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feet and a soccer ball

Soccer and other field sports feature a lot of accelerating, decelerating, and quick changes of direction, says former collegiate soccer player Erica Suter, MS, a youth female athlete speed and strength coach. As the link between the upper body and lower body, the hips play a crucial role in transferring power efficiently for these high-speed movements.

The ankles are key, too, because they help transfer the force from the hips to the feet. Without stable, mobile hip and ankle joints, you will be slower on the field — and more likely to twist a knee or an ankle. So the key to enhancing your soccer game might not be just be doing more drills. But instead, incorporating strength and mobility training into your routine.

Because field sports involve quick bursts of running and change of direction, targeting the glutes and legs is also essential. It’s important for players to challenge their balance too; this helps build the stability needed to protect muscles and joints from injury during sudden shifts in direction. Suter says unilateral (single-sided) strength exercises check all the boxes.

Incorporate these moves recommended by Suter into your workout plan to help level up your performance.

Mobility

TRX Trainer-Assisted Single-Leg Squat
Add this move to your routine one or two days per week.

illio TRX pistol squat

Full Instructions
  • Grip the handles of a suspension trainer and step back until there’s no slack in the straps. Shift your weight onto your right leg, lifting your left foot a few inches off the floor in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and slowly push your hips back to squat down as far as you comfortably can. Try to get your hip as close to your right heel as possible while your left foot hovers off the ground in front of you. Keep your head and chest lifted.
  • Distribute your weight evenly across your right foot as you push up to return to the starting position. Do two or three sets of six to eight repetitions per leg.

Strength

Single-Leg Squat to Bench
Do this exercise one or two times a week on nonsoccer days.

illio single leg squat to bench

Full Instructions
  • Stand in front of a bench, facing away. Shift your weight onto your right leg, lifting your left foot a few inches off the floor in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and slowly push your hips back to squat down onto the bench. Let your left foot hover off the ground in front of you and keep your head and chest lifted.
  • Lightly tap the bench with your glutes before pushing through your right foot to return to the starting position. Do two sets of six to eight repetitions per leg.
  • If lifting the extended leg is too challenging at first, practice leaving it planted on the ground in front of you. As your squat becomes more stable, progress to lifting it a few inches off the floor.

Level Up

From basketball to Zumba, discover the mobility and strength exercises that can enhance your favorite cardio workout and boost your overall performance. Learn more in “Level Up Your Favorite Cardio With These Strength and Mobility Moves,” from which this article was excerpted.

Lauren
Lauren Bedosky

Lauren Bedosky is a Twin Cities–based health-and-fitness writer.

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