Off Season Training: Suggestions for Staying Soccer Fit

It can be a challenge in the winter months in West Michigan to maintain the fitness necessary to compete in a soccer game. We usually train in a small space and no 11 vs 11 field is available to train or play on. The older players must travel to tournaments or over to Detroit to play on a “big field” It tends to be a big adjustment to play our State Cup games in March/April having had months without “big field” experience. What should players do in the winter months to maintain game fitness? I have a few suggestions.

There are many components of fitness that are demanded in a soccer game. It takes strength and power to penetrate a defense as well as win a ball from an opponent. Weight training can improve strength and power. Here are some exercises that may be beneficial in developing strength and power. Please remember technique is crucial in lifting to prevent injury.

  • Squats
  • Dead lifts
  • Lunges
  • Power cleans
  • Bench Press or push-ups
  • Shoulder press
  • Seated rows or lat pull downs

These should be done with reps of 10-12 to begin. The last 2 reps should be difficult. Increase the weight by 5% if 10 reps become easy. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps 2 times per week at least.

Soccer requires much endurance as a player may need to last 70-90 minutes of running per game. This may include sprints, change of direction and longer sprints all of which are demands of the game. Workouts to sustain such demands are as follows. Each is to last 30-40 minutes in length.

Distance running mimics the endurance necessary. Run 3-5 miles 1 time per week.

Interval training mimics long sprints. Do a ladder workout on a track. Sprint 1/4 of a track, then 1/2, 3/4, 1 lap. Then Run 1 lap, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4. Take the rest you need between sprints but as you get more fit decrease the time in between. Do this 1 time per week.

Agility Training mimics directional change in soccer. Shuttle runs are a good option. You can use the lines on a field or make your own markers, perhaps 5 markers 5 yards apart. Sprint to the first and back, second and back etc. Do 5-10 shuttle runs with a rest in between each. The rest will depend on your fitness level but try to decrease rest time as you get more fit. Do this 1 time per week.

Because much of our training is done in small spaces I would recommend making a conscious effort to make the interval training a priority to get in those longer sprints.

Another component of fitness that is often overlooked by soccer players is flexibility. It is difficult to actually slow down and relax to get a good stretch. “Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion.” Google For those reasons I recommend Yoga for our athletes. Find a good Yoga tape or a fun class that is engaging. It may take some consistency to see results so stick with it. You will be happy you did.

Lastly, it is important to use a foam roller because they “have to do with the mobility of the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain.” Google Our muscles will work more efficiently and contribute to optimal performance. Other items you can use to release the fascia are rolling pins, softballs, I use a lacrosse ball but be careful because they may be too firm for some.

Hopefully, I have given you some ideas as to how our athletes can keep fit over the winter months when they play less games and play in small spaces. Have a great winter and happy training.