Soccer is the total sport.
And a well-thought-out soccer training program must reflect that.
Soccer players must perform with short bursts of power and speed AND have the ability to keep going for 90 minutes or more…
First and foremost though… a soccer training program should be individually tailored to your needs AND your resources.
All the training theory – the perfect 12-month fitness regime – it all flies out the window if you simple don’t have the time (or the inclination) to train 3 or 4 days a week.
Start with what you have available.
Think about what you want to achieve in soccer. If you take the time to prepare now you will reap the rewards later on…
Step 1 — ask yourself honestly how much time you are willing to commit to your soccer training program. Then take a bit off to account for over enthusiasm!
Step 2 — what is your current level of conditioning? Be more precise than “fit” or “unfit”. Which elements of fitness do you need to work on most? Speed? Strength? Endurance? If you don’t know…
You can do these in one afternoon and it’s well worth the effort.
Of all the different types of soccer training you could perform (strength training, speed training, skill work etc.) 20% will make 80% of the difference to your game…
Stay on the right side of the 80/20 principle. Build your soccer training program around those areas that need most improvement, especially if your time is limited.
The 12-Month Soccer Training Program
Even if you only play 8 months of the year, your soccer training program should stretch the entire 12 months. More on why in a moment. The first thing to do is split up our program into 4 distinct phases…
- Early pre-season soccer training
- Late pre-season soccer training
- In-season soccer training
- Closed or off-season soccer training
If you simply want to improve your fitness over the summer – ready for trials next season – base your program on the late pre-season phase. Side Note At this stage don’t worry about individual sessions. This is the “big picture” – how all the different types of training fit together. You’ll find lots more articles at the bottom of this page covering strength, speed, drills and so on. But don’t go to them just yet! OK, let’s look at each phase in a little more detail… Early Pre-Season (4-6 weeks)
Professional players might not see a ball for the first half of the pre-season.
The emphasis is on preparing yourself for the more demanding, late pre-season soccer training. At this early stage break keep things light and not too demanding. The last thing you should do is dive straight into all out, stomach wrenching interval training!
Stick to predominantly continuous type training. This is lower intensity aerobic conditioning. Continuous training should be the only form of endurance training you perform for the first 2-3 weeks. Gradually progress to more intense interval training as you move into late pre-season.
Ideally you want to develop maximum strength a few weeks before the start of the competitive season. Why?
Before you can develop explosive power and even speed you must first develop a solid strength base. Maximum strength can take up to 12 weeks to develop so if strength is a priority for you, start your strength training during the off-season.
Speed And Power Training
No need for any speed or power work at this stage. Leave it until the late pre-season and In-season.
Don’t under estimate the importance of flexibility in a soccer training program. Unfortunately most soccer players do. Flexibility training is essential for recovery and injury prevention. The best players in the World are useless on the sidelines!
Again you’ll find some good soccer stretching exercises you can use to increase your range of movement below. And do remember there stretching to improve flexibility is NOT the same as stretching during a warm up. There are some key differences.
Skill And Tactical Training
The amount of skill work you do at this stage depends on the amount of time you have available. Players old enough to perform demanding fitness training (Over 16) will have a relatively high level of skill. Having said that…
You can never stop improving!
Late Pre-Season (4-6 weeks)
A word of warning – these few weeks might have you asking, “Why didn’t I take up golf?” but this is the phase of your soccer training program that will have the greatest impact on your game… from a fitness perspective.
By now, all of your endurance training should be in the form of interval training. Your soccer training should also become more specific during the late pre-season. Try to match the movement patterns you would find in a typical match. For example…
Keep the intervals short and intense, include twists and turns and running backwards, train on grass and juggle a ball during active recovery periods etc.
Gradually decrease the number of strength sessions and replace them with power training sessionssuch as plyometrics. Plyometric training can be extremely effective at developing power and explosive off-the-mark speed but is not suitable for everyone.
Again, don’t worry too much if “plyometric training” means nothing to you. We’re still on the “big 12-month picture”. Plyometrics for soccer is covered in a separate article.
As the competitive season draws closer your soccer training should place more and more emphasis on quickness and sharpness. Again your conditioning must be soccer specific. Vary your sprint starts for example, by running backwards for a few yards first, jumping to head a ball or controlling and passing a ball before sprinting etc.
As the volume and intensity of your soccer training increases flexibility training becomes even more essential.
Skill And Tactical Training
Combine skill work with some of your fitness training to save time. If you plan to do an intense interval training session do your skill work first. If you plan to combine plyometrics or sprint drills with skill work always perform the plyometrics or sprints first. It goes without saying…
The warm up should precede all of these.
Before we move on to In-Season training phase take a look at the chart below. It will give a quick reference as to how all the different elements of soccer fitness integrate over a season…
|Priority Of Fitness Elements in a Soccer Training Program|
|Early Pre-Season||Late Pre-Season||In-Season|
The goal here is to maintain the fitness you developed during pre season. Regular, competitive matches maintain basic levels of endurance so any additional soccer training should concentrate on speed, power and anaerobic endurance development.
Suppose your team trains on Tuesdays and Thursdays and plays on Saturdays, below is an example of how an In-season training week may look…
|In-Season Soccer Training Program|
|Interval Training||Team training – plyometrics and sprint work||Weights session and flexibility||Team training – interval training||Rest||Match||Recovery run and flexibility|
The competitive season can last up to 8 months. Training at the same level of intensity week in week out only promotes the chances of injury and burn out. So…
Every 6 weeks or so give your body a break and a chance to recover. For a week, drop the intense speed and power sessions and just perform 2 or 3 light aerobic sessions instead.
Closed Season Training
Avoid abandoning all forms of physical conditioning now the season has ended. If you do nothing for 6 weeks much of the hard work you’ve put in over the last season will be lost.
Do what professional players are advised to do…
Cross-training… or X-Training as it’s also known.
Do some other form of activity that keeps your fitness levels ticking over AND gives you a mental break from soccer. Swimming, cycling, tennis, basketball – any of these are good alternatives. Try to exercise 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes.
Let’s quickly sum it all up in one small table that covers the 12-month calendar…
|Phases In A 12 Month Soccer Training Program|
CS = Closed season soccer training, EPS = Early pre-season soccer training, LPS = Late pre-season soccer training, IS = In season soccer training.
Splitting the soccer training program up this way really is the most effective approach to conditioning. And it will give you a tremendous advantage over other players and teams.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.