T Nation

Boosting Performance on the Field

Hey everyone

I’m a soccer player and it’s a contact sport, nothing like football but strenght is a big advantage. The thing is I cannot afford to pack on weight because it would affect my technical perfomance, I’m already on a solid weight and almost shredded without being skinny but guys of my complexion or slightly heavier (10 Ibs for most) always have the upper hand strenght-wise and it becomes too limiting of a factor for my game. I’m a fast sprinter but it takes me forever to accelerate as well and I suspect strenght has something to do with that too.

Would it be possible to make me stronger so that I can outpower players like me or at least kind of match the heavier ones without putting on significant weight? How so? Thx in advance!

Yes it is. Training in the “relative strength zone” (can be anywhere between 1 and 6 reps depending on experience) and only using the big basic lifts will do it. Also including some explosive work can be helpful.

The following articles might be of some help:

In that first article read up on the relative strength zone.


On this one focus on the 8 ways to build pure strength

I think I got the idea. So it ‘d be about teaching the body to produce force

I believe the concept of strenght skill of one of your articles might apply perfectly, frequent submaximal training on the big lifts. What do you think about this approach?


Also a soccer player here and I just want to share some of my insight. I’ve been training nonstop for the past three years and I’m just below getting paid. Maybe next season.

Anyways, if you are looking to do this in the offseason I would recommend that you absolutely try to put on some more muscle as long as you keep it lean. If you are doing your ball work drills a couple of times a week your technical skills will not degrade with the added weight. You might even find that they improve slightly. Soccer is very intensive in the single leg strength department and increasing said strength could lead to improvements. That’s what I’ve noticed at least. Granted I’m only 6’2" and sit around 174-178. You can gain size, but given the amount of cardio required for soccer it’ll come slower. Maybe 2-3 pounds a year if you keep it lean, but you also have to hold on to that muscle during the season. It’s difficult, that’s for damn sure, but doable.

Now if you’re looking at in-season/pre-season time (I’m in preseason) I would recommend not doing Bench Press and ESPECIALLY not Deadlifts. Deadlifts are ridiculously taxing and recovering from them in season is nearly impossible without a few consecutive rest days (which are hard to come by in season) Programming should be frequent and volume should be very very low. Like maybe 10 work sets low. You may want to look into his Neural Charge Training as that’s helped me. Frequency is going to be king for in season training as recovery is primary focus. If you can Oly lift, those tend to be a decent happy medium, but again, low volume. If you’re not throwing medicine balls around often start that. Remember LOW VOLUME. If you can’t recover in season you either get hurt or you don’t play.

My 2 cents. Hope that helps. CT any thoughts on that?

Regarding muscle mass. When I was in college one of my professor tested all the sports teams (hockey, basketball, track & field, volleyball, soccer). He wanted to know which had the greatest correlation with speed. So he tested body weight, body fat levels, height, limb length, etc.

Body weight had a very low correlation with speed, so just because someone was heavier did not necessarily mean that they were slower and just because someone was lighter did not mean that they were faster.

The variable that had the greatest correlation with speed was body fat levels. The leaner the athletes were, and the greater their muscle/fat ratio was, the faster they were.

So if you did add 10lbs of muscle while keeping the same body fat level (or a lower one), giving you are higher muscle/fat ratio you should be faster or at least just as fast. Especially if the muscle was gained with strength-training methods (low/moderate reps with heavy weights) while adding some explosive work in there.

Look at football runningbacks and linebackers, heck even wide receivers and safeties since they are huge now, some of these guys will be 225-235lbs and run a 4.4 - 4.5/40 yards.

Very helpful input sanuelson

The truth is I’m a very fast yet slow player, let me explain. I’m 180 with a measured 15% BF. Most of my muscle is in my back and arms, not cause of training but my body is naturally like that.

I’m of the fastest when it comes to medium and long distance sprints but my short bursts do not have much power. That greatly affects my speed with the ball on my feet (actually slower players outrun me when I hold the ball).

What concerns me is loosing agility rather than speed. Also it’s hard to train for size while in season, like samuelson said deads are really taxing considering or cardio. I’d say squats too

Also one should train for both size AND strenght if possible right? I mean If one were to just add muscle without strenght it’d lead to a case of show and no go. Right?

