Soccer is a sport full of complexities on and off the field. Training should be specific to soccer, improving technical and tactical skills to help improve your performance. Things like ball control, position-based requirements, and the ability to develop the pitch all come from technical and tactical practice and development. However, research now shows that the importance of having a strong foundation in speed, agility, and strength is just as important as the technical and tactical skills the player uses within the game.
This makes sense, if you step back from the field and look at the big picture.
The foundation of any team sport is dynamic and integrated movement: changes of direction, speed increases, deceleration, explosive jumps and lateral movement… the list goes on. So it would make sense that in order to develop a player’s ability to execute these moves faster and more accurately, one would want to condition the machine, also known as the human body, that powers the moves.
This is why a strength and conditioning program should be built around testing and testing done first.
The foundation for program design should be built around what the specific athlete, unit or team needs to develop in terms of performance. Speed analysis and performance tests should measure the athletes’ acceleration, top or top speed, and agility.
Knowledge of the physiological and biomechanical factors that determine performance in each of the 3 speed tests will allow the design of specific training programs to address player weaknesses, improve the speed ability of players in relation to their position in the playing field and ultimately improve game performance
A study conducted at Manchester Metropolitan University took athletes through three tests to assess their acceleration, top speed, and agility (Little & Williams, 2005). They then divided the athletes and put them through separate training programs. One group specifically focused on speed, while the other group specifically focused on agility. When the athletes were retested, only speed training was found to have a minimal or small effect on agility and vice versa. The reasoning is that different types of training focus on conditioning different leg muscles, building different body masses, and specific muscle fiber types (Little & Williams, 2005). The conclusion of this study was that for a soccer player to become a more complete athlete on the field, he needs to train Type I, Type IIA and Type IIB muscle fibers.
There has been a lot of reservation and controversy surrounding strength and conditioning training for younger athletes. However, a study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association has shown otherwise with a “…PROPERLY designed and supervised resistance training program (Faigenbaum Kraemer, Blimkie, Jeffries, Micheli, Nitka, & Rowland, 2009 )”. Having the right strength and conditioning program helps improve the athlete’s performance on the field. It allows to condition and develop the correct body mass, leg strength and muscle fiber tissue, specific to the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete. Appropriate and supervised strength and endurance programs have also been shown to “…increase the resistance of young athletes to sports-related injuries (Faigenbaum, et al., 2009)”.
By testing and performing video analysis on athletes, it allows strength coaches to design specific programs to benefit on-field skills. This training, in combination with the technical and tactical training that athletes receive during practices will help make a stronger, faster and more accurate soccer player.
Faigenbaum, A., Kraemer, W., Blimkie, C., Jeffries, I., Micheli, L., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. (2009). Specificity of acceleration, top speed and agility in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(5), 60-79. Retrieved 2015, from http://www.fcboulder.com
Little, T. and Williams, A. (2005). Specificity of acceleration, top speed and agility in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(1), 76-78. Retrieved 2015, from http://www.e-space.mmu.ac.uk