Do Soccer Players Even Need to Lift?

Dec 19, 2018

Do you even lift?

If soccer is your main sport, there’s a decent chance your answer is “no,” or at least “not often.” Why would you need to hit the weights in a game about speed and fitness, in which you play primarily with your feet?

Well, actually

Hitting the weights isn’t just for bodybuilders and boxers anymore. (Not that it ever was, really.)

Although you won’t see many soccer players with “Incredible Hulk” style physiques, the truth is that lifting and weight training is an important component of almost any athletic training program—soccer players very much included.

Male doing bicep lifts with dumbbell


Lifting: Not a Dirty Word Anymore

It wasn’t that long ago that significant lifting or strength training was thought to be counterproductive for soccer players. Some old-school trainers still think this way.

The gist of the argument is this: lifting makes you inflexible and slow and lowers your endurance. Those traits are just about the opposite of what you want for soccer. Therefore lifting is bad.

It’s easy to see why that argument became popular, but it’s a significant oversimplification.

While it is true that pure bodybuilders generally make lousy soccer players, that doesn’t mean lifting or strength training are bad for your game in and of themselves! It’s all about finding a proper balance of different types of exercise during your training regimen.

Benefits of Weight Training for Soccer Players

For starters, there’s no speed without strength. Too much weight and bulk, of course, can be a drag on quickness. But at the same time, stronger muscles mean more force generated which means a greater capacity for forward propulsion.

In other words, in order to be fast, you also need to be strong. Same goes for agility. And that means hitting the weights.

Of course, when you stop and think about it, there are plenty of places on the soccer field where strength and power are an advantage—and not all of them are directly related to speed. For example:

  • Holding your ground against a tackle or challenge and winning one-on-one battles on the ground
  • Explosive acceleration to create an open space or beat an opponent to a loose ball
  • Explosive jumping to compete for 50-50 aerial balls
  • Higher velocity on shots, passes, even throw-ins

But it’s not even just speed, strength, and power. Other benefits of lifting and strength training for soccer players include:

  • Resistance to injuries. Strong muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones can absorb more force without straining or tearing. They can better protect weak joints, too—not only from the daily grind of practice and play, but from tackles and collisions, too. Want to reduce your risk of spraining an ankle or tearing an ACL? Strength training is key.
  • Faster recovery. If you do happen to get injured, a body conditioned with strength training can heal itself faster, in part thanks to increased metabolism.
  • Improved body mechanics. Working on strength—legs, core, even arms—will help you improve your balance and stability, coordination, and posture. Obviously, these skills will help you just about everywhere on the pitch, and contribute to injury resistance as well.

Fitness training with kettlebell in sport gym with sunlight effect


Achieving the Right Balance

Naturally, one can have too much of a good thing.

As we said, bodybuilders tend to not make the greatest soccer players. And a typical soccer player isn’t going to want to hit the weights as much as, say, a linebacker. Different sports require different training regimens.

So how much should you work on lifting and strength training as a soccer player? We’ll leave the specifics up to you and your conditioning coach.

That said, in most situations, approximately 2 sessions per week, maybe 40 minutes of intense strength training each, might be a pretty typical routine for in-season players. Your coach might recommend slightly more or less depending on your current condition, position, team strategy, etc.

The goal here is to add a bit of strength and prevent the loss of muscle mass. If you’re playing 1-2 games per week and doing other types of training and exercise, you shouldn’t really be running the risk of bulking up too much or too fast with that kind of regimen.

There’s a possibility you might lose just a teensy bit of overall stamina or endurance—your marathon time might be a smidge slower, anyway—but the all-around improvements in your game thanks to another 10 pounds of lean muscle (give or take) are going to be well worth the trade-off for the vast majority of players.

So, we’ll ask again: do you even lift? If you want to get the most out of your training and become the best player you can, the answer should be “yes.”

And if, along the way, you happen to suffer an injury to your feet or ankles, give the experts at the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine a call. Our own Dr. Yakel helps keep the feet and ankles of the Colorado Rapids in top shape as team podiatrist, and he can help you too!

For an appointment, please call (720) 600-3380 today.

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