Honestly I’ve never had an issue with doing squats in season so long as a keep the volume low. I’ll normally ramp up to a heavy single (never doing more than triples to warm up) and then maybe do 3x2 at like 85-90% of that one single. In total I get like 8-10 reps at “work weight”. I also tend to take pretty lengthy breaks in between these sets though (2-5 minutes depending on how I feel) I only squat once a week in season though and I alternate front and back squats each week. My legs never feel fatigued after squatting when the volume is that low. Just for reference, what position do you play? I’m a CB.

You’ve made my point.

What I meant when I said more muscle would affect my perfomance it´s not cause of the muscle itself but rather the fatigue of the volume necessary to gain more muscle.
Squats have always been less demanding but still affect performance on something as low volume as a 5x5. Your approach seems to be the best considering our cardio. I´m a MF and average 9-10 km a game

Also deadlifts are IMHO the most devastating exercise there is, not even squats fatigue me as much so in season it´s pretty much off the table

Single-leg squat variations (bulgarian split-squats, lunges) can be a great addition to your lower-body routine. You build strength, incorporate a flexibility component, and build lateral hip stability, which is important for sprinting and agility. Absorbing energy on one leg and explosively changing direction happens a lot in soccer. There are a lot of sprint coaches that think they have a higher transfer to sprinting speed than traditional squats (I’d recommend doing both).

If you’re trying to improve short-distance speed, running short sprints is really effective and low-cost from a recovery standpoint. Lots of reps at 10-30 yards. Jump variations and running with a sled also correlate well. I’d suggest measuring these things: use a stopwatch and measure jump heights and distances. You’ll get feedback on your improvement and it ramps up the intensity a lot when you know your being measured/timed.

You can also get a lot of benefit from hammering the upper body compound lifts (pull-ups, presses, rows). There’s really no downside; you’ll be more physical on the field and you’re not an overhead thrower so you don’t have to worry as much about messing with your shoulder integrity.

I agree, single leg stuff is absolutely a must. Single leg RDL’s are my mainstay in season. For me personally though Bulgarian Split Squats are far more demanding than regular barbell squats and in season I find that my single leg strength doesn’t go down at all just because of the amount of time I’m on the ball. Your individual training with touch drills and stuff is really going to keep your single leg strength up if you’re doing it with any sort of regularity. I do about 4-5 20-30 minute ball work sessions a week in season. I really isn’t too taxing for me. Your team training is obviously going to be the biggest thing you have to recover from in season and I find that the added ball work doesn’t really add fatigue like lifting does.

If you are going to be doing Plyometrics please please please read up on proper protocol for those. There’s a million bad Youtube videos on how to “properly” perform Plyos.

Just remember that strength on the field has nothing to do with your poundage in the weight room. Strength on the field is your ability to resist force. If you don’t keep that in mind in the gym it won’t matter too much on the field. Learn to properly brace through your movement patterns and you’ll get stronger in the gym and on the field. Lift like shit and just try to hit poundages and rep schemes and you will probably not getting stronger on the field. Move the weight and at the same time don’t let the weight move you. 10 really good reps at 135 will get you stronger on the field that 20 half ass reps at 225.

Terrific way to put it: “Strength on the field is your ability to resist force”. That’s something I’ve only recently been understanding after hearing some sprint coaches say as much. The impulse you are able to put into the ground running has a lot to do with your ability to turn around huge amounts of momentum and re-direct them in the opposite direction, super fast.

Bulgarian split squats get me more sore than squats; however, they also leave me feeling much looser and more flexible in the groin and ankles, and the soreness is where I want it, in the hips. Take with a grain of salt though; i’m a poor squatter.

It all depends on our mechanics I guess. No doubt BSS will make looser. But I squat widish and low-bar, so in the squat I will actually use way more hips, and in the BSS more quads

If getting better at squat is something you guys would like to persue, I’d recommend Chris Duffin’s videos on bracing and squatting. His way of explaining has really helped me start to nail down my squats. I’ve been working pretty hard on them for about 8 months straight now too, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. I really lacked mobility (not flexibility, they aren’t the same thing) in my internal hip muscles. Once I worked on those my squat kinda clicked. Still don’t have too much weight on it though since I’ve been tweaking my form. I can actually tell I’ve gotten stronger though, so its all good. Remember leave your ego at the door when you walk into the gym!