It’s crucial that you take a long-term perspective in your soccer strength training plan. Even if you only do one strength session a week, you should still adapt it over the course of your season.
Looking at the big picture will help you see how it all fits together. It also takes the pressure off of trying to cater to everything in just a few training sessions – a sure-fire way path to over training and not much of anything else.
Here’s an example of how you can break a season, and a soccer strength training program, into just a few manageable phases…
The Off-Season – Build Functional Strength
Soccer, like any sport, places a lot of uneven demands on the body. Most players have a predominant kicking foot for example. They kick using the same motor patterns, tens of thousands of times every year. Therefore, some muscles develop more than others. Some joints are placed under more stress than others.
The goals of this phase are:
- To prepare the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons for more intense work in subsequent phases
- To strengthen underused stabilizer muscles
- To balance the right and left side of the body
- To restore the balance between the flexors and extensors (soccer players, for example, are notorious for having over-developed quads from repetitive kicking actions. It’s no wonder hamstring injuries are so prevalent in the game).
A good portion of your soccer strength training should focus on core stability. It’s a form of training that is becoming more and more popular.
The core – the abdominals, lower back and trunk – all form your “center of power”. Every twisting, turning , stopping and starting movement is supported by your core. It allows your upper and lower body to work in cohesion, minimizing shock and stress.
This is the most important phase of any soccer strength training program. Yet most athletes dismiss it. And it becomes even more important for younger players.
The foundations you set in this phase literally determine the quality of strength and power that will be formed in later phases. More importantly, without this phase, injures – both short and long-term become much more likely.
Off-Season/Early Pre-Season – Build Maximal Strength
With a good foundation to build on, you’re fully prepared to move into phase 2… building maximal strength. This is where most players finish – the same routine (or some slight variation) all year round.
But that’s good news for you…
You’re following a soccer strength training program that meets the specific demands of your sport – you have a big advantage. Maximal strength phase should use higher loads than other phases.
The goal of this phase is to develop the highest force possible. Since power is our overall outcome, it makes sense to develop strength first and then convert it into soccer-specific power.
The aim is to complete this phase before the start of the season. That way the latter stages of pre-season training can focus on power and strength endurance training.
Late Pre-Season – Muscular Power and Strength Endurance
You’ve prepared your body well. You’ve built a solid strength base. Now it’s time to reap the rewards of all your efforts. In this phase of soccer strength training, the goal is to convert your strength gains into soccer-specific power and muscular endurance. Soccer is one of the few sports that demands roughly equal amounts of explosive force and strength endurance.
Plyometric training and/or circuit training should replace sessions in the weight room for this phase. It will last roughly 4-6 weeks depending on your schedule.
In-Season – Maintenance
To become a balanced player you have to accept that you’ll lose a small amount of maximal strength to develop more competitive types of strength. But it will make you a better player! During the season, the goal is to maintain the gains you’ve made during a strenuous pre-season period without over reaching or over training. Remember, one of the best forms of training is a competitive game. Base all your other training sessions around it.
This is not one big continuous phase in your soccer strength training routine. Because the competitive season can last up to 9 months, you should split your strength routine into smaller cycles. Each might cycle might last 6-8 weeks for example. At the beginning of each cycle you lift lighter weights and perform fewer sets. You reach a peak in the middle of the cycle (week 4-5) and taper off again towards the end.
This is a technique used by the pros to keep their bodies (and their minds) fresh and free from injury.