One thing that pro soccer players have in common is that they are in great shape. The reason for this is that they train in very specific ways to get their bodies to a high level of fitness. And it shows.
Today I want to show you several workouts that the soccer pros do during training. If you follow them, they may not make you look exactly like Cristiano Ronaldo, but they will certainly get you into great shape and make you a better soccer player.
The primary way soccer players get fit is by doing high-intensity interval training or HIIT. The idea of this is to do short bursts of intense movement followed by short periods of rest. This is the best way for soccer players to stay at their peak.
The workouts that we are going to go over today is all backed by science and approved by the pros. If HIIT is the best way for professional soccer players to train, then just imagine what it can do for you!
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First Things First: What Is a HIIT Routine?
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It is a type of exercise that alternates short periods of intense activity with periods of low-intensity movement or rest.
HIIT is one of the most effective ways to train, especially for athletes.
In a HIIT workout, you will do periods of intense exercise that can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Then you will have a brief period of rest before you jump into the next exercise.
One of the awesome things about HIIT is that it takes very little time. You don’t have to spend your whole day at the gym. If you have 15 minutes, then you have time to do this workout. Because of the way that HIIT is designed, you will get the same amount of work in about half of the time of a traditional workout. This makes it ideal for busy soccer players.
You don’t have to go to the gym to do this work out. Some HIIT routines don’t even require any special equipment. So, you can easily do it on the soccer field or right there at home.
Have a look at this video below for more explanation about HIIT.
The Benefits of HIIT
Some of the benefits include:
- The Reduction of Body Fat
One study done showed that HIIT decreased more body fat than traditional exercises like steady jogging.
In another more recent study, HIIT was found to burn more calories than steady forms of exercise for the same time period.
The bottom line is that HIIT workouts burn more fat and calories in less time. I call that a big plus!
- The Improvement of Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health
Another benefit to HIIT is that it helps with your heart health. It also improves your metabolic health, including cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
Moderate-intensity workouts produce metabolic and cardiovascular benefits too. There’s no doubt about that. But studies have found that HIIT workouts provide very similar results, and they do it in a lot less time.
The health benefits of HIIT include:
- Improved mental health
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Decreased body weight
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower resting heart rate
- Decreased BMI
The Significant Improvement of Mental Health
The truth is, any exercise will benefit your mental health. But the research shows that HIIT may be especially helpful. One 2019 study suggests that HIIT provides many benefits for people with mental illness. One of the things it helps with is reducing the severity of depression and anxiety.
In another study from 2015, researchers examined the effects of HIIT on people with chronic schizophrenia. This study found that many people with psychological problems had very little motivation to exercise. These people felt that working out took too much time.
The beauty of HIIT is that it takes very little time. This fact alone can help people who lack motivation.
The Time Factor
As we mentioned, HIIT workouts are incredibly time-efficient. Soccer players must train both on and off the field. So, it’s helpful that this workout doesn’t take too much time.
One study in 2014 found that all you need to do is 30 minutes, three times a week to see the benefits. And out of that 30-minute session, you only need to do 10 minutes of intense exercise.
If you begin a HIIT program for soccer players, you will start to notice the benefits in just a matter of weeks.
How Long Are HIIT Workouts?
Most HIIT routines are between 15 and 45 minutes in length. The workouts that we will go over today are each about 30 minutes long. The core HIIT workout is just 10 minutes long.
How Often Should Soccer Players Do HIIT Workouts?
We recommend doing these intense workouts three to four days a week. Be sure to give your body at least one day of rest in between each session.
Exercises the Pros Do to Improve Speed, Endurance, and Agