Focusing on Core Strength

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The four pillars of soccer are as follows: technical, tactical, mental and physical.  The physical pillar can be further broken down into four of its own pillars: strength, speed, endurance and recovery.  To focus on strength within the physical pillar, let’s start with Core Strength.

Core Overview
The core is much more than the abdominal muscles.  In addition to the abs the core consists of the hips/glutes/adductors and the spine.  It’s also referred to as the “trunk.” 

Why Core Strength is Important for You
For soccer, a strong core is a necessity if you are going to be able to maintain a high skill level throughout the duration of the match. It's critical because all movements either originate in or are coupled through the trunk. This "coupling" action created by a strong core connects movements of the lower body to the upper body and visa versa. As the old saying goes, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." For most players, the weak link is the core and when the core is poorly developed, the result is poor posture which can lead to less efficient movements and potential injury. 

Getting Better Through Core Development
Core exercises can be done on the ground or standing; however, in soccer, which is played standing, selecting exercises that are specific to standing are better.  They are more specific to the game of soccer and allow you to do more in less time while exercising.

Important Note:  Be sure to communicate and coordinate your strength program with your soccer coach to insure it fits into his/her goals and objective in your development as a soccer athlete.

Core Strength Development Plan

Making it Fit

  • What you need: Soccer ball, progressing to a medicine ball or soccer ball filled with sand
  • Which exercises to do: At least one frontal, rotational and back exercise, selected based on your starting strength level
  • When to do it: Year-round, every workout as part of a strength program, usually done at the end of a workout 
  • How much to do: 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, increasing the weight of the medicine ball as you become stronger *During the season reduce the number of sets to 1 or 2  

Core Strength Development-Frontal

Start with Granny Wood Chopper

  • Assume a position with ball held overhead. (Figure 1)
  • Swing the ball forward and down between legs as if ready to perform a squat toss. (Figure 2)
  • Extend onto balls of the feet and reach high with the ball returning to the starting position.
Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Advance to Wood Chopper with a Squat

  • Arms extended, lift ball vertically above your head. (Figure 1)
  • Squat and swing the ball down parallel to the ground (optional- bring the ball through the legs) repeat.  (Figure 3)
  • In squatting remember the following:  
    • Keep feet parallel and slightly wider than shoulder-width and toes pointed out slightly, abs tight, hips in neutral position
    • Under control but quickly, bend hips backward, bend knees and ankles
    • Inhaling, descend until tops of thighs are parallel to floor
    • Keep back straight and abs tight
    • Exhale as you straighten hips and knees to return to upright position
    • Keep eyes focused straight ahead
    • Do not bounce at bottom position
    • Do not bring knees together coming up
Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 3

Figure 3

Core Strength Development-Rotational

Start with Trunk Rotations to a Planted Knee

  • Hold the medicine ball straight out and to the side; legs should be wider than shoulders with arms extended straight. (Figure 4)
  • Rotate ball and internally rotate, bringing the opposite knee to the ground and touching. (Figure 5)     
  • Recover and alternate leg.
Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 5

Advance to Russian Twist with Lunge

  • Arms extended, rotate ball to your right and lunge forward. Repeat with ball to the other side and leg. (Figure 6 and 7)
  • In lunging remember the following: 
  • Take one step forward. Step as long as you are tall with lead leg keeping knee and toe straight.
  • Plant foot on floor and bend at the knee in a controlled manner.
  • Lower trail leg until the knee almost touches the floor, pause.
  • Push off of lead leg, maintain straight leg and body alignment.
  • Bring lead foot to trail foot using short steps to upright position.
Figure 6

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 7

Core Strength Development-Back

Figure 8

Figure 8

Start with Good Morning

  • Stand with legs hip-width apart, slightly flexed knees, erect upper body, tight core, ball held behind the neck while head is tall and stable. 
  • Bend at the waist and flex the knees just slightly as you bend forward. Add variety by twisting to the left or right. (Figure 8)


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Performance Conditioning Soccer

Ken Kontor is founder and president of Performance Conditioning Inc. His company is the world’s largest single source of sports-specific conditioning information. Among the educational resources provided are Performance Conditioning Volleyball, Cycling and Soccer newsletters now in their 14th year of publishing and 15 sports-specific conditioning books and training card systems. He is a founding member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of the Volleyball Conditioning Accreditation Program (V.C.A.P.) curriculum offered through the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditation program. Among his contributions to this program was writing the curriculum. He has established the Off-bike Conditioning curriculum promoted by USA Cycling. In the past he has worked with USA Roller Sports and USA Triathlon producing conditioning specific newsletters. Prior to the establishment of Performance Conditioning Inc., Mr. Kontor was a founding father, executive director and publications editor of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 14 years an organization of over 16,000 sport conditioning professionals. He was an original member of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist committee that established the internationally recognized C.S.C.S. credential. He has traveled extensively throughout the world including the former Soviet Union, East Germany and the Leipzig Institute of Sport, Hungary and Bulgaria with the purpose of introducing their strength and conditioning methods to the NSCA membership. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Inc. and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of Japan. He has lectured extensively on the conditioning of athletes throughout the world.