A common need for a lot of soccer players is that they are not explosive enough on the field.
It is an easy term to throw around but it can have a lot of meanings. The coach, scout, or parent that is using this term might be looking at one thing while someone else is looking at another.
Explosiveness on the soccer field can be displayed in the following ways:
- Jumping for head balls
- Change direction quickly
- Accelerating down the field
The last two qualities can take on many different forms but when we break it down this is what we are left with.
Jumping for Headers
The first one is pretty simple. The ability to jump over the competition will help with possession and goal scoring. If you have the ability to jump better than your counterparts, you will probably have a slight advantage when it comes to performing at a high level.
Working on jumping and strength training are two of the best and easiest ways to improve jumping ability.
Changing Direction Quickly
Changing direction quickly happens a million times per game. Offensive players can use their quickness to elude defenders. Defenders can use their agility to prevent this from happening.
There are no lanes in soccer for everyone to stay in, constantly going forward. Good change of direction ability is essential.
To change direction quickly, we have to be able to absorb and produce force. Absorbing it is the hard part. Most athletes struggle with the technique and the strength required to decelerate.
Good mechanics coming to a stop are the hips back and knees bent. The position should be similar to the one you would jump from. This requires good hamstring and glute strength because those are the muscles firing when slowing down. When these muscles are weak, athletes cannot change direction quickly. They are also susceptible to tissue injuries.
Core stability is also needed. When changing direction, the torso needs to stay still above your base of support. If you lack core stability and allow your upper body to continue going in the direction you were moving in, your quickness will suffer.
The second part of good quickness is being able to gain ground and push out of the decel. Slowing down is the first part but getting going the other way is also needed. Make sure you bend your knees and push your hips back. Then be sure to push into the ground in the direction you want to go. Gain ground in the other way with this strategy. Do not pivot or rotate in place to get going.
Accelerating Down the Field
Good acceleration is about picking up speed in a short amount of time and distance. Acceleration is pretty much over at 15-20 yds.
Proper acceleration mechanics are:
- Good knee drive
- Trail leg extension
- Ankle dorsiflexed
- High arch foot contact
- Arms swinging forward and back
- Getting going in a hurry
Try the exercises below to work on good acceleration mechanics.
The last point is less technical than the others. The 5 qualities before it are about good positioning. Perfect technique is useless if it is not used to run fast.
Soccer is a sport where you probably don’t get to run for 40 straight yards over and over. It is a lot of short burst sprints. You must be able to get going in a short amount of time.
A drill I like for that is 10 yard sprints. You will need 2 cones, 10 yards apart. Sprint as fast as you can in those 10 yards. The goal is to get to a top speed in that distance.
You will not get to the same maximum speed that 20+ yds of sprinting will, but you must be able to accelerate quickly in short spaces. This will create room to make plays, get ahead of a defender, or get open for a shot.
When it comes to becoming explosive there are really three different areas to look at. Some people need work in all 3. The least amount of people will need help with acceleration only. Do not forget the other qualities when focusing on improving explosiveness.