As soccer grows in prominence in the United States, athletes are being pushed to be more competitive at all levels -- and many times that means extending your training to the off-season. Star athletes are not born overnight, and it requires a thoughtful mix of strength, endurance, speed and flexibility training as well as the right nutrition to fuel your body during tough workouts. If you or your coach focus only on the traditional soccer workout of endurance training and skill development, you may be missing several ways that you could be improving your overall performance. Check out these workout groups that can be customized for your specific training needs.
The importance of maintaining a full range of motion in soccer cannot be overstated. Being able to reach and bend in a variety of directions can mean a few extra inches of extension that gets you to the ball faster. Both active and passive stretching exercises will improve overall flexibility. This goes beyond your basic warm-up from walking lunges, squats, high kicks and arm circles to holding challenging positions such as you would in yoga. The cool down is every bit as important as warm-up exercises, as they help maintain flexibility in the muscles and work out some kinks.
Hydration, hydration, hydration! Few athletes put enough water in their body to keep muscles flexible. When you're working out hard, your body quickly goes through water and electrolytes, so you need to replace them quickly or risk muscle fatigue and a crash. Protein helps support lean muscle growth while carbs give you the quick energy you need to get moving.
Speed and Agility
The game of soccer moves faster today than ever before, and being able to change directions on a dime is a serious benefit on the soccer field. The explosive power required for quick takeoffs to nab the ball from an opponent are gained through speed and agility exercises, often in short bursts of activity. Circuit training will help with this skill, but other options include sprint drills and ladder drills to supplement foot placement.
Strength training is essential in many sports, but soccer often overlooks particular strength-building activities for endurance work. Strength is important because it helps build a faster metabolism, improved agility and balance and faster recovery times -- something that's incredibly important in a fast-paced sport such as soccer. Another important part of strength training is to support injury resistance, which works by incorporating specific activities such as pushups, squats, lunges and chin-ups.
Walking, jogging and running are great endurance exercises that will help you endure the strain on your cardiovascular system that you'll experience during a heated soccer game. Many experts recommend that instead of running for an hour or more several days per week, that you instead look towards interval training. Soccer incorporates all types of activity -- sprinting, walking, jogging and running -- and in order to be prepared as possible on the field, your off-season workouts should mimic that structure.
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