with Jimmy Petruzzi
As we have said, the most important part of soccer training for young players is the work they do with the ball. But as players develop into a higher standard of competition, they must put in greater concentrated effort on conditioning.
In soccer having a strong core is vital to reduce injury and enhance performance. Every movement begins at the core. Core strength training, core stability and core power developed correctly and systematically in a proper core training program will lead to greater success for your players in soccer. This Chapter will show you how to implement a core training program remember proper progression decreases the likelihood of injury and increases performance.
The goal of a proper core training program is to strengthen, stabilize and provide power to the core in the proper way so that your players training will carry over to the practice field and game.
Core stability is an essential determinant of success for all soccer players. That’s because the body’s core muscles are the foundation for all other movement.
The main concepts behind core strengthening programs involve using many muscles in a coordinated movement. Rather than isolating a specific joint, as in most weight training, core stability exercises focus on working the deep muscles of the entire torso simultaneously.
Core stability provides central body control, and allows you to generate power by maximizing the efficiency of your muscular effort. Core stability is the foundation for explosive movements and control (agility, balance and co-ordination) – qualities which are vital in soccer.
Core stability training gives your trunk the ability to support the effort and forces from your arms and legs, so that muscles and joints can perform in their safest, strongest and most effective positions.
In soccer terms, you become more stable, better able to withstand tackles and the demands and stresses of competition. You also become more coordinated and balanced, therefore improving the technical elements of the game.
INSERT DIAGRAM A & B – Human Anatomy
By training specifically for core stability, you gain a number of benefits:
- Greater capacity for speed generation
- More efficient use of muscle power
- Decreased injury risk
- Increased ability to change direction, as body momentum is controlled
- Improved balance and muscular co-ordination
- Improved posture
The muscles of the torso stabilize the spine and provide a solid foundation for movement in the extremities. These core muscles lie deep within the torso. They generally attach to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the scapula. When these muscles contract, we stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulders and create a solid base of support. We are then able to generate powerful movements of the extremities.
The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness – that is, fitness that is essential to both daily living and regular activities. However, training the muscles of the core also corrects postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. Indeed, core stability is now seen as an essential attribute for any player who seeks to keep their chances of injury to the absolute minimum.
Core stability exercises
A common exercise that requires good abdominal strength and co-contraction of the abdominal wall musculature to hold the lumbar spine and pelvis in correct alignment.
- Technique: Hold a straight body position, supported on elbows and toes Brace the abs, and set the low back in the neutral position, once you are up.
- Sometimes this requires a pelvic tilt to find the right position
- The aim is to hold this position, keeping the upper spine extended, for an increasing length of time up to a maximum of 60 seconds
- Perform two to three sets.
- Keep shoulders back and chest out, while maintaining the neutral lumbar position. This makes the exercise considerably more challenging.
- Progression: Lift one leg just off the floor; hold the position without tilting at the pelvis.
Coach: What to shout
- · Keep body in a straight position
- · Keep back flat
- · Hold this position
The side plank: This is a safe and effective exercise for the obliques and quadratus lumborum (a key lumbar stabilizing muscle). This is an excellent exercise for the lower abdominal muscles
- Technique: Lie on one side, ensuring the top hip is ‘stacked’ above the bottom hip
- Push up until there is a straight bodyline through feet, hips and head
- Hold the position, increasing the length of hold up to a maximum of 60 seconds
- Perform two to three sets
- Keep the elbow under the shoulder to avoid upper body strain
- Lower under control and repeat on the opposite side.
- Progression: Raise the top leg in the air and hold it in the abducted position.
What to shout:
- · Keep body straight
- Hold the position
The gluteal bridge
This exercise is excellent for the lower back.
- Technique: Lie on the floor with your knees bent
- Squeeze your gluteals and then push your hips up until there is a straight line through knee and hip to upper body
- Shoulders remain on the floor- beware of raising too high or of flaring the ribs, which pushes the back into hyperextension Hold the position
- Start with five sets of 10 seconds progressing to two to three sets of 60 seconds.
- Progression: Extend one leg carefully ahead of you and hold the position without dropping or tilting the pelvis.
What to you Shout:
- · Keep you knees bent
- · Push your hips up until there is a straight line
This is an effective exercise for the lumbar and thoracic portions of the erector spinae muscle. This exercise also requires co-contraction of the abdominal wall muscles to stabilise the pelvis.
- Technique: Start with hands below shoulders and knees below hips
- Set your low back into neutral and brace your abs slightly
- Slowly slide back one leg and slide forward the opposite arm
- Ensure that the back does not slip into extension, and that the shoulders and pelvis do not tilt sideways.
- Hold, increasing the duration up to a maximum of 20 seconds
- Slowly bring your leg and arm back and swap sides. Perform sets of 5–10, alternating sides after each hold.
What to shout:
- Keep your back straight
- Push your arms and legs out same time
A good exercise for both the obliques and the abdominals.
- Technique: Lie on your back with the right ankle resting on the left knee
- The right arm is placed on the floor out to the side
- Keeping the right shoulder down, curl the left shoulder up to the right knee
- Crunch at the top and return slowly, under control. Perform sets of 15–30 reps on each side in turn.
What to shout:
- Avoid ‘head nodding’ during the movement
- Keep the head off the floor and look forward throughout.
By implementing these exercises into your players exercise program, you will improve your players balance, coordination; reduce injury risk, which will improve your players over all game. And benefit the posture long term