Getting Soccer Bro to Hit the Gym

My bro is a small guy. He’s 15, just started sophomore year in high school, and has been training 3 x 8 of usually bench press, pec deck, lat pulldown, curls, and tricep pulldowns for a few months on and off for about a year. He’s also HUGE into soccer, very good at it too, but because he’s short (5’6 probably) and light (120-130 at most). His skill often gets belittled by big-ass senior guys (he plays varsity) that can push him around if they get too close.

Recently he told me he wants to get bigger and train for power. I explained to him what little I know about power and strength training versus hypertrophy training, but the truth is, I know NOTHING about sports-specific training. What would be a good workout for him to start out on? And what can I tell him about squats and deadlifts so that he starts doing them? He believes that because he plays soccer so much, he doesn’t need to do those lifts (his legs are monstrously muscular). Also, he says he doesn’t want to tire his legs before practices and games.

Any help would be awesome.

Step number one - ditch the lat pulldown for pullups.

step number two, SQUAT, SQUAT, SQUAT…

I’m talking more about rep/set schemes and how many times a week to exercise so he doesn’t get overtired. I know he should squat, I know he should deadlift, I told him a while ago to do chins instead of lat pulldowns, but it’s a matter of doing all those so that he doesn’t feel completely worn out for practice. He has practice every day and games once to twice a week.

That’s Mark “Thunderthighs” Hughes, generally considered the greatest soccer player to ever come from Wales. Yes, he has big legs (that’s not just a clever nickname). And yes, he’s crazy strong and agile. So, let your bro know it’s no big deal. And, are his legs “monstrously muscular” for a 15-year old, or for an average guy? Just wondering.

Low volume will be the biggest thing here. Something like 8-12 reps per exercise. One, maybe 2, exercises per session. 2x5, 3x4 something like that. It will allow the use of a heavier weight, but I’d still keep a rep or two in the bank (in part due to age, but mostly that will further help prevent any kind of overtraining). I’d say 2 or 3 sessions per week would be fine. Preferably not immediately after or before a practice session.

Bodyweight is the most sports specific i find.

Focus more on front squats than squats as your load will always be in front of you. Lots of deads, fuck the bench and go for front and regular dips, pullups, chinups and alt grip pullups are sweet and of course weighted pushups should be all he needs… these are the basis of my program

forgot to mention other sweet ones would be one legged bodyweight squats, hindu sqauts, triangular pushups, overhead squats and maybe some flies or leg extensions for some mass…just go easy for awhile to get the technique down, then lift HEAVY

[quote]Babalu wrote:
forgot to mention other sweet ones would be one legged bodyweight squats, hindu sqauts, triangular pushups, overhead squats and maybe some flies or leg extensions for some mass…just go easy for awhile to get the technique down, then lift HEAVY[/quote]

Fuck the bench but add heavy flies and leg extensions for mass?

My suggestion would be for him to KEEP the bench, but try and use it with maybe a 12-16 inch grip, as this will mimic more sporting activites. Also, chins are great, as are front squats. Maybe even sternum chin-ups would be better to get some more scapular retraction so you may not have to do much rowing in order to cut down on time. Posterior chain work is key also.

As for a template to get him started, maybe something like this could work:

You say he has 2 games a week. Lets say he plays on Monday and Thursday. So:


A) Light front squats with emphasis on form, maybe 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps with a weight that would allow “plenty” of reps to be in the hole. Depending on how much playing time he got and how he feels, you may opt for higher or lower on the weight, rep, and set spectrum.

B) Seated Cable Rows, same set/rep guidelines as above.

C) Incline DB press w/neutral grip. Same as above.

D) If they train abs at practice, omit ab traning here. If they do not, hanging leg raises would be great for a soccer player. In this case I would suggest a Tri-set where you do an ab exercise, biceps, than triceps exercise in sequence. Lets face it the kid is in high school let him leave the gym with a pumped set of arms and he just may come back!

A sample would be:

D1) Hanging leg raises X12
D2) Dumbbell Zottman Curls X8
D3) Kneeling cable extensions facing away from stack X 8

Repeat 2-3 times.

On Saturdays:

A) RDL’s: 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps, again start slow and progress accordingly.

B) Sternum chins: I do not know his strength levels so you will have to see where he stands with this exercise and go from there

C) 14 " grip bench press: Same and RDL’s.

