Soccer: How Advanced Athletes Can Improve Their Game
The difference between an average soccer player and a great soccer player is invariably based on the work they do off the field.
To improve your performance, focus first on building a solid foundation of stability and flexibility. Then work on speed and agility before including strength and power training. In conjunction, you should be training your brain to improve decision making and to hold your concentration.
A strong foundation
Athletes need stability throughout their body. Any underlying immobility or instability issues might cause you to compensate with other muscles – potentially leading to injuries down the track.
Having joint stability in the ankles, knees and hips is the first step to a solid foundation for a soccer player. Improving joint mobility and flexibility is also essential to ensuring your longevity as a player and will help you to adapt quickly, absorb force or change direction sharply during the game.
Hip flexibility can have a big impact on how you change direction, and in an initial assessment with Acceleration, your coach will assess any tightness in the hips and glutes. They may use trigger pointing and mobility exercises to improve the joint movement and make sure the muscles, particularly the glutes, are activating properly.
Knee stability is another element to a strong foundation and your coach will need to address any issues with patella tracking. Verbal cues and working within a small range of motion can help ensure your VMO is activating correctly during squats – which will also improve the stability of the joint when running and jumping.
Unilateral exercises can also help to develop an even balance on both sides of the body as soccer players are often pushing off one leg when running and jumping. Drills like eight point balances or ankle exercises on different surfaces such as foam, grass or wood can help train the ankle ligaments and foot muscles to react to any instability you might encounter on the field.
Working on landing mechanics and force absorption is essential before you introduce any advanced plyometric jumping exercises. You need to work on decelerating, slowing down and changing direction efficiently and safely before introducing specific speed and agility drills.
Speed and Agility
Every player in every position will need to run at some point during the game so making sure you have the correct running form is vital. Your performance coach can use video analysis of your straight line running to assess your form and ensure you are moving as efficiently as possible.
Agility drills will help you to develop your ability to change direction in the game and sprint training will help when you need to a burst of speed on the field.
To improve your sprinting using speed resistance drills such as sled training is essential. This will improve your stride length which is particularly important for soccer speed giving you the best chance of getting to the ball before your opposing player.
Power and Strength
Power and strength training is also essential to sprinting. Adding dynamic plyometric exercises to your program can improve the strength and stability of your ligaments and tendons for fast reaction on the field regardless of the position you play.
Goalkeepers especially can benefit from explosive plyometric training to help them jump higher and save balls in any plane – vertically, laterally, and horizontally.
While wingbacks need to have running capabilities, an explosive sprint and ability to quickly change of direction will help them burst up the field during a game.
Training that explosive change of direction is also pivotal for a center midfielder. If you can move in different planes quickly and effectively it will vastly improve your ability to adapt and react to the game around you.
If you’re a striker, you need to be powerful in that first 5 to 10 meters of acceleration because if you can get to the ball before the defender who’s marking you, that could get you in a good position for a shot on goal.
A good performance coach will be able to tailor your training programs during offseason, pre-season and in-season to make sure you’re a well-rounded athlete.
Your coach will make sure you have worked on stability first to address any imbalances and then progress to strength training, and finally power. Conditioning the aerobic and anaerobic systems will give players the ability to work hard, recover, and work hard again and again during the game.
Re-testing regularly is also essential to make sure your program is tailored to your goals and will bring you closer to achieving them. As your athletic career progresses and your goals change, so should your training program.
It’s not all about the physical training; your performance coach at Acceleration will help you work on your speed, agility, strength and power so that when you get on the field, efficient and powerful movement will be second nature.
Improving those neural connections is key to improved performance because your body becomes used to moving and reacting quickly and then when you get on the field, you can deal with the high velocity and high load that you’ve trained for.
The Neurotracker is a unique tool at Acceleration for athletes to work on peripheral vision using virtual reality. Working on dynamic attention drills and being able to stay focused on the ball or an opposition player can help athletes position themselves well at any point of the game.
A recent study showed that 30 sessions with the Neurotracker can improve the performance of a highly skilled player’s passing accuracy by 15 to 20 per cent.
This is a holistic approach to training so athletes are not just physically capable – they are also training their brains to keep up with the competition and improve performance.
For more information on the neuro tracker used by Acceleration you can click here: https://neurotracker.net/performance/
How Acceleration can help
Any athlete who wants to improve their game and play at a state or national level needs a tailored, individual program and Acceleration takes pride in helping you achieve your goals.
Your coach works with you to build stability, strength, speed and power as well as the mental capacity to adapt to the game and stand out from the competition – click below to find out more.