Author: Erik Sigman
In the past two decades there has been an increased discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of resistance training in regards to athletic performance in soccer. When it comes to emphasis on athletic enhancement, soccer has just recently become a sport where collegiate and professional teams have made athletic development a larger priority for players. There seems to be two camps when it comes to the debate on whether soccer players should incorporate resistance training in their training routine. Those in the first camp tend to think in a sense that resistance training won’t help a soccer player become better at “soccer skills” like dribbling, passing, shooting etc. The second camp tend to have the view point that soccer is evolving to become much more reliant on a player’s physical capabilities and resistance training may help athletic development in areas like speed, agility, and explosive power (Silva et al. 2015). Regardless of what camp one may fall into, there are some common beliefs in regards to the benefits and drawbacks of resistance training that the soccer world has adopted. Benefits include increased athletic ability in soccer specific actions like sprinting, cutting, jumping, and explosiveness (Turner and Stewart 2014). Drawbacks include player’s putting on unnecessary muscle mass, becoming “blocky” or “bulky”, and the injury risk of doing resistance training. With all that being said, let’s look at what the research says regarding resistance training and athletic performance in soccer.
As previously mentioned, this topic in regards to soccer is just recently becoming more popular. The benefit to this topic’s infancy is that there is a lot of recent studies that have been conducted that target this discussion. The commonly believed benefits of resistance training for soccer players are that it increases athletic performance in soccer specific movements. The research that has been done on this topic tends to go along with this belief. One study looked specifically at the effects of a 10-month training regimen on linear speed, change of direction, and jump performance in adolescent soccer players (Keiner et al. 2020). This study looked at three different types of resistance training: traditional strength training, plyometric (exercises that produce maximal force in short period of time) and sprint training, and functional training. After the 10-month training period, it was found that not only did each resistance training group have increased performance in linear speed, change of direction, and jump performance but the traditional strength training group experienced the highest increase in performance. This study may give us insight on different forms of resistance training that could best maximize soccer-specific athletic performance.
A second study examined the importance of strength and power (amount of work done in a time interval) in relation to key performance indicators within a full soccer match (Wing et al.2020). The strength and power aspects that were examined in this study included the squat jump,countermovement jump, 20-meter sprint, change of direction, and 3 repetition max for both back squat and bench press. The key performance indicators within a soccer match included passing,shooting, dribbling, tackling, and heading. The study found a significant correlation between jumping ability (countermovement and squat jump) and heading success. They also found a significant correlation between a player’s 3 repetition max squat and tackle success. The data obtained from this study supported the idea that strength and power training could be important to soccer performance, in particular the physical aspects of the game like tackling and heading.
A third study looked at general strength and conditioning training for increased athletic performance in soccer players (Turner and Stewart 2014). This study examined data that included physiological characteristics of elite soccer players, physical characteristics of elite soccer players, and different forms of resistance training for soccer players. The study concluded that elite soccer players are required to have a number of physical and physiological capabilities in order to perform successfully. Moreover, certain types of resistance training can be more beneficial
towards performance than others. These types of resistance training include HIIT (high intensity interval training), speed and agility, heavy resistance strength training, and power based plyometrics or Olympic-style lifting, such as the clean and the snatch. As a current collegiate soccer player, I think I have a unique perspective on the different views and effects of resistance training on soccer players. College was the first time I’ve been exposed to actual strength and conditioning coaching. Throughout high school, my soccer coaches have always been in camp one, where they were against resistance training because they felt that it was going to make their players too big and bulky. Once I got to college, there was the complete opposite thought process from the coaches. They would all be in camp two, where resistance training was absolutely necessary to become a better athlete in soccer. As I have gotten into strength training and witnessed my, as well as my teammates, physical improvements
since being in college, I am a firm believer that strength training can very much benefit your athletic performance. Every year at Drake, our strength coaches take baseline testing on various movements including 20 and 40 meter sprints, 5 repetition max squat and bench press, as well as vertical jump. At the end of the year, after our strength training regimen is completed, we do the same tests again. Almost every player improves their performance on these tests. In regards to my personal performance, my athletic ability has improved greatly since starting strength training
and I can see it transfer to the soccer field where I feel more agile, strong, and overall more athletic. With that being said I tend to recommend and will continue to recommend, that soccer players should incorporate some sort of strength training into their training routine because it is becoming more and more necessary in the modern game.
Turner, Anthony N. and Stewart, Perry F. “Strength and Conditioning for Soccer Players.” Strength and Conditioning Journal: Volume 36, Issue 4, August 2014.
Silva, J.R., Nassis, G.P. & Rebelo, A. Strength training in soccer with a specific focus on
highly trained players. Sports Med – Open 1, 17 (2015).
Wing, Christopher E.; Turner, Anthony N.; Bishop, Chris J. Importance of Strength and
Power on Key Performance Indicators in Elite Youth Soccer, Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research: July 2020 – Volume 34 – Issue 7 – p 2006-2014 doi:
Keiner, Michael; Kadlubowski, Björn; Sander, Andre; Hartmann, Hagen; Wirth, Klaus. Effects of 10 months of Speed, Functional, and Traditional Strength Training on Strength, Linear Sprint, Change of Direction, and Jump Performance in Trained Adolescent Soccer Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 27, 2020 – Publish Ahead of Print – Issue – doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003807