Champaign, IL—The beauty of soccer may begin with skill, but players who want to stay healthy and keep playing need to include strength training as part of their exercise regimen. The problem, according to Dr. Donald Kirkendall, a member of FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre, is that the soccer community has long viewed supplemental strength training with skepticism, evidenced by coaches’ denying players training benefits that are proven to improve physical performance and prevent injury.
Kirkendall, author of the forthcoming Soccer Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2011), believes that most soccer players have a negative attitude toward strength training because it is done in a weight room and does not involve the ball. He addresses these issues in the book, offering exercises that can be done on the field during routine training, some even involving the ball. The benefits can prove immense. “When developed properly, increased strength will allow players to run faster, resist challenges, be stronger in the tackle, jump higher, resist fatigue, and prevent injury,” Kirkendall says.
Resistance to strength training is especially prevalent in the United States because, Kirkendall argues, the never-ending exposure to soccer is not as evident in American culture as it is in other countries, where families, neighbors, and friends play the game whenever they can. “An American child does not possess the beginnings of a skill set obtained from free play with family and friends,” he says. “The coach may well be the only exposure to the game, requiring almost all coaching to be focused on the ball, which may neglect some basic motor skills and supplementary aspects of fitness.”
A regular program that uses systematic progression, such as a program developed with the exercises found in Soccer Anatomy, will help players improve aspects of fitness important for competitive play, the kind of aspects not addressed in traditional ball-oriented training. Kirkendall warns, “Players who neglect the strength element of training but want to move up to the next level will be in for a shock when they discover how far behind they are and realize just how much catching up is necessary.”
Soccer Anatomy, the latest entry in the popular Human Kinetics Anatomy Series, takes readers inside each exercise to show which muscles are involved and how they contribute to proper execution of the exercise and to success on the field.
For more information, see Soccer Anatomy.