Functional Off-Season Strength Training Exercise for Soccer

By Josh Katz (reprinted from Performance Conditioning Soccer)

Hip Flexor Drill

Athlete A lies supine as athlete B kneels down to the side of the involved leg of athlete A. B grasps the inside leg of A with outside hand and places inside hand proximal or right above patella of the same leg. With A's knee bent as close to the chest as possible, B begins to pull as A resists. Before extending (no locking out!) the movement is reversed with A pulling back and B applying light resistance. DO NOT MAKE THIS A TUG OF WAR. Switch legs, then partners.

Hip Extensor Drill

A assumes a prone position as B applies resistance at the back of the ankle and hamstring. With an extended leg, A lifts through the light resistance no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. During the eccentric phase (lowering of the leg), A resists the light pressure applied by B. Switch legs, then partners.

Hip Abduction Drill

This procedure is similar to the hip extensor exercise, except the involved athlete lies on the side as if watching TV and resistance is applied to the hip and lateral portion of the knee. The leg is raised 12-24 inches. Switch legs, then partners.

Hip Adduction Drill

Position the same as the hip abduction exercise except that the top leg crosses the bottom leg in an inverted V, with the foot flat on the ground. Thus, the bottom leg becomes the involved leg. Raise the bottom leg approximately 8-12 inches. Initially, no resistance is applied. Over the course of a few weeks, light resistance can be used. This exercise is fairly challenging.

(With soccer ball and medicine ball)

Beginners Level: Assume a prone position, and simultaneously raise extended legs and arms (straight out), hold for a two count and lower. For a variation, alternate right arm, left leg, and other combinations. Intermediate Level: Can work up over the course of several weeks, to catching a ball, pausing, and rolling ball back to a partner. 

Advanced Level: Can throw the ball back instead of rolling, and catch a very light medicine ball (1-2kg).

Medicine Ball (motor) Memories

With limited visuals and space, we will present just a few ideas for torso strengthening. Keep in mind that medicine ball training can also be used to improve sport/task strength, power, endurance, and kinesthetic awareness and balance. Drills are limited only by imagination, and training volume is determined by task requirements and training phase. Usually, the higher the repetitions, the fewer the sets. Repetitions will again depend on intensity (i.e., heavier ball = fewer reps). Much of the time we are looking for low volume, high quality reps, adequate power recovery, and a velocity that is to the far right on the Force/Velocity (F/V) curve. The weight of the ball will vary according to skill level, age, strength level, required task and volume. As always, an adequate warm-up is necessary. Start slowly, raise core temperature, move and throw through a variety of planes. While homemade balls can be made by unplugging an old-style red leather kickball, deflating, and filling with water (then re-plugging), these tend not to last very long. With proper planning and organization, just a few medicine balls purchased through any of hundreds of catalogs can serve many athletes at one time.

Since medicine ball training targets the core and elicits a stretch and shortening muscular contraction, it is most appropriate for this presentation. Here are just a few basic torso special medicine ball drills. We will start with exercises (performed slowly) and move into throws (performed explosively), then games, all designed to focus on torso development. Since we are emphasizing soccer torso strength, not all exercises and throws will involve hands!

Side Bends

Old-fashioned, but good for trunk stability. Stand with legs hip width apart with slightly flexed knees, erect upper body and tight tummy and buttocks, which will anteriorly push the pelvis forward. Hold the ball overhead and alternate side-to-side. Release one hand or flex the arms to increase range of motion on either side.

Good Morning Vietnam

Stand with legs hip-width apart (taller athletes can spread legs a little farther), 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. This can also be done on a hyper-extension machine by coming up horizontal to the ground or higher if trying to strengthen gluteals. Advanced trainees on the hyper-extension machine can throw the ball to a partner, receive it and repeat the next repetition.

Granny Wood Chopper

Assume same position as in the exercise above, but with ball held overhead. Swing the ball forward and down between legs as if ready to perform a Granny or squat toss. Extend onto balls of the feet and reach high with the ball during the concentric phase.

Russian Twist (and Lunge)

Assume above position except hold ball out extended from chest. Alternate twisting to right and left keeping ball above waist. Alternate speeding up (accelerating) and slowing down (decelerating) at different positions (i.e., swing to forehand fast, decelerate, swing to backhand fast and decelerate). This can be performed at a faster tempo and can be done walking. Intermediate trainees can perform a walking lunge at the same time.

Abduction/Adduction Sweeps

Sit straddled, leaning back on hands with medicine ball placed on ground at the ankles. Either push or sweep the ball back and forth between ankles. For added proprioceptive benefit, close your eyes during this movement.

Tosses Hanging Hip Flexor Toss

Hang from bar overhead with arms and legs fully extended (feet should barely touch floor). Partner rolls soccer ball to you — pick up with feet, bring legs to horizontal as you toss ball back to partner. Work up to medicine ball (1-2kg beginners; 3-4kg for intermediate to advanced).

Kneeling Torso Put

From a kneeling position, toss the medicine ball out on a 45 - degree incline. This exercise is good for developing a player’s upper body strength and power for fending off opponents.

Med Ball Power Push

From a supine position, bring knees to chest with soles of feet facing up. Have partner toss a medicine ball to you. Catch and balance the ball with feet, flex hips to the chest again and with force, extend hips and legs, which will propel the medicine ball back to your partner. This takes skill, balance, and a degree of power.

Hammy Curls

Lying prone with arms out in front of the body (like the superman position), a partner stands in front of you and rolls a soccer ball down your back, hips, and legs. When the ball gets to your ankles curl up your legs and flip the ball back to partner. Work up to the point that you can do this exercise with a medicine ball. Caution, keep your head down and lying to one side in order to avoid being hit by low or mis-struck balls.

Kick Ups

Stand with medicine ball between ankles. Squeeze ball, jump up and toss the ball up in front. Catch, drop, position, and repeat. For advanced trainees, toss ball to a partner in front, then to the left and to the right of the partner.

Med Ball Games

Games are a good way to tie together many of the drills in fun, competitive situations. Since the throws and movements will rely on strong torso development, games are an effective application of this topic.

Single Squat, Throw, Fall and Sprint

Start off in an athletic stance with a tight core, squat down, extend legs out and put ball out on an incline. After the toss, continue falling into a controlled push-up position, get up and sprint out all in one movement and sprint to ball. Work up to executing a single leg squat.

Tennis Anyone

Against a wall, over the net, or within a tennis court size boundary, toss a medicine ball in a variety of positions and planes (soccer throws, torso trunk throws, etc.) and make your opponent move to the ball. The ball must be received after one bounce. Make your opponent miss (play to a set number of points).

Crab Soccer

Get in crab soccer position and attempt to dribble medicine ball by your partner. Make some goals and keep the space limited.

Training Plan

A complete periodized schedule cannot be designed without prior knowledge of each individual’s overall training volume. However, here are some guidelines and general suggestions:

  • Always emphasize quality over quantity, especially regarding explosive med ball throws.
  • Choose 2-3 core exercises.

See more articles from PCS.


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.