Soccer Workout: 9 Essential Exercises to Add Strength to Your Game
Soccer is a physically demanding sport. Trust me, I play it and sometimes I wish I had been born in Adama Traore’s body.
Obviously, that wish did not come true…
To reach your full potential on the field, it’s crucial to incorporate specific soccer workouts into your training regimen, and aggressively display that strength during the game…
Oh boy, will you be good!
The Exercises You Need To Do:
Best Soccer Workout Exercises
Remember why it’s important to train: You need to do some weight training not only to get stronger and look better but to create a stronger body to play football.
And that means more explosive power, faster legs, more endurance muscles to run further, a stable core, good overall balance, and an underrated one…lower risks of injuries.
1. Standart Squats
Squats primarily target your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which are essential leg muscles for sprinting, jumping, and changing directions on the field, allowing you to better display your footwork.
Not only does it make a more explosive and faster player, but it also allows you to make the same efforts last longer, which is an essential sports conditioning trait to have.
Professional soccer players all do them, whether it’s for strength training, muscle recovery after a game, or injury prevention/treatment.
Squats enhance your leg strength, allowing you to generate more power in your kicks, jumps, and sprints.
Improves your ability to shield the ball from opponents and hold your ground during physical duels.
Help build endurance, which makes you last more minutes, and play high-intensity for longer.
Help to build speed.
How to do them?
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Keep your back straight and chest up.
Lower your body as if you’re sitting back in a chair, with your knees bent.
Go as low as you can while keeping your heels on the ground.
Push through your heels to return to the starting position.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps. Start with the bar only before adding additional weights. Aim for either muscle power with 3-5 reps, or muscle endurance with 15-20 reps.
2. Bulgarian Squats
Bulgarian single-leg squats are crucial for soccer as they include all the benefits of the traditional, with an additional focus on one leg, which can cure your imbalances and pain.
As soccer players, we tend to use one leg more than the other (usually your dominant side). This phenomenon can create imbalances, and some of your leg muscle groups will compensate for the lack of usage.
Balance is good for setting up a shot for a finish, or for staying on your feet during a dribbling run.
Performing single-legged squats is a good start to help restore balance.
Basically, it means that if you feel discomfort on one side of your leg more than the other, then a single leg squat could help you.
Fix your imbalances.
Work on your balance.
Create a balance between the hips and the rest of the legs.
How to do them?
Stand facing away from a bench or elevated surface.
Extend one leg behind you and place the top of your foot on the bench.
Position your other foot about one to two feet in front of you.
Lower your body by bending your front knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground or as far as your flexibility allows.
Ensure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not extending past your toes.
Push through your front heel to return to the starting position.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps (10 on each leg). Start with no weight, and improve by adding dumbbells on each hand.
Lunges are excellent for soccer players because they help improve balance and stability. This is crucial for maintaining control over the ball, especially in tight spaces.
Lunges are also important for soccer players because they combine important muscle groups with movement, (as opposed to static training) which can be more game-realistic.
It also allows you to have more mobility, which can help you perfect easier shots such as the curved shot.
Lunges enhance your balance, making it easier to navigate the field while dribbling, shooting, or defending.
Improved stability also reduces the risk of ankle and knee injuries.
Help improve your mobility, which means you move more smoothly and feel lighter on the field.
How to do them?
Start by standing up straight with your feet together.
Take a step forward with one foot.
Lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle., reaching the lunge position.
Push off the front foot to return to the starting position.
Repeat with the opposite leg.
Do 3 sets of 20 lunges (10 on each leg). Improve by adding a dumbbell in each hand.
4. Butt Bridges
Butt Bridges are UNDERRATED in the soccer workouts world.
Everybody focuses on quads and calves, but they often overlook the glutes and hamstrings, which are the main supportive muscles for power generation, sudden stops/slowing down, and change of direction.
Butt bridges are a great exercise because it is a compound exercise (a combination of muscles that’s required to do one movement).
The benefits of this exercise are underappreciated. Not only does it help with power and athleticism, but it also lowers the risks of recovering from injuries.
Reduce chances of knees and lower body injuries
Better performances in overall soccer movements (sprinting, changing direction, kicking the ball)
How to do them?
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
Place your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
Keep your feet hip-width apart and ensure your heels are close to your glutes.
Press through your heels and engage your glutes and core muscles.
Lift your hips off the ground while keeping your feet and shoulders on the floor.
Aim to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees at the top of the movement.
Lower your hips back down to the starting position while maintaining control.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps. To level up, place your heels on an exercise ball to add balance. You can also do a single-leg butt bridge, basically the same steps with one leg kept straight.
5. Planks (and side planks)
Core strength is essential for soccer players because it improves balance and stability while shielding the ball and making sharp turns.
When we talk about a player’s physical strength, it is the core strength we refer to as they are the center of all muscle groups and they support everything around them.
Almost all your movements during a soccer game involve your abs…making it extremely important to have a strong core.
This is why you see most professional soccer players having 6 packs. It isn’t only for the image (although a huge part)…it’s a result of good nutrition and a great core.
Planks are one of the best exercises for soccer players since they combine all muscle groups used in playing soccer like abs, hips, quads, and shoulders.
Maintain balance and control over the ball during dribbles and tackles
Reduces the risk of lower back injuries, common among soccer players.
Improve chances of winning these 50/50 shoulder-to-shoulder duels
Begin in a push-up position with your elbow touching the floor.
Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
Hold this position for as long as you can, aiming to increase your time gradually.
Lie on your side with your legs extended.
Prop yourself up on your forearm, with your elbow directly under your shoulder.
Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your feet.
6. Calf Raise
It is no surprise that the calves are included in this list, as it is one of the most used muscle groups in soccer.
Strong calf muscles are great for explosive power. They provide the necessary push-off force to accelerate rapidly, and therefore running and sprinting faster.
Targeting our calves is important since that muscle is often overused, and it could be subject to pain and discomfort, and also injuries pretty commonly.
Although the calves might hurt you because of your cleats that aren’t well-fitted or get a cramp for lack of minerals…in all cases, your calves are strong, yet fragile, and you need to target them as a soccer player.
The calf raise is the best exercise to efficiently target the calves.
Calf muscles contribute to better control over your movements.
Powerful calf muscles aid in explosive movements like sprinting and quick changes in pace.
Essential for jumping, which is important for headers, reaching high balls, and challenging opponents in the air.
Reduce the risk of common soccer-related injuries, such as Achilles tendon strains and calf muscle strains.
How to do them?
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, ensuring your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.
If you’re using your body weight, simply lift both heels off the ground as high as possible by pushing through the balls of your feet.
Place the balls of your feet on the edge (front part), allowing your heels to hang off the edge.
Push through the balls of your feet to lift your heels as high as you can, contracting your calf muscles at the top of the movement.
Lower your heels back down to the starting position, going slightly below the level of your toes.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps. Add a dumbbell in one hand to increase difficulty. ( I suggest one hand since the other can be used to keep you in balance)
7. Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell rows are a valuable exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the upper back, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, and trapezius.
These muscles are important for players of all positions, especially goalkeepers to pull themselves up rapidly during a rebound.
A stronger back is required in soccer as it helps with balance, strength, and posture, all important aspects for soccer players.
Strengthening the upper back muscles through dumbbell rows can help improve posture.
This is important for soccer players to maintain proper positioning during physical contests, such as fighting for the ball. Dumbell rows also improve overall upper body strength, as well as make you a better soccer player.
Builds strength in the upper body, particularly in the muscles responsible for pulling and stabilizing the shoulders and spine.
Balance and stability. Soccer players need good stability to execute precise movements and maintain control over the ball.
Help reduce the risk of injuries associated with the upper back, such as strains and muscle imbalances.
How to do them?
Stand on one side of the bench with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing your body.
Bend your knees slightly and hinge your hips to lean forward, keeping your back flat and parallel to the ground.
Place your free hand on the bench to support your upper body.
Pull the dumbbell toward your hip by bending your elbow and keeping it close to your body. Your forearm should be perpendicular to the ground.
Squeeze your shoulder blade as you lift the dumbbell to engage the upper back muscles.
Lower the dumbbell back to the starting position with control, fully extending your arm.
Do 3 sets of 24 reps (12 on each side).
8. Shoulder Press
The shoulder press is a great exercise to improve upper body strength.
The shoulders are important for these tough challenges to fight for the ball and therefore help improve your strength as a soccer player.
I often encourage players to use their arms when defending for the ball as it can give them an advantage, and strong shoulders are a winning recipe.
Stronger upper body strength for better chances of winning duels
How to do them?
Sit on a sturdy bench with back support, or use a chair with a backrest.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Keep your back straight and core engaged to maintain stability.
Start with the dumbbells at shoulder height, elbows bent, and palms facing forward.
Exhale and press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended overhead.
Inhale as you lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height, maintaining control
Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
9. Lateral raise
Lateral raises are a nightmare for any gym rat.
This exercise is often hard to do and to add weight to. However, its importance cannot go undercover, especially for soccer players.
Lateral raises are a great addition to your soccer workouts, as they add this physical strength that just might give you an advantage over your opponent.
It benefits mostly for shielding a ball when you are dribbling, or when you are a defender trying to get the ball from an attacking player.
This exercise helps improve shoulder strength, which is crucial for various soccer actions such as throwing, shooting, and maintaining upper body stability while running.
Strong shoulders developed through lat raises can provide the power and stability required for winning headers and gaining an advantage in aerial duels.
Help shield the ball.
How to do them?
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
Maintain a slight bend in your elbows, and keep your back straight and core engaged for stability.
Raise both dumbbells out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the ground or slightly below shoulder level.
Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement, and focus on using your shoulder muscles to lift the weights.
Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, maintaining control.
Do 3 sets of 12-15 raises. Start with low-weight dumbbells and increase over time. You can also do it with the cables.
How We Should Approach Our Workouts
When we think about elevating our game, we often think that going to the gym and doing what the majority is doing will do the trick.
There are many exercises for us to do, but we must think with our sport in our minds. Our main priority in the gym is to build a stronger body to avoid getting injured first! Our second priority is for strength and mobility.
When it comes to soccer, we have to strengthen the body for 3 reasons in order:
- Injury Prevention (curing imbalances, working your stability)
The exercises in this article could be done separately, with one day being only dedicated for lower body strength, and another for upper body.
You can add other exercises to your liking, but I strongly suggest you base your soccer workout on these exercises and mix them with your weekly soccer training for maximum effect.
The next time you go to the gym you will feel a little bit less clueless now that you have this awesome workout plan at your disposal.
For soccer players, strength training is extremely helpful if done right.
Physical strength, balance, and injury prevention are key to helping us elevate our game.
Don’t forget to do each exercise with a proper warm-up (typically dynamic stretching) and end it in a nice cooldown.
- I would suggest going for higher weights and improvement during the off-season.
- In season, try to just do them as regularly as possible to not interfere with your soccer training.
- Try the lowest weight possible, and work your way up. Injuring yourself is something we never want, especially off the field.