Surviving and Thriving during the 10 Month Season - Part 2: Pre-season Weight Room Strength Program

By Brian Goodstein, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach DC United (reprinted with permission from Performance Conditioning Soccer)

Brian Goodstein has served as D.C. United's head athletic trainer for the past 11 seasons and is responsible for all aspects of medical care, rehabilitation and sports performance. Before joining United, Goodstein was head athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. He's also been a member of the MLS Advisory Committee and currently serves as president of PSATS (Professional Soccer Athletic Trainers Society) in addition to holding a position on the MLS policy and procedures committee. With D.C., Goodstein was honored as the MLS Athletic Trainer of the Year in 2004 and 2007.

Goodstein has also served as the Director of Sports Performance at Metro Orthodontics and Sports Therapy in 2003. Prior to working with MLS, he held similar athletic training positions with the US Soccer Men's U17 Residency Program in Bradenton, FL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Field Hockey Association.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a multi-part series detailing the MLS DC United conditioning program. This article provides the pre-season in the weight room, strength development program. The subsequent article will provide more in-depth how-to do programs detailing all aspects of soccer conditioning.)

Surviving and thriving in the MLS ten-month season challenges even the most fit soccer players. However, by careful planning and program implementation, players can reduce the chance of injury, improve performance and peak at the all-important play-offs.

This article provides the specifics for the strength development in the weight room phase of the pre-season program. This program provides a total body workout in one training session and it considered the foundational base on strength for the MLS player to build on to survive the 10 month season that lies ahead. It is combined with three other strength development activities to produce a comprehensive program.

Preseason: Training Program

Preseason training takes place until the first week in April. It usually involves three 2-week trips starting in Bradenton, Florida and includes a foreign trip (team bonding). The first four weeks usually are 2-a-days.

During this period we do the following:

  • Total body strength training 2x per week in the weight room.
  • Functional circuit on field 1x per week.
  • Progressive kicking program.
  • Core stability and flexibility work.

During this time we work on breaking in cleats and orthotics. We also educate the players about the importance of hydration and nutrition. Since we play a lot of games during the preseason period we bring in a lot of players for tryouts with the goal of finishing out all our roster spots. As a result, we’ll play a game in the morning and do the technical/fitness session in the afternoon. Most of the competition is with teams who come to Florida to train, but we also go overseas to play games. The workload during this period is extensive.

Total Body Strength Training Program

This program is done 2x per week. Each exercise is done by doing three sets of ten repetitions. The core exercises begin with two sets of 10 repetitions crunches, alternating dead bugs, pillar side bridge and prone opposites. Rest between exercises is one to two minutes.

#1 Squat

Start:

  • Use rack, with supports at mid-chest level.
  • Be sure spotters are in position.
  • Grasp barbell palms down, hand slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Step under bar, feet parallel and shoulder width apart.
  • Place center of the bar on the upper back so it is balanced, resting securely across back of shoulders.
  • Elbows pointed out, eyes straight ahead, hips in neutral position, abdominals tight.
  • Straighten legs to lift the barbell off rack and step backward, feet slightly wider than shoulder width and toes pointed out slightly with back flat and tight.

Movement:

  • Under control, bend hips backward, bend knees and ankles.
  • Keep bar over middle of foot to heels, feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhaling, descend slowly until tops of thighs are parallel to floor; pause.
  • Keep back straight and abdominal tight.
  • Exhale as you straighten hips and knees to return upright under control.
  •  Keep hips under bar, eyes focused straight ahead.
  • Back flat as possible.
  • Knees over ankles.

#2 Lateral Lunge

Start:

  • Place the bar on the back, as when performing squats.
  • Place the feet about shoulder width apart.

Movement:

  • Step directly laterally with the right foot through a comfortable range of motion. Keeping the left knee straight and the left foot planted, flex the right knee while sitting back at the hips and moving the hips laterally to the right
  • Return to the starting position and alternate the movement to the opposite side until the required number of repetitions have been completed.
  • The exercise can also be performed with dumbbells. The movement is identical when performed with dumbbells except that the dumbbells are held at arm's length during the exercise.

#3 Romanian Deadlift

Start:

  • The bar is griped with an overhand grip with hands shoulder width apart.
  • Bar is placed at mid-thigh or "power position."
  • Eyes are fixed ahead with the head neutral and the back perfectly straight.
  • Feet are hip-width apart with the toes pretty much straight ahead or slightly out. Weight is on the balls of the feet.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and in front of the bar. Bar is directly above the center of the feet.
  • Arms are also relaxed and hang down, straight, to the bar.
  • Elbows rotate out, so they are above the bar, not behind it.

Movement:

  • Bending at the knees and hip the bar is slowly lowered. Back remains flat shoulder over the bar. Bar brushes against the thighs as it is lowered.
  • Bar is lowered until it passes just below the knees. Pause.
  • Return the bar to the starting position by extending the hips and knees. 

