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Help with Pre-Season Programming and Exercise Selection

Hey Guys,

I have received excellent advice before here, so I am turning back to you.

I made a huge a jump in 34 from amateur soccer league to the semi pro league. I was unprepared for the first half of the season, which finished. I made only 3 appearances in the first 3 games. I also almost ditched my training, because in my 2nd appearance I played 60 minutes and it killed me, I had to recover for almost a week. So I barely trained looking to be recovered for the match day. 2 months later, not playing almost all and not training I am in a very bad shape. I had done some very bad decisions.

But anyway, here I am in a very bad shape but motivated to change things up. I have a lot of time, since the 2nd half season will start in March and the team pre-season will start in February. I want to be prepared and be the most conditioned player in the squat in February and March. Since there are no contracted players in our team, I believe I can be the most in form.

I already started with the first 4 week mesocycle named pre-conditioning. The goal in it is to get into a lifting shape and running shape - taking it slow and easy, getting into the habit and relying on muscle memory to do its job.

I was doing a quick ABA and BAB - A being: squat, bench, cable row, trunk rotation, hip abduction; B being: lat pull down, military press and DL, palloff press and hip adduction.
However now in week 3 since I am home office and have more time for the gym I moved to a splitt - 3/4 excercices for quads/hams/back/chest/shoulders. For running currently I am using Threshold runs for 20 mins and some LISS. I started doing some basic plyos as well - such as basic jump rope 5 sets of 20 seconds, leg switch on a box, pogo jums and etc.

Here are some small strength goals I put myself in this pre-conditioning phase
squat - 8x80 kg, dl - 5x100 kg, Military Press - 8x40kg, bench - 8x60 kg
Threshold runs - 2 miles for 20 mins; LISS - 45 mins

I am that out of shape yes. And I am close to reaching them within the time frame of 4 weeks.

Here are some goals I would like to reach by February or latest in March:
LISS 90 mins - at least 10km if possible 12-13 kms
Threshold runs - at best 3 miles for 20 mins but even better would be 4 miles in 25 mins
4x4 runs (vo2max training) - 4 min almost sprinting speed + 3 mins recovery run x 4 times - no specific goal here
sprints - not specific goal, just be as fast as possible and be able to sprint at any time

I have done some research and here is how I would like manage the next approximately 12 weeks - 8 weeks in general preparation with 2 mesocycles and 4 weeks in sport specific training.

The first 4 weeks of the general preparation I would like to train and gain for maximum hypertrophy I can obtain and do as much as possible LISS and Threshold runs with minimum 4x4 training. The goal is to increase muscle and work capacity.

Here for the lifts I was thinking of doing a 3-4 days per week upper-lower split with a different focus - Squat and DL, Bench + Row and OHP + chin day
With 2 LISS and 1 Threshold Run. And doing twice the 4x4 run for the 4 weeks.

The 2nd 4 weeks of the general preparation I would like to focus on obtaining strength, decrease the LISS and increase the 4x4 runs. The goal here is to get as strong as possible for 4 weeks, while getting some speed work going on. Still will do LISS and Threshold runs to increase the work capacity.

Here I was thinking on doing Strong Lifts 5x5 with some trunk rotation, anti rotation such as Paloff Press and some cable abduction and cable adduction single leg calfs and etc.

In the sport specific preparation I would focus on sprints, change of direction training, 4x4 and would do occasionally LISS and Threshold runs. My lifting should be focused in explosive movements. Here the goal is to get as fast and as explosive as possible, while keeping the work capacity at peak levels.

So here I am seeking advice. First of all - is this a good planning with a decent transition from cycle to cycle? Would you advice differently? What lifts do you think will suit my goals?

Soccer isn’t football but

Might give you some ideas. Not a fan of Stronglifts. What position do you play? More muscle mass is more to run with so you might want to emphasise strength and explosive power moreso than hypertrophy work.


I’d look at a modified Westside for skinny bastards 3 template. Lots of room to work out what works for you, at relative low-ish volume.

If your semi pro I’m guessing recovery is going to be pretty vital to performing at the level required.

