Soccer: Training for Soccer in the Gym

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We have often been told that training in the gym for any sport can make you stiff, bulky with unoptimised muscle. A great example would be boxing, where excessive weight training can contribute to less agility and loss in power. If you study the physique of most mobile footballers, you will see varying levels of athleticism.

Is gym good for soccer players? 

At the highest levels of football, players may look slim and slender on television but often you see upon meeting them in person they are more musclular. Working in the gym is key to a professional players development. And you will often see the effects of regular gym work on younger male players transitioning from youth football, and they developing into their body.

Mezut Ozil before and after photos

In 2015, former Real Madrid playmaker who played for Arsenal at the time, made a transformation in the gym. Arsene Wenger, his manager at the time credited his work ethic and stated that the extra sessions were preparation for the physically demanding English Premier League.

With steady gym work you can be stronger, faster and able to do things with the ball you didn’t know your body can do. You may be able to do things in your mind, that your muscles are not yet equipped for. So once you start your training be ready to see vast improvements. You will surprise yourself.

Gareth Bale formerly for Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, is now plying his trade at Real Madrid FC. He was signed for a record fee after interest in him peaked after his breakout season at Tottenham. 

Known as a skilled and talented Left back, his career somewhat stalled at Tottenham under an array of ever changing managers. 

As he improved technically, it is also to be noted that his rise as a player into the upper echelons came around the time when his physique showed visible improvement. Growing stronger and faster than most other full backs , he was upgraded to a winger forward.

Gareth Bale using his athleticism and pace against unsuspecting fullbacks

How often should a soccer player should go to the gym?

A soccer player should aim to go the gym 2-3 times per week during the season. 3-4 times a week during the off season.

Wherever possible a player should do a smaller more focused workout daily at home on all days except for match day. For example you may train once a week with your soccer team and play a league match once a week. You may even play recreationally on another day during the week. Even with the gym, you may decide to work strength if your ankles, or thighs by doing 2-4 excercises each day. 

You can also use this time to do any injury rehab on struggling joints and muscles, helping you to stay injury when doing more strenuous training during the week.

Should soccer players lift weights? 

The key when using weights is to lift for lean strength and not bulk/size. Inflated heavy muscles will only make you less flexible and can limit the freedom on movement, effecting your technique. If you are bulking up for more defensive positions, make sure you are stretching regularly and doing high instensity excercises during muscle growth to make sure the muscle is training for action rather looking big and attractive. 

Training for speed

For improvement in this area you will need to focus primarily on the legs, ankles, thighs and your core.

Ankles

For balance and spring power.

Weighted calf raises

Holding two dumbells or kettle bells, stand should width apart. Arms hanging loose and by your sides. Proceed to stand on your tip toes for 15 seconds then slowly release. Ensure you aren’t leaning on either the left or right side of your foot and experiment working different muscles on your foot bottom.

Once you are comfortable you can try shorter rep time but focusing on one leg. Holding a raise on one leg for 40-60 seconds multiple times during the day will yield quick results.

Weighted heel backs

This is the counter exercise for the ankle raise and should also done to ensure balanced muscle growth. 

Standing shoulder width apart, straighten your knees and go onto the balls on your heels for 3-5 seconds then relax.

You will feel muscles in your shins contracting. This strength area is great for when theball is in the area between your legs or behind you. Having stength in your shins and heels helps to keep balance while looking down at the ball where you may have to lean forward, while angling your rear outwards.

Sitting squat machine

The sitting squat machine is a great way to train your ankles while simultaneously working on your glutes and legs. And the end of each squat, try turning the exercise into an ankle raise by pointing your toes. You can also do this exercise in isolation without having the do the whole squat.

Thighs & Groin

The groin muscle is often an underrated muscle for training but once you start training it, you will realise it acts as a central point for many lower body movements. Especially for any type of scooping and pull motion. Training the groin lightly but regularly will improve all aspects of your ball handling and control. Please train your groin lightly and give it adequate rest as injuries to this region are slow to heal.

Training for Power, explosiveness and spring

Below is a really handy exercises you can do in the gym or at home using a simple weighted bar.

Training kicking power and shooting

Training for running, fitness and endurance

Galvanising your back

Inclined treadmill

This beast of a run with strengthen all muscles related to running while massively training up your cardio & endurance. Try running in 5 minute intervals at medium speed. After each 5 minutes take 2-3 mins for walking. As your fitness builds up you can skip the break every 2 sets.

The Row

Using the cable weighted machines with a wide bar grip or centered grip will keep your lower back solid and strong.

How do soccer players train at the gym for football

  • Focusing on core strength building and high repetition reps. High rep counts helps your muscles to stay usable for longer periods of time than bulky, slow muscles.
  • Get through your sets quickly to turn your sessions into cardio and improve your overall conditioning.
  • Doing reps fast on the way up and slow on the way down means you develop fast twitch muscle and overall power as well has building muscle.

Each frame type and suitability for position

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