Soccer is one of the most demanding aerobic sports there is. Ninety minutes of nearly continuous running in addition to the technical aspects of shooting, ball handling and strategy require incredible conditioning. The field is one of the largest in sports, the action nearly non-stop. Players will cover anywhere from 4 to 7 miles during a match which consists of walking, jogging, sprinting, running backwards and traveling with the ball.
Soccer requires a great deal of explosive power, which includes rapid changes in direction both side to side as well as forwards & rearwards. Many plays are also developed & created when jumping for a ball either to head it in a new direction or to intercept a pass from the opponent. Combining all of these skills together requires a well designed conditioning routine that must include plyometrics!
Foundations of Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises help to convert existing strength into power. The act of pre-stretching a muscle and then exploding into the movement teaches the nervous system to fire quickly. The more quickly you can perform a movement, the more power you have. However if the foundational strength is not present to begin with you can easily get hurt. Be sure to set a foundation for functional strength before beginning a plyometrics routine.
Five Essential Plyometric Exercises for Soccer
This is a powerful plyometric activity that your friends may tease you for…if so, let them laugh because you’ll be the one outplaying them on the field. Simply skip and focus on alternating repeats focusing on as much height as you can with each skip, or as much distance. As your ability improves, you can try to maximize height & distance simultaneously.
Example: Measure out an area that you can cover with 20 skips counting right & left leg separately (10 contacts with each foot). Do 2 sets of the following 3 rounds resting a minute between each round and 2 minutes between sets (total 30 ground contacts for 1 round or 60 ground contacts for 2 rounds):
- Round 1: Focus on getting as much height with each skip by driving your knee up towards the sky as you come off the ground.
- Round 2: Focus on getting as much distance as you can with each skip by leaning forward more and driving your knee forward.
- Round 3: Try to combine height and distance together. Rest for 5 minutes and repeat the entire round again.
Bounding is done with both feet on the ground for both pushoff and landing. Start without ground markers and as you improve, add ground markers a measured distance apart. Begin by squatting lightly with both feet on the ground and bound forward as far as you reasonably can. As soon as your feet hit the ground, squat and bound forward again. Start with a shallow squat and try to minimize ground time contact.
Example: (Total 30 ground contacts) Do 3 sets of 10 bounds. First set, no markers. Do 10 bounds and mark your finishing spot. Rest 1 minute. Second set, try to beat the distance from the first set. Rest 2 minutes. Round 3 try to beat the distance from both sets. Measure the distances and note in your training log for the next time.
A variation of bounding is to set the height of an object to jump over as opposed to the distance. Many homemade and commercial bounding accesories can be used. Be sure that as a safety measure the obstacle will easily fall over and not catch your feet if you hit it.
#3 Ball Jumps or Ricochets
This is a fun way to have the whole whole squad perform plyos together. Simply use a soccer ball and keeping both feet together, jump back and forth over the ball, first left to right and back, then front to back. This helps develop speed in multiple planes. If using the ball, obviously the focus needs to be on clearing the ball with each jump. Alternatively, use cones or chalk to mark out a box about 2 feet square and jump from one corner to the next in each direction. When doing this version, height is not a concern, rather the quick & light movement from one corner to the other.
For weaker or smaller players, one version of ball jumps is to lead with one foot at a time rather than both feet. If jumping to the right, lead with the right foot and allow the left to lightly touch down. Then lead with the left foot to jump the opposite direction. then build to using both feet at once.
Start with 20 jumps in each direction (total 40 ground contacts)
#4 Lateral Jumps
These jumps focus on height cleared with each jump. Start small, even with a line on the field, or start with an object about 12″ high. Using both feet jump from one side to the other. You can also do this drill with a soccer ball as in the drill just above. Progress the height of the object from week to week. Don’t be in a hurry to jump high, just allow fitness to build gradually.
#5 Depth Jumps
Depth jumps are really an advanced plyometric exercise, but it is the exercise most people think of when they here the term. These are advanced jumps and you must be certain that you have strong quads, hamstrings & glutes before doing these to avoid injury.
Start by standing on a low step, bench or box 6-12″ to start with. Step off the bench (don’t jump) and as soon as your feet touch the ground, explode upwards with as much force as you can. Try to minimize contact time with the ground…don’t go into a deep squat to do this or you’ll risk damaging the knee structures.
How many plyometric jumps should you do per session?
Plyometric activities are measured not in terms of how much weight you are moving or how fast or how long, but by ground contacts. Every time a muscle group is activated such as when landing on teh ground, this is considered a ground contact. For single legged exercises such as skipping, each cycle is counted as one.
Start out conservately and progress up to 120 ground contacts per muscle group per session. In some of the exercise examples I’ve given above I’ve listed the total ground contacts. Be certain to plan ahead so that you do not exceed these.
How much warmup should I do?
Generally a minimum of 5-10 minutes of aerobic activity such as light jogging. Even 15-20 is fine as long as that amount does not tire you out. Follow this with some active warmups (not stretching) such as moving the muscle through various ranges of motion…a few easy reps of walking lunges, toe walking and heel walking for example to “wake up” the muscles that will be involved. Do not do plyometrics ‘cold’, and do not do them at the end of practice. Muscles should be fresh!
How much rest between sessions?
When starting out, a minimum of 72 hours rest between sessions. You must allow your muscles adequate time to repair and recover from plyometrics. Plyometrics are demanding of the muscles in a different way than aerobic activity. As you get accustomed to them, you can do them every 48 hours occasionally. Generally no more than 2 sessions in a week is needed. In season, 1 session per week is sufficient.
Your Step By Step Guide for Incorporating Plyometric Exercises for Soccer
Plyometrics is one of the fastest ways to develop strength & Speed for soccer. But if you don’t get it right, you could end up getting injured or negatively impacting your game day fitness. The book “Total Soccer Fitness” is a comprehensive soccer conditioning guide covering plyometrics in detail. it contains precise sets & reps with detailed illustrations for every exercise.
Total Soccer fitness is backed by an 8 week money back guarantee and costs only $27! That’s less than the cost of a new jersey or a month of Gym membership.