The World’s Most Popular Sport - Soccer

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Soccer, the world’s most popular sport, is growing here in the United States.  People of all ages are starting to play.  It is a sport of quick decisions, action and reaction, and patience.  How does one stay in shape for a sport that not only demands you to run (the average soccer player runs 7 miles in game) but also asks you to out run your opponent at the same time? To get up as quickly as you can once you've been knocked to the ground? Or to hold your positioning when going in for a tackle or header? There are 3 main things that someone looking to improve their fitness in soccer should be doing; speed work, endurance/sprint training, and hitting the weight room.

In soccer (or any sport for that matter) being faster than your opponent is key. As a coach of mine used to say "speed kills".  It can make or break a game.  So how does one get faster?  The answer is: by doing resistance band sprints.  The resistance band looks like a big rubber band.  You can tie 2 of them together to make a longer band.  Tie it to something stable and start sprinting! Keeping the tension on the band the entire time sprint forward about 6-10ft, however long the band will allow you to go.  Take short quick steps, have a forward lean, and pump those arms.  The great thing about the bands is you can change direction; go backwards; go at a diagonal angle, side shuffle, or even carioca. This is beneficial because in soccer (and most other sports) you are constantly changing direction so it is important to train for speed in multiple directions in addition to a straight forward sprint.

Another thing that can make or break a game is the endurance of the athlete.  The best teams will capitalize on their de-conditioned opponents. Since soccer is a very stop and go sport it is best to train by doing sprints.  My favorite is called the North Carolina, a 200 yard timed sprint.  Do it as fast as you can then take a minute break.  Repeat.  Do 2 of them as fast as you can followed by 1 slow for 8 repetitions. (2 fast 1 slow 2 fast 1 slow 2 fast)  You can also do a 240 yard shuttle sprint. Place cones 10 yards apart.  Down and back is 1.  Go 12 times then take a 1-2 minute break.  Repeat 6-8 times.  Running hills is a fantastic sprint workout.  Run up the hill, walk down, and take a 45sec-1minute break.  Repeat 8-12 times.  If you're more into the distance thing, run 1 mile as fast as you can.  Take a 3-5 minute break. Repeat 2 -4 times.

Lastly, you cannot forget about the weight room.  When training for soccer it is important to have strength, but the main goal is to maintain strength and increase speed, agility, and power.  Keep everything at your strength level or slightly above.  Workouts should include but are not limited to; lunges, cable push-pulls, box jumps, medicine ball slams, tire flips, tire chops with sludge hammer, pushing a sled, ladder foot work, distance jumping, banded ankle side steps, punching bags, shuttle jumper (if available), kettle bell; snatch, swings, and clean and jerks, and most importantly abdominal work.  You can throw in some Olympic style lifting but make sure you keep it rather light and have perfect form.  Keep the work out at a high pace, circuit style, works best.  Complete 6-8 exercises and repeat for 2-3 sets.  Doing a circuit style workout will increase your aerobic endurance as well as anaerobic output.

All you need to play soccer is a ball.  That is why it is such a great sport; everyone through-out the world can play.  Soccer demands a lot from you in terms of aerobic exercise.  The best way to train so you can defeat your opponents is to do speed work, endurance/sprinting, and getting yourself in the weight room.  Most importantly have fun.  Get ready, 2014 World Cup is upon us!

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