What is it about soccer players – that je ne sais quoi? They are almost always cute, if not plain sexy! Soccer is a sexy sport – so much speed, agility, quickness, stamina, power, balance and … control.
To be that fast, that consistent, that agile takes powerful legs controlled by a powerful core. The legs are only going to be as powerful and quick as the core can control. Pure Austin Fitness Specialist Nathan Miller took some time to demonstrate for us some great exercises that can help you get your game on.
First, Nathan started out with a forward-backward lunge. To start, stand with feet together and step forward with the right leg into a lunge, with about 80 percent of the weight transferring onto this front leg. Now, step back through, bringing this right leg behind you into a backwards lunge. Don’t touch that right leg down – that’s the balance portion of the exercise. Step into a full backward lunge. Then, step forward again into the first forward-lunge position. repeat this for seven to 10 times. (Each forward and backward movement only counts as one.) This movement is going to work on your strength, balance and power. You can add weights to up the strength component, or a half foam roller or other unstable device to the static leg to really up the balance component.
Next, Nathan shows us a hurdler drill. This one is really going to improve hip flexibility, as well as hip strength. Soccer involves a lot of reaching for balls, and a lot of potential for straining your groin. This exercise is great for activating those hip flexors and working on hip flexibility. Set up a hurdle or stationary hurdle-like obstacle to your right, and stand to the left of it. Pick up your straight right leg in a sweeping motion, rotating from your hip joint, and bring it down on the other side of the hurdle. Your hips and torso should not move laterally. To really finesse this exercise, you want to be working from your core, which means holding it stable. Then bring it back to the original position. Do 10 reps on each leg. (A rep means moving it back and forth one time.)
To work on hip strength, Nathan demonstrates a surprisingly tough little exercise. Without strong hips, soccer players will have a tough time reaching their agile potential.
It takes strong, flexible hips to make those swift lateral cuts. For this one, you will get on the ground on your side, supported by your forearm, with your top arm raised to the sky. Your bottom leg is bent 90 degrees, pointing behind you. The top leg is raised and your spine is in a line parallel to the floor, while your leg may be a little above parallel. That’s it. Hold your leg up there for 15 seconds and work up to 40 seconds. Youch!
Power – it’s a trip. So is this exercise. To work on power, Nathan has us doing a 180-degree plyometric squat jump. In addition to developing power, this one will help with the core strength necessary to swiftly change direction. Start in a squat, hands hugging a ball. Jump up, turning 180 degrees to face the other direction, landing again in a squat. Jump back, switching direction. The twisting in the air works on core, and the jump helps work on power and explosiveness. Doing 10 reps in each direction is a great place to start. Again, like in soccer, work on your finesse.
Nathan recommends these exercises be done for about three sets of the recommended repetitions, working up to five sets in the offseason. For the regular season, reps can be reduced so you don’t overdo it. Warm up prior to starting exercise, and if you add in some more leg work, be sure to add some core too, since the core is arguably the epicenter of your physical control. Good luck on the field!