The best soccer players I played with were not only strong, stable, and skillful, they were the most powerful athletes. Think: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Crystal Dunn.
Their ability to use their strength and convert it to speed and power on the field is second to none. This is apparent through their ability to jump higher, sprint faster, accelerate and decelerate more efficiently, and change direction on a dime compared to their opponents.
If said qualities are what separate good athletes from great athletes then training for power should be an essential component of your training.
Strength training alone won’t do the trick.
Now I know some of you might be thinking, but Lori you are always talking about how strength is crucial to becoming a better athlete.
Yes, that’s true – most athletes, especially young athletes would be well served to focus primarily on getting stronger as I believe strength IS the foundation for all other athletic qualities.
There’s a great analogy from my good friend and mentor, Mike Robertson, “Think of strength as a glass and the liquid that fills the glass are all the athletic qualities that are enhanced by actually having it (ie. agility, endurance, power). Unfortunately, many people have a glass that is too small, therefore not allowing them to hold anymore liquid. Which is why we see these athletes never making much progress on the field.”
Furthermore, there is a point where strength can only take you so far.
I mean what good does it do you if you’re strong as hell but slow as molasses?
Quoting Mike Robertson again (this guy is a genius) “I think athletes need to be using the weight room as a tool to improve efficiency and athleticism, not simply push as much weight as possible.”
I made this mistake early on in my professional career. I thought being strong was the end all be all in regards to my performance and staying injury free. I completely neglected any explosive/power work in my training and all that did was leave me feeling slow and sluggish.
It wasn’t until I started incorporating med ball throws, jumps, and explosive work into my training that I increased my ability to move more efficiently on the field.
There are multiple ways to develop power but one of the simplest and most effective ways that also happens to be one of my favorites is: medicine ball training.
Benefits Of Med Ball Training
- Safe and Simple: Med ball training are often viewed in the same light as Olympic lifts and plyometrics – with the learning curve being much quicker
- “Sport-Specific”: Allows us to train at a speed that is similar to those encountered in sports – the carryover to the field is great
- Multi-Purpose: Rotational throws are great for teaching rotary power, rotational power through the hips, not the lumbar spine and overhead throws are great for training anterior core power
- Total-Body Power: Teaches us how to integrate the lower body and upper body together
- Progressed Easily: Once the athlete becomes efficient in the movements the throws can be progressed from a kneeling stance to standing
- Fun and Awesome: Allows you to throw a ball against a ball with surplus amounts of aggression – doesn’t get much better than that
There are a variety of ways to chuck a medicine ball around – here are three of my favorite.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Start with the kneeling throws and progress to the standing/stepping
- Don’t go too heavy. 6lbs is an ideal weight – anywhere from a 4-8lb ball is good however
- Add these throws into your training session after your dynamic warm-up and prior to your strength work – perform 3×5-8/side of each throw
- Be aggressive – try to break the wall on each throw
Don’t play a sport? Not a problem – training for power is still essential just make sure you start with a light ball and progress from there. Grab a ball, a wall and have at it.