When I was a trainer for an amateur club (as in team physio) reaaaal common injuries were knees/acls, ankles and low back…so I would prioritise those areas, with trunk rotation and some neck work


When I was a teen I used to play CD, DM, AM then lastly ST. Nowadays I play CD or DM. Entered the new team as a CD and a RB, however played as a midfielder. I would like to focus on playing as a DM. The competition for Central Defenders is too high and there are too many players. While for the Defensive Mid spot there are only 2 players - one lacks discipline and got 2 red card for fights and will not play for 3 games now, while the other one is not showing up for many of the games. So there is a chance for me to get a starting spot there.

Man, the recovery is god awful, but I will think about it once the season starts. As I mentioned I played one of the games for 60 mins. I played as a left midfielder, we played 4-4-2 and came as an emergency sub due to injuries.

I was about to die, throw up during the game for a few times. There are young guys literally fighting for contracts or get scouted. I had to mark one full back who was like mid 20 and he gave me some work for the lungs and the legs. Next week I was not able to even walk.

Regarding the injuries this is why I would like to work for hypertrophy in order to strengthen the muscles and the soft tissue. I am working on some plyos and ankle strength via these plyos, and single leg calf rises. I will add later some change of direction drills for the knees, as twisting is …

I would love to hear some advice from you as a coach. To add some goals, to mention what you are looking for at players and etc. My goal in fact is to become a coach myself. This is why I am playing. I would like to get experience via experimenting myself for a good program, get connections, get noticed. Then I will go for the license and find an amateur team myself to get experience. I would love to work with some kids in the future as a part time job.

I don’t have much to offer as I was terrible at football, I still am.

I have noticed that Liverpool players come back from injury with some delt mass. E.g Salah. I think there is something in armour plating hips and shoulders. Kleinhound has made some great points as well.

Using a Prowler for sprint conditioning and weight vest walking to help recovery of the legs whilst strengthening your torso might work. I’m shooting in the dark a little.

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The only advice I can offer is to stay far away from SL5x5.


Regarding Salah, I am an AS Roma fan. He was once injured when playing for Roma and came back with a bigger back. It definitely improved his game as he was shielding from defenders better. I think athletes like him, just can not stay offline and rest while injured and work in the gym. However note taken.

Unfortunately we do not have prowler in the gym and I am too poor for a vest at the moment. COVID hit my bonuses and my salary helps only for living. However I may load a back pack and go for walks for recovery.

Would you clarify why do you think so? I am not saying it is not a sound advice, I only would like to know the reasoning. I have been on SL 5x5 and I had enormous strength and muscular gains in the past. The program is brutal and can really get the heck out of your soul and CNS.

How dare you, sir. StrongLifts 5x5 is a premier strength program.



I have anecdotal evidence that I was helped by rucksack walks. I was climbing for 6 months abroad, which meant a lot of rucksack walks. When I came back I was one of the fittest in our 5 a side games. I’d played twice and ran never in those 6 months. Not a strategy I’d recommend though, might have been due to my lower weight. Just found it curious at the time.

Stay light, weird little muscles need to get the memo.

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Not trying to be a dick, but how are you a semi-pro soccer player and out of shape? Those things are mutually exclusive.

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Not my personal anecdote but I used to have a boss, who used to play floorball pro. He was a few months retired, hadn’t done much. Still the fittest guy at any table we’d sit. One day he looked like he’d been inside a dishwasher so I asked what was up. His coach had called and asked if he could play a position for a practice game as someone was sick and he got demolished. Maybe the term in- and out-of-shape becomes a broader spectrum after a certain level? :woman_shrugging: But good question, looking forward to OPS reply.

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There are just better options made by legit and reputable coaches.

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It is a sound advice. I will take it. I like it. It sounds legit as well. A heavy back pack and lots of walking. There are a lot of people who think LISS and walking are not sound. I have an anecdotal experience of doing LISS only for 4 months in the mountains and returning to my best soccer/football shape ever. This is when I returned to playing amateur soccer after playing a 6x6 game in the neighbourhood. I guy approached me to ask me to join their team.

