Surviving and Thriving during the 10 Month Season - Part 3: Functional On-the-field Circuit

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 third article of a multipart series detailing the MLS DC United conditioning program. This article provides the pre-season on the field circuit program. Subsequent articles 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/power development on the field phase of the preseason program. This program is done by doing a strength exercise followed by a power exercise. The strength/power exercise sequence is designed to start to convert the strength base into functional power needed to play soccer. 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.

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.

Functional On-the-field Circuit

Our on the field circuit provides functional strengthening exercises that target speed, power, and strength for the extremities and the core. All exercises are done with varied length/resistance elastic bands, medicine balls, or body weight activity. The team is put in pairs and goes through the circuit for 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.

#1 Manual Resistance Sprints in Place

  • An elastic band with waist belt is fastened to fence or goal.
  • Athlete performs sprints in place with emphasis placed on pushing back against the ground.
  • Emphasis is place on triple extension of the ankles, knees and hip with vigorous arm action. 

#2 Seated Row

  • Elastic band is approximately 3' and has 2 handles. Athlete is sitting with legs fully extended and cord is placed around the feet and held at the handles.
  • A partner, kneeling in front of the athlete, holds the elastic cord taut to provide the desired resistance throughout the range of motion (note: the cord can be attached to a goal post of other heavy object).
  • The athlete pulls the knees to the chest and bring the hands forward and to the side.
  • Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for the required number of repetitions.

#3 Bicycles

  • 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.
  • 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. Use the arms to support the weight of the head only.


  • Do not use the arms to assist in the movement.
  • To increase difficulty hold a five or 10 pound weight plate behind the head.

#4 Lateral 2 Footed Hurdle Jumps

  • Stand with your feet at shoulder width in one-quarter squat position.
  • Drop the hips, swing the arms, jump laterally back and forth over a line or hurdle, keeping the feet at shoulder width and landing on both feet at the same time.
  • Repeat to opposite side.

#5 Upright Row

  • • Two, 3' elastic cords are fastened at the feet by standing on the handle.
  • • Bend your knees and simultaneous raise the arms pulling elbows and hands higher than chin.
  • • Hold your body in a vertical position, elbows out.


  • Avoid leaning forward on the ascent.

#6 Seated Medicine Ball Rotation

  • Perform seated with feet off the ground, rotate touching the ball from side to side as far as possible.
  • Repeat to the other side.

#7 Side Diagonal Lunges Resistance from Back

  • Attach a 6' to 8' length of elastic cord to the side of a weight lifting belt. Fit the belt around the athlete's waist.
  • A partner should pull the elastic cord taut to the opposite side of the lunge to provide the desired resistance throughout the range of motion.
  • Clasp the hands behind the head and arch the back. The legs should be straight and the feet side by side.
  • Keeping the left leg in the starting position, stride out to the side diagonally with the right leg through the full comfortable range of motion.
  • Continuing to keep the left leg straight, rotate back at the hips so that the right thigh is lowered parallel to the ground. The right knee should remain over the right foot.
  • Complete the full number of repetitions on the right side and then duplicate the movement on the left side for 30 seconds.

#8 Alternating Push Ups on a Ball

  • Start with one hand on the ball in a push-up position, elbow slightly bent. Bending at the elbow descend to a 90-degree angle and return to starting position.
  • A variation of the exercise is to do the extension in an explosive, “plyometric” manner, working explosion in the triceps.
  • As the athlete pushes off the ball, they lands with the hand on the floor, not on the ball. Return to starting position and do with the other hand.

#9 Med Ball Throw Downs

  • Holding the ball with both hands, take ball directly behind the head and forcefully throw the ball directly down to the ground.
  • The force of the throw down should be strong enough to elevate the feet off the ground.
  • Catch the bouncing ball and repeat quickly.

#10 3 Hurdle X-over Step

  • Running or skipping, cycle the leg by stepping over the other knee over three hurdles.
  • Repeat to the other direction.

#11 Kicks with Ankle Cords

  • Attach a 6' to 8' length of elastic cord to the right ankle of the athlete. A partner should pull the elastic cord taut to provide the desired resistance throughout the range of motion.
  • The athlete positions himself 10 to 15 yards in front of the goal and goes through the normal kicking motion, attempting to kick the ball into the net against the resistance of the surgical tubing.
  • Perform the required number of repetitions on each leg for 30 seconds.

 #12 Hamstring Curls with Physio Ball

  • Place shoulder blades and hips on floor, stand on the balls of the feet with legs straight. Raise hips off floor, then pull heels toward buttocks and hold one second, return to start.
  • EASYarms on floor MEDIUM hands on legs HARD hands on chest.

#13 Elastic Cord Shoulder Press

  • Kneel down, keeping the back straight and the chest high. Elastic cord is secures to a fence or post.
  • The athlete positions his/herself to a position where the elastic cord is taut to provide the desired resistance throughout the range of motion.
  • The athlete grasps either end of the bungee.
  • Keeping the elbows wide and shoulder height, the athlete fully extends the arms upward above the head against the resistance of the bungee, and then slowly returns to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the required number of repetitions for 30 seconds.


  • An alternate method would be to place two, 3' elastic cords that are fastened at the feet by standing on the handle. Repeat pressing overhead.

#14 Lateral Bounding

  • Bound laterally, bringing the knee high and out to the side.
  • Do not crossover.

#15 Rear Deltoid Elastic Cord

  • From a standing position, the athlete should stand in the center of a length of surgical tubing. The athlete should then bend the knees slightly and rotate forward at the hips so that the torso is brought down into a position of being parallel with the ground.
  • The athlete must take care to maintain an arched back throughout the exercise.
  • The athlete should grasp, in a palms down position, either end of the surgical tubing, pulling the elastic cord taut to provide the desired resistance. From this position the athlete, with the elbows slightly bent, pulls the elastic cord up to the side chest level in a circle motion with both arms. Slowly lower to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the required number of repetitions for 30 seconds.


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.