D1) Sprinter sit-ups X12
D2) Dips (again, you pick the rep range)
D3) Straight bar curls X 6-8
Do 2-3 times.

Hope this helps. Again, keep him motivated using productive exercises and he will be glad with his success.


Pat Battaglia

I played some soccer and ran cross country too. Depending on what position your brother plays might factor in what type of weight program. You say he wants power and strength and has practices daily along with weekly meets. Soccer requires a tremendous amount of endurance, speed, and power in the legs.

Here is what worked for me: Off season training and in season training. During off season, he can have the luxury to hit bigger weights and longer routines. There are already plenty of programs to choose from here. However, in season, would be different. Can he lift after practice sessions? Can he split the weight sessions to morning and evening? My rep scheme is 6-8-10 reps. I would work on building a strong upper torso because running taxes the upper body and leaves little strength left. Arms, back, chest are important and I use compound and isolation movements. Get his core strong from doing L-holds on a parallel bar.

I would work on increasing leg strength with squats, etc. during off season because the massive amounts of fartlek running is already too intense on the legs. Do exercises to protect the side to side movements of the knees.

From my experience, power and speed comes from doing many of the running and kicking drills in soccer. All he needs to focus on is putting on enough muscle to help his sport. Too much muscle will be a negative in agility and racing performance depending if he is a goalie, foward, sweeper, etc.

You mentioned he gets pushed around. Is he aggressive also? Fear can come into play with this sport and I’ve had to deal with this to overcome being pushed or injured.

Anyways, your little brother sounds very talented and the best of luck to him. Take only what works for him and leave the rest. Experiment because everyone is different.

Not about training, but just to encourage your brother… Chelsea recently paid a lot of money ($40m US) for a young player called Shawn Wright-Phillips. He also plays for England.

He’s about 5’5" at the most, I’d say less, and was dropped by one club for being too short. Bet they regret that.

Correcting myself, it’s Shaun not Shawn.

Also, Maradona was little, and Gattuso isn’t tall. Del Piero is a short ass.

Your brother is also only 15, so he’s got some time. Friends of mine kept growing well into their late teens.

Of course, that’s no reason for him to not lift at all, but I’ve found that it can be impossible to instil any interest in people who weren’t interested in the first place.

Your brother wants to train, but doesn’t want to tire out for games and practices eh. Try periodizing his program for the year. Set it up so that his macro-cycle focus is season appropriate: off-season, pre-season, in-season and post-season/playoffs. Look up books like “Periodization for Sport” by Tudor Bompa for good ideas. Squats, deadlifts etc are good. Stay away from leg extensions: single joint movements that aren’t anywhere close to sport specific (ss). As a smaller athlete, he’ll need some serious upper body strength to help him fight off the bigger guys, and protect the ball. Plyo’s are good later on. Lots of agility drills with low hurdles (12 inches) and agility ladders to increase footwork. Remember, agility comes from the ability to decelerate and change direction quickly. Your brother has a huge advantage for this because of his lower com (center of mass). Be careful of adding too much muscle mass (I know, it sounds bad), but keep his power to weight ratio high. You will also have to think about cardio training (Yup, another bad word), as elite level soccer players can cover 10km over the course of a game. Most of it above 80% MHR, so Lactate threshold training needs to be considered too.

For sport-conditioning training, check out this link:

I would be very careful about doing anything too advanced with him right away. I’m never a fan of starting resistance training in-season, although I would still rather have it than omit it. The competitive season in itself is an unfamiliar stress for most young athletes, and adding one more isn’t necessarily a good thing unless you do it the right way.

Get him in to lift some light weights and learn technique on the day after games…think of it as almost an active recovery. Feed him a lot, too. :slight_smile:

That’s what I’m doing. On non-pratice/game/workout days I take time to learn proper snatch and power clean tecnique (just need a lil more flexibility) with just the bar. Refer to Charles Staley’s “My, that’s a nice snatch” series and CD’s Mastering the Power Clean article.

Also, exercises like iron crosses, squat-pulls, olympic lifts, push presses, etc. translate very well onto the field (in addition to squats and deads). Doing very high rep leg sets and/or having less than 90 seconds rest between sets, in addition to bodyweight GPP also help tremendously with soccer.


Pop over to Dr. LL’s PT thread, ask an intelligent question and be entered in a free CD/DVD give away from Dr. LL :slight_smile: