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Preparation to Play Competitive Soccer

Soccer is an incredibly physically demanding game.  Not only do players need the stamina of a distance runner in order to cover the field for 90  minutes.  They also need to have the explosive quickness of sprinters, along with agility, balance and upper body strength.  What’s more, they need to be able to twist, turn, stop and accelerate with complete control, and in contact with one or more other players, using a single leg.  Sadly, performance is only half of the reason that a player needs to be physically prepared for soccer.  Fatigue, lack of muscle strength and imbalances in strength are major contributing factors to injury.


Soccer is made up of an ever varying combination of sprints, jogs, walks, jumps and turns etc.  For this reason, soccer itself is by far the best conditioning tool to use.  A player should treat every drill and game in practice as an opportunity to improve in as many areas as possible.  This is efficient training.

For Example:  When working on a technical drill to improve moves, many coaches allow players to work at a low intensity.  Since moves typically need to be carried out at full speed in a game this isn’t even a very effective way to develop the move.  However, if the player is required to perform the skill as many times as possible, at game speed, in a given time, the player addresses multiple areas.  Firstly, they are learning to perform the skill under pressure (time) and at the speed and intensity that they need to be able to perform it in the game.  Additionally, they are working on explosiveness, quickness, agility and balance, as well as, single leg strength as every rep requires the player to decelerate and accelerate off a single leg, at the edge of their comfort zone, but under control.  Performing skills at this intensity is exceptionally hard work, and therefore, provides a significant cardiovascular work out.  Finally, the time constraint requires a player to immediately perform the skill again after making any mistake.  Developing the psychological habit of instantaneous refocus after a mistake is hugely valuable for a player.

When additional conditioning outside of training and games is required, a combination of longer distance/time running should be combined with shorter sprints to replicate the demands of the game. Click here for some example interval training sessions.

Strengthening and Injury Prevention   USSF CDC A Fact Sheet For Athletes

One of the key misconceptions in soccer as that improvement as a player comes only from improving and increasing the number of ways that you contact the ball (dribbles, passes, moves, controls etc.).  A players ability to have a successful interaction with the ball is often determined by the players physical attributes.  Improving explosiveness allows a player to get to the ball more, as does improved agility and core strength. Increasing upper body strength allows the player to keep opponents away from the ball.  Improving a players single leg strength has a massive number of benefits.

Almost all athletic or soccer specific actions during the game take place on one leg; controlling, dribbling, passing and shooting; performing moves, shielding, and jumping; stopping, pushing off and changing direction.  Therefore, it is paramount that a player is able to accelerate, decelerate, change direction and support his/herself and has the ability to be explosive as well as being completely controlled on each leg.  Additionally, if a player’s leg muscles are not strong enough for the demands of the game, or are out of balance with each other, additional pressure is put on the joints which can have serious injury implications.  Single leg strength can be improved by focusing on getting low (bending the knees) and accelerating, decelerating and changing direction explosively and using one leg in every drill the player performs in practice.  Additional examples are at the following links.

Note: While growing, a players body weight is usually plenty of resistance to use.  Also, training good technique in strengthening exercises is far more important than using large amounts of weight.

Single leg strengthening             General leg strengthening


As mentioned above, an imbalance in the strength of antagonistic muscles can lead to an increased susceptibility for injury.  There is significant evidence that the prevalence for ACL injury, particularly among female soccer players, is in part due to the quad, hip flexor and groin being stronger than the hamstring and gluts.  For that reason, it is recommended that all adolescent female soccer player take part in a program such as the one  ACl injury prevention program .

Also, the below foundation is dedicated to reducing injuries in sport.  They have an in depth ACL prevention program (PEP) as well as concussion and other info.


Ankle injuries are prevalent in soccer (as well as many other sports).  Generally, the solution is to reduce or eliminate the mobility of the ankle by using a brace or tape.  In extreme situations this can get a player through an important game, but in soccer has the unwanted effect of limited a players ability to perform.  The ability to point the toe down completely is essential in order to shoot and inversion/eversion of the foot is necessary to bend the ball or pass with the outside of the foot.  The following link provides a set of exercises that can be utilized to rehab after an injury, but should also be continued to ensure that the muscles around the ankle joint are strong enough to play without further injury or the use of a brace/tape. Ankle rehab/prehab


The core is utilized in every athletic movement.  For a player to effectively change direction, kick or head the ball etc. the core must be effectively engaged, as it is the connector between the upper and lower body.  Lots of core exercises


In order for the body to perform to its potential it needs to fueled properly and at the right times.  The correct combination of nutrients need to be ingested with the appropriate timing with relation to training and games.  There are a number of factors to consider.

Calories: A player must take in sufficient calories, otherwise fatigue and lack of energy will kick in.  Muscle will be broken down to provide additional energy.  Excess calories, not used for energy are converted to fat.

Carbohydrates: The primary source of energy. Complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes etc.) provide the main energy supply for the body and must be eaten in sufficient quantities to perform throughout training and games.  Simple carbohydrates (bananas, gummy bears etc.) given an almost immediate burst of energy and can be eaten in small quantities during training and games.

Protein: What muscles are made of.  Must be eaten in sufficient quantities to build muscle and prevent its breakdown.  Should be eaten immediately after exercise to aid muscle recovery.

Fat: A less efficient energy supply.  Fat should be eaten sparingly in a healthy diet as it is metabolized after carbohydrates are used up and less efficiently but contains a significant numbers of calories.  There are other health issues associated with a high fat diet.

Vitamins and minerals: Needed to build the various cells and organelles within the body and to enable the body’s processes (energy production etc.).  A varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables should provide for all your vitamin and mineral needs.  Detailed information including which vitamins and minerals to pair together is below.

Water: All of the bodies processes occur in water.  Dehydration is the most common cause for fatigue.  Soccer players can lose several pounds of water during a game/training session, especially in the central valley summer.  For this reason it is paramount that a player replenishes the water that is lost, but also ensures that sufficient water has been taken in in the build up to games/training also.

Salt: Although often thought of as something to be avoided, the amount of salt that is lost through sweat can be considerable for soccer players in hot climates.  Salty snacks can be a valuable post training/game nutrition aid.

Nutrition overview

More info

Vitamins and minerals


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