By Allen Hedrick (Performance Conditioning Soccer)
Selecting exercises to train movements, rather than muscle groups, is a concept that is well accepted by many in the strength and conditioning profession. This means that when designing a training program for a sport, exercises are chosen based on their similarity to the movement patterns found in that sport, rather than selecting exercises based on attempting to train a specific muscle group.
However, many training programs for soccer are limited to exercises that work only in the sagittal (front to back) plane, such as cleans, squats, deadlifts and lunges. While all of these exercises are important in the training programs of soccer athletes, none of them mimic the lateral movements that are seen so frequently in soccer. The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of training lateral movements and to present exercises that accomplish this important goal. While a variety of plyometric/agility drills can also effectively be used to improve lateral movement performance, this article will focus on the use of free weight equipment to improve lateral movement capabilities.
Selecting exercises based on their similarity to the movements that occur during a soccer match requires careful observation by the strength and conditioning professional. While this may sound like a simple process, it requires the identification of the critical movements that make up the sport. This may take practice and a concentrated effort to be successful because the observer must switch the normal thought process so as to be less concerned about the outcome of the game and more concerned about the movements that occur during the game. The optimum positions to view the performance of a motor skill vary from skill to skill. However, in most cases the best vantage point is at a 90 degree angle to the performer.
One of the aspects that will be observed during this process is the frequency of lateral movements that occur in competition. Movements such as a defender sliding laterally as he or she marks an opponent, the forward moving laterally to create space between themselves and the defensive player, or the goalie sliding into position to prevent an opponent from scoring, are all examples of the lateral movements that occur so commonly in soccer.
Lateral Training Movements
Resistance training is position specific. That is, the increases in strength that occur during resistance training are very specific to the movement pattern that occurs during performance of the exercise. That is why exercises such as squats and cleans are emphasized when training to improve vertical jump performance. These exercises are biomechanically very similar to jumping. Thus, the more similar the exercise is to the movement(s) being trained for, the more effective that exercise will be in improving performance capabilities of that movement. That being established, it should be clear that exercises such as cleans, squats and lunges will not improve lateral movement capabilities because there is no lateral movement component in these types of exercises. Training to improve lateral movement capabilities requires exercises that are performed in lateral movement patterns.
Get the rest of this article including 7 training videos plus "Soccer Speed Development System Based on the Movements of the Game" and "12 Video Exercises to Improve Agility and Quickness" in the Training for Agility and Quickness training program in the Amplified Soccer Athlete Training App.