maximal strength, they may be able to increase the load and still move the weight at the same speed producing more power across a broad range of loads, including their own bodyweight.  Hello more speed and power!  (Requena, 2009; Wisloff, 2004).

Aren’t plyos better for soccer than lifting weights?
For athletes already training a lot, extra plyos may not help as much as strength training. Using a control group, a squat plus jump training group, and a squat only group, researchers wanted to determine if strength training would lead to gains in speed and power, and whether adding in jump training to the strength training would serve as an added benefit to professional soccer players (Ronnestad, 2008). Jump training or plyometrics as it is often called, is considered to be a more specific means of strength training since the time of execution more closely resemble that which is seen in the sporting events themselves. However, the results suggested that heavy strength training is the most important aspect that leads to significant gains in strength and power-related measurements in professional soccer players. There were no significant performance-enhancing effects of combining strength and jump training in professional soccer players concurrently practicing multiple times a week compared to strength training alone. There is no better plyometric exercise than playing the game itself.

Bottom Line
Hopefully now you realize you need to improve your strength if you want to get faster and more powerful. I want to add- don’t be fooled by people that are very fast who have never touched a weight. There is such a thing as natural strength.  But even those lucky folks can get faster if they put in the time and effort in the weight room.  For those of you without natural strength, you can do speed training and plyos all day but without adding strength, your ceiling for improving speed and power will not be very high.

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