Hey no worries. Soccer at low level is about skill. You do not need to be in shape to play soccer. I am very intelligent when playing soccer. The best player in our team is at my age, he has tons of experience and is extremelly out of shape. Yet he knows how to position, cover and turn with the ball then pass the ball. He has tons of experience as a pro. I was training with him as a teen, we were in the same team. Then he went to and made it to a pro. He still has lots of skill and plays as a mid. Midfielders usually have to cover a lot of space, yet due to his intelligence he is able to position well and not run that much. He is really good at receiving and covering the ball and then making a good pass or playmaking the ball - send it wide then receive it to try again for a killer pass for example.

So soccer is very skill based game. I am good at defending and positioning. I can cut angles, position well so no matter how faster and more conditioned you are then me, I will find a way to get close to you by cutting your passing angles and allowing you only to dribble past me. Then I am able to beat you due to my defensive technique. It is literally a question of reading the game and having technical skills. There are lots of players in their mid and later 30s in the league and lots of young players looking to get scouted. Yet still the people with high soccer IQ are dominating the league.

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I am not disagreeing, but please advice. I opened the topic to receive as much advice as possible.

I’m the opposite, loads of effort and no skill. But now I’m middle aged and heavy.

Always amazed by those with the skill and vision. Got friends that I can’t get near but they’re not in the best shape. So, I try and make them run the long way round with the ball. I can’t commit to a tackle at all, I just hope fatigue gets them.

I’m a Liverpool fan and xavi Alonso is one of my favourite players. There was a stat about how much ground he covered, it was huge but never seemed to be at a sprint. Just lots of adjustments.

Congrats on getting in the squad. I’ve played against semi pro players, I looked like a guy lost in the supermarket. Always half a second behind the ball.

Well, regarding defending it is just a feel. I have the habit to always observe and not just ball watch, so I am aware where oponents are. So then I just cut passing angles, making them hesitate and slow down. Afterwards it is really about instincts and being coached a proper defending. I know how to use my hands without fauling, know when to press and not let you turn. In fact turning is the hardest skill in game and if you know how to not let people turn and make them recieve the ball with the back you are already a good defender. Then you need to commit into fouling and tackling if things get dangerous. Again using your hands is very important, you need to push, pull, hold people in order to slow them down. Lots of young players are not being coached well in defending. Using your hands is almost as important as speed and conditioning.

Let me give you an example. Their 9 drops back to recieve a pass and run past you. You need to close him down and not let him turn, so he back passes. That is a classic situation. The 9 tries to run past you afterwards expecting a long ball behind you. This is a situation as a CD you do not want to have. So you need to push him while receiving the ball. There are few scenarios afterwards - 1) he loses balance slows down the play and is not able to play fast behind you; 2) you faul him, which is fine you will rarelly get yellow; 3) since you pushed him you are already turned running towards your goal, while he is still turning to run behind you and you have 2-3 meters advantage.

5/3/1 and WS4SB are good proven options for athletes. Can’t go wrong there.

SL5x5 doesn’t have any room for balancing sport specific training. Conditioning, practice, etc. isn’t a concern in that program. It’s just linear progression and recovery with no room for the extra stuff you need to do as an athlete.

You might be fine to do it for like a month and regain some lost strength, but then you’d want to switch to a more holistic plan. But, it would probably benefit you to just do that from the get-go.

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I got my guys to do a fair chunk of single leg work, acceleration and deceleration work, and change of direction stuff. I’m by no means any sort of accomplished coach though.

Not a lot of weighted leg work tbh, maybe off season you could focus on hitting weights, but certainly pre-during season it was about fatigue management and minimal required dose

@j4gga2 has a real interest in this sort of stuff. He’d be a good guy to pick his brain

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You may want to look at Tactical Barbell - there’s a strength book and a conditioning book. The approach is modular, very customisable and designed to tie together different elements (maximal strength, strength-endurance, anaerobic and aerobic systems, etc). It’s designed primarily for military/LEO, emergency responders and so on, but also works well for martial artists or people playing a sport who want to fit in some strength work while keeping everything else balanced. For example: