At Evolution we train a lot of soccer players from middle school through college.
It has become our most popular sport with both boys and girls.
One of the reasons for this is that we are lucky enough to be able to teach speed and agility. We do not simply throw some drills down on the ground and fire people through them. It is also not a good day if everyone just gets through the plan.
We try to teach the qualities that athletes need to be fast and quick, reinforcing them with integrated drills.
We might be teaching how to laterally load the hips to change direction. We would then start with landing a jump in that manner, stopping from a sprint correctly, and then put it all together with a reaction drill of multiple changes of direction.
This is a huge reason why we are able to help a lot of soccer players perform at a very high level.
The second half of our program is strength training. Strength training is sort of like the “silent killer.” When an athlete gets stronger they become faster and quicker. They are able to put more force into the ground in a sprint and when changing direction but that is a longer term result.
When we are teaching an athlete to run correctly. They are going to become faster immediately. Some athletes have dropped their time on a 20 yd dash in just a few minutes.
But when an athlete has been training for around 10 weeks and out of nowhere they start to run even faster it is due to strength. Strength is also huge for reducing injury risk. One of our athletes was rolled up on last spring in a game. Her doctor told her that if she was not so strong in the lower body she probably would’ve blown her knee out. That is simply not a good option for someone looking to play D1 soccer.
So what areas do soccer players need the most strength. We are looking at what most athletes are lacking. For example, most athletes need to be balanced from the front to the back of their legs. Soccer players are always running around which helps develop the quads. This means that they would need to train to bring up the posterior chain.
The hamstrings need to be strong to have a successful soccer career. Strains in this muscle are all too common and take a long time to recover from. Most athletes are not willing to wait that long, come back too soon, and re injure the area.
The best defense to hamstring strains and pulls is strength. Muscles strain when they are weak or overused. The hamstrings are definitely not overused in soccer so they need to be stronger.
Stronger hamstrings will also help with quickness. When we change direction, the hamstrings are a major muscle in slowing the body down. The more force that they can handle, the quicker you can slow down and get going in the other way. Improve the amount of force they can handle by getting them stronger.
I would say that an athlete has adequate hamstring strength if they can do 12 GHR leg curls.
The glutes are also an important muscle, which kind of piggybacks the hamstrings.
The glutes are involved in decelerating and reducing hamstring strains. If the glutes are strong enough to help support the hamstrings to absorb force then less is being put on the hamstring by itself to reduce risk of strain.
Athletes also need strong glutes to improve their speed. When an athlete runs they need to actively push the ground away from them. This ensures that they are propelling themselves forward and not running in place. To achieve this hip extension the glutes must be strong enough to do it.
A strong set of glutes helps with back pain because they will help support the low back.
Men that can deadlift >2x bodyweight probably have baseline glute strength. The same goes for women that can deadlift >1.5x.
Core stability has a couple of important functions for soccer.
One is for speed training. Athletes that run with a stable torso will run faster than those that do not. Stability will ensure efficiency. Efficient sprinting tends to be fast. Inefficient sprints are slow because a lot of energy is wasted by the torso moving all over the place.
A stable core is also needed to good agility. It is hard to load the hips if the torso cannot control its position. No loading of the hips results in a loss of quickness.
And last we come to the back pain conundrum. A lot of soccer players have extension based back pain. This usually consists of a exaggerated arch in the back from prolonged running. Extension based pain can be uncomfortable in the muscles all the way to causing actual structural issues.
The best way to combat this is by core stability and glute strength. Both of these muscle groups provide stability for the spine. The spine will not have to arch to provide stability. The abdominals also control extension. If those muscles are firing and working, then they will actively pull the rib cage down and get the spine out of extension.
This is going to become a growing issue with the amount that these athletes are playing.
Athletes can always have more core stability so there is probably no limit here.