#4 Dumbbell Bench Press

Start:

  • Grab two dumbbell with overhead grip.
  • Sit at the end of the bench dumbbells resting on thighs.
  • Lay back and bring dumbbells to side of chest. Elbows out with dumbbells touching the outside of the chest.
  • Spotter should be in proper position.

Movement:

  • Exhale and dumbbells upward and slightly back (forming a curve) toward your eyes until arms straighten in a controlled motion.
  • Inhale and hold while lowering dumbbells.
  • Slowly lower and touch at nipples with elbows pointed outward, pause.

Tips:

  • Never bounce dumbbells off of chest or raise hip and or head off bench.
  • Keep feet flat.
  • Be sure to use a spotter.

#5 Lateral Pull down

Start:

  • Grab bar with palms out grip, wider than shoulder width.
  • While holding the bar, sit on floor.
  • Lean back slightly, looking up.

Movement:

  • Exhale pulling the bar under control to the upper chest elbows pointed out.
  • Inhale while raising bar with control until arms are fully extended.

Tips:

  • Maintain slight backward lean throughout.
  • Some pulley machines allow legs to be anchored avoiding the body from rising off the floor.

# 6 Upright row

Start:

  • Begin by standing with dumbbells in hand in front of your thighs.
  • Arms straight, elbows turned slightly outward, and shoulders turned in. Look straight ahead, with a very firm chin position. Chest is in an "up"(tight) position, with a straight back and tight abdominal muscles.

Movement:

  • Raise the dumbbells up to your neck level, pointing your elbows upward as much as possible, while rising up on your toes.

#7 Alternating bicep curls to overhead press

Start:

  • Stand erect feet shoulder width. Grab two dumbbells with an underhand grip knuckles facing out.
  • Elbows in tight with both arms fully extended, wrists slightly flexed.

Movement:

  • Bent at the elbow with one dumbbell with a controlled movement to slightly above the chest. Inhale.
  • Bring to ear level.
  • Press dumbbell straight up overhead under control until elbow is locked.
  • Exhale and under control lower dumbbell to ear level. Bring to chest.
  • Lower dumbbell to the start until elbow is fully extended.
  • Repeat with opposite arm.

Tips:

  • Try to keep uninvolved arm still.
  • Keep back flat at all times.
  • Avoid swing dumbbells upward.
  • Don't bend the back during the pressing movement.

#8 Supine overhead pullover to Triceps Extension

Start:

  • Lie face up on flat bench with bar on floor, head just over bench, hands 6-12 inches apart, feet flat on floor (e/z curl or straight bar can be used).
  • Grab bar from behind, shoulder width grip with palms up.

Movement:

  • Keep 90° angle in the elbows.
  • Exhale, pulling the bar just past the head and face under control, head on bench.
  • Extending only at the elbows which are shoulder-width push bar keeping upper arm stationary during movement to full arm extension.
  • Follow the same path inhale as the bar is lowered under control.
  • Lower bar to furthest point behind head without raising hips off bench or touching the ground with the plates on the bar.

Tips:

  • Try to increase range as flexibility improves.
  • Try to imagine the arms as one unit with elbows 90° angle, pushing in.
  • Use spotter for safety

#9 Crunches

Start:

  • Lay on the back, clasping the hands behind the head. Bend the legs at the knees, with the feet flat on the ground.

Movement:

  • Using only the abdominal muscles, elevate, or crunch, the middle and upper back up and off the ground.
  • Return slowly to the starting position, keeping the shoulders elevated off the ground at all times.

Tips:

  • Use the arms to support the weight of the head only.
  • Do not use the arms to assist in the movement.

Alternating Dead Bugs Opposites (3 sets of 10 each side)

Start:

  • Lay on the back, clasping the hands behind the head. Bend the legs at the knees, with the feet elevated off the ground about knee height.

Movement:

  • Using only the abdominal muscles, elevate, or crunch, the middle and upper back up and off the ground. As the trunk is elevated off the ground simultaneously twist the trunk so that the elbow of the right arm is pointed to the outside of the left knee.
  • At the same time draw the left knee up toward the right elbow, so that the left knee contacts the right elbow.
  • Return slowly to the starting position, keeping the upper back elevated off the ground at all times.
  • Alternate the movement so that the left elbow and the right are brought together as the trunk is elevated.
  • Continue to alternate sides each repetition.

Tips:

  • Use the arms to support the weight of the head only.
  • Do not use the arms to assist in the movement.

#10 Pillar side bridge taps 10 and rolls 10

Start:

  • Begin by lying on your side, propped up on your elbow. Your top arm should rest at your side. Make sure your legs are straight.

Movement:

  • Elevate your hips off of the ground so that your body is in a rigid straight line.
  • Bring hips down and touch x 10.
  • Roll hips forward and back x 10.
  • Do opposite side.

Tips:

  • You should be balanced on your elbow and the outside of your lower foot. If you are unable to hold this position initially, scissor your legs so that you are balanced on both feet as illustrated.

#11 Prone opposites on 4’s 2x10 ea

Start:

  • Lay on stomach
  • Hands straight out above head

Movement:

  • Lift right leg, left arm, then alternate and continue

Comment

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.