Soccer players are required to have high levels of fitness and athleticism combined with technique. Soccer practice is how we develop those skills and techniques while having a built in fitness program while doing that. Soccer practices need to have a main objective of what technical skill we are going to work on which could be: dribbling, passing, receiving and kicking. Athleticism and skills includes changing direction, and varying their speed without losing the ball. Understanding body control and individual drills will help them with these types of skills.
Conditioning is another part of soccer practice. Games are not short burst with breaks every few seconds or minutes, as it is a long game that has constant movement where a good amount might be running. Maintaining focus and being able to compete at a high level are often lost when conditioning is low. Tired athletes can also be attained because of a lack of strength training. Muscles need to be trained to gain strength and will then delay the tiring process during extreme work outs. Coaches like to have strong players who have the strength to run fast and strength reduces the likelihood of injury. We must incorporate strength training into practice, not training for power lifting, but training for sport specific strength.
The off-season for some soccer practicing teams is often the time where players lose many of the skills and strengths they gained during the season. That is not what teams need to be doing as they need to make significant strength gains and advance skills during the off-season. Core and leg strength should be utilized during this time and continue to develop soccer skills. Are we saying don’t take any time away to refresh, of course not, but the off-season work has a direct correlation to the in-season success.
Squats and lunges are great leg strengthening exercises and can be performed with weights or just using body weight. Nice and deep squats really target the hamstrings and can help build speed in athletes. The split leg squat is great exercise where athletes drop into a lunge and then explode up while switching feet, opposite leg in front as previous, dropping back into the lunge. Athletes will build calf and hamstring strength as well as developing fast twice muscle movement.
The core is another target area all soccer coaches must target during strength or practice times. The plank and bride have all sorts of variations, with legs up in the air, side planks, and one arm one leg up, too many variations to mention. A plank and bridge core routine will drastically improve the teams core strength and lower back/hip strength. Plyometrics is another great strength routine that includes jumping with large explosive movements that will build strength as well as decrease the risk of injury. Injury prevention will be the best gain a coach can get from working on strength training during soccer practice.