Strength training is a critical piece of the development puzzle for young soccer players. While the soccer culture 15-20 years ago seemed very “anti-lifting,” I’d like to things have changed quite a bit since then.
Nowadays, we realize that a sound strength program can not only improve athletic qualities like speed, strength and power, but can also reduce the likelihood of injuries as well. But being in this world for 20 years now, I know there’s a reason that lifting still gets a bad rap in certain circles.
Here are three of the most notorious offenders, and what we can do as concerned parents and coaches to make lifting programs even better!
(Shameless plug – if you’d like to learn more about our approach to lifting be sure to attend our upcoming Off-Season Training Seminar!)
Reason #1 – We’re Not Trying to Become Powerlifters
Here’s one thing we need to make very clear up front:
The goal of lifting weights is to improve athletic performance, keep people healthy and to ultimately become a better soccer player.
Period. The goal isn’t (or shouldn’t be) to squat, bench press, and deadlift as much weight as humanly possible.
As an athlete matures, we realize that lifting weights is a great tool for building strength, power, speed, and reducing the likelihood of injury. But like most things in life, there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point continuing to add more plates to the bar not only increases the likelihood of injury in the weight room, but can have negative effects with regards to speed, power and coordination on the field as well.
Remember, the goal here is to improve soccer-specific athleticism – NOT become a powerlifter. If the only goal of the program is to try and hit a new personal record in the weight room each week, you may need to re-think the program as a whole.
Reason #2 – We’re Not Trying to Be Football Players
Just like we aren’t trying to become powerlifters, we aren’t trying to be football players, either.
If you walk into most high school weight rooms, you’ll see football coaches pushing a program that consists primarily on the power clean, squat, and bench press. And while that may be fine for a foundational strength program, it also has a lot of gaps that need to be filled in.
Furthermore, when it comes to soccer, there are certain areas that must be focused on and addressed to keep a young athlete healthy. Whether we’re talking about specific work to protect the knees, hamstrings, or lower back, you can’t just pound an athlete with big-bang lifts and hope that everything will work out okay.
A smart soccer strength program will have a mix of the following:
- Big-bang, compound lifts,
- Hamstring injury reduction work,
- ACL injury reduction work,
- Body weight exercises,
- Single-leg exercises, and
- Core training exercises.
I’m all for developing base levels of strength, but a good program is a lot more all-encompassing.
Reason #3 – We’re Not Trying to “Correct” Everything
One of the biggest issues I have nowadays with training programs is we’re constantly working on “fixing” things.
I have a degree in biomechanics, and if I wanted to, I could focus on all kinds of little muscle groups in an effort to make someone move “perfect.” (The word “perfect” is really a misnomer, though, as there’s no such thing as perfect movement!)
As I mentioned in my post from a few weeks back, one of my primary foci when training is to help someone move well first. But it’s not about nit-picking movement issues.
Teach them the basics, and then work to get progressively stronger – because strength can go a long way to building resilience and keeping an athlete healthy. So forget about perfect movement – instead, shoot for good technique and then work to build strength and resilience on top of it.
Like I said up top, if you’re interested in learning more about our approach to strength training for soccer players, please attend our Off-Season Training Seminar on Wednesday, October 23rd here at Sogility!