Strength: 5 Things Every Soccer Player Needs to Know
Q: How do I find balance between Soccer and Weightlifting?
This is one question that not many soccer players actually ask themselves. Why? Well, it is because most soccer players don’t realize that training outside the pitch is just as important as training on the pitch. Off the pitch training is essential if you want to increase your athletic ability and ultimately take your game to the next level. Training SMART off the pitch, whether that is in the gym, a park, or anywhere else, will really help you not only look better, but also become stronger, be more explosive and will help you avoid injuries, all of which are things that we all want & need.
As a soccer player myself, I have seen dramatic improvements in my game once I decided to train off the pitch, so it is highly recommended for every single athlete to do so.
Now, for the rare few that you actually enjoy both training & playing soccer and training off the pitch, like weightlifting, but are having trouble balancing both things, this article is for you.
1. Goals: Why are you doing this?
The first thing that you must understand when it comes to finding balance between soccer and weightlifting is setting your goals. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you busting your ass in the gym while you can be resting like probably the rest of your teammates? Why are you training off the pitch in the first place?
The answer for that should be fairly simple, to become a better athlete. You need to understand this very well because if you love training off the pitch as much as I do, there are days that you are going to want to train for something else. Training as a bodybuilder or for hypertrophy won’t do you any good. Training as a powerlifter or only for strength won’t bring you the most benefits. Training as an athlete or as a soccer player, will, and you need to keep that in your head.
This is what will keep you on the right track to becoming a better athlete even if that means not having an extreme shredded awesome bodybuilder look or that some days you are going to have to lift “pussy” weight. It will probably hurt your “ego” or “image” but remember to set and understand your goals.
2. Understand Athleticism
Now, What is athleticism or becoming more athletic? When I think of athleticism I think of balance. Having a high level of speed, strength, power, explosiveness and then being able to bring all of those together. That is what makes someone a really good athlete.
There is a reason why Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best soccer players in the world and has been for several years in a row. There is a reason why he rarely gets injured and why he is able to constantly play an entire match with full intensity. He understood the importance of athleticism and has worked on his athletic performance day in and day out, on the pitch and off the pitch.
3. Pushing Yourself VS Resting?
We all know by now that most of us are naturally lazy bums and in order to accomplish something we need to push ourselves past our mental limits, but there is a big danger in this. Having experienced this myself, I can definitely tell you that if you push yourself too much, your body will break and that the goal that you have been working so hard far for, wont be obtainable. You will find yourself in a constant loop of not being able to perform well on the pitch (which is ultimately what we are looking for) because you were not able to recover from your training off the pitch.
Personally I have made the mistake of training way too hard during season.
I was training 2 times per day, 1 time in the morning (training hard off the pitch) and 1 time in the afternoon (training hard on the pitch with the team), 4-5 times per week and then having matches during the weekend.
For a small period of time I was able to maintain this rhythm even though during the day my body was almost completely useless. Eventually I broke down and had to take a couple of weeks off of any type of training. This was a really stupid decision from my part. My body was not recovering fast enough in order to perform well both on the pitch and in the gym with the amount of intensity I was putting it through and in the end I had to pay for it in the worst way possible.
Pushing yourself while still listening to your body, it is a dangerous combination, because you don’t want to not push yourself, but you also don’t want to break your body. In order to find balance here you need to understand what it really means breaking your body or being tired
There are two different types of tired. There is the body, muscle soreness or fatigue from working hard and there is the central nervous system, which means that your body needs more sleep and recovery.
Soreness: When you are sore, it is for the most part because you have lactic acid accumulated in your muscles and that is why it’s hurting. Here what you need to focus is on specific exercises or movements to help you recover quickly and get that lactic acid out of your muscles.
CNS: When your central nervous system breaks down, it really means that you have taken it a bit too far and you need to rest. Being able to identify both things and adapt to your situation is going to be key to you succeeding or failing in finding balance between training and performing on & off the pitch.
4. How & What To Do?
Having by now established your goals, the importance of athleticism and knowing your body, now we need to know how & what to do on my training routine or schedule. For the most part you want to focus on always performing compound exercises and not isolation exercises. Some compound that are a MUST for any athlete, but specially for soccer players, are deadlifts, squats, pull ups, push ups, dips, bench press, shoulder press, power cleans, box jumps, and the list goes on and on. This means that you will not only are going to be working with weights but also with your own bodyweight or calisthenics. This is by far the most efficient way to train, by combining both weightlifting and calisthenics. This will allow you develop a lot of strength while still handling your body fairly easily. The elite athletes produce a freakish amount of force while having lower amounts of body weight. In other words the strength to bodyweight ratio, and this is how you do that.
A good and simple way/tip to do this is by doing every single exercise, regardless of what it is, in an explosive motion. The best way to do this is by doing the negative portion of the movement, or when you are going with gravity, slowly, and then doing the positive portion of the movement, or when you are going against gravity, as fast as you possibly can. This will help you gain explosiveness, power and strength that will eventually be used on the pitch during the match.
In order to acquire a high level of speed, strength, power, explosiveness and then being able to bring all of those together takes hard work both on the pitch, off the pitch but also in the kitchen and in your daily habits. Increasing your athletic performance is something that is not easy because doing all the work you have to do is never enough. Ultimately understanding and setting your goal is what is going to bring you the balance you need in order to succeed. The athletes that have the most amount of success on the pitch are usually the ones who put the most amount of work off the pitch.
The ones who work the hardest in the gym, in their recovery, in their diet, and find the right balance for them, they are the ones who get the success and they are the ones who take their game to the next level. It is not just when they are on the pitch, it is everything else as well. You can have talent, but if your work ethic is not on par, you will not make it. That is what separates the elite from the rest.
Hope you have found this article helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me on my social media pages and YouTube channels. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I will be happy to serve you in any way I can.
By Josue Pena