With the World Cup holding the attention of billions of fans around the globe, the game of soccer is very much in the spotlight. While soccer has not gained in the United States the support, at a professional level, that the sport enjoys worldwide, almost every child in this country has played the game in school.
From a physical fitness perspective, soccer is an excellent sport. It requires speed, endurance, agility, balance and leg strength. At a basic level, it requires no special equipment. All a player needs is a soccer ball and an area to play.
Soccer is a wonderful equal opportunity sport. You don’t have to be tall or have the physique of a linebacker to play. Anyone can excel with a little hard work and practice. Here are some soccer-specific exercises to help cut down on injuries and improve overall performance. As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
First, jog and sprint in intervals. Depending on your fitness level, you can start very slowly and build up. If you run around a quarter-mile track, try 10 seconds-20 seconds of running as fast as you can, then jog for double that time. Build your distance slowly. This gives you the endurance to race around the field and turn on the speed when you need it.
Jumping rope is another excellent way to increase your cardiovascular fitness. It also strengthens your leg muscles and improves agility.
Start slow and work your way up to 100 jumps in a row. Once this is mastered, do several sets of 100 with walking or jogging 2 minutes-3 minutes in between. Remember not to double jump. By single jumping it is easier to modify your speed and workout.
Another excellent leg strengthening exercise is the wall sit. Stand with your back against a wall and place both feet about 18 inches away from the wall. Now slide your back down the wall until your buttocks are at the same level as your knees. Stay in this position as long as you can, and work up to several minutes. This works your front and back thigh muscles and your buttocks muscles.
Good balance will enable you to play soccer better. To build balance, stand on one leg for 30 seconds at a time. Work up to it, if necessary. When it becomes easy, try doing it with your eyes closed. This adds a much more difficult component to the exercise and works your muscles at a different level. You can hold your arms out at your side for balance, initially, and as your balance improves, try keeping them against your body or crossing them on your chest. This is also a good ankle stability exercise.
By using these different techniques to build speed, endurance, agility, strength and balance, not only will you improve your soccer skills, but you will also reduce your risk of injury. So play hard and have fun. That’s the G-o-o-o-a-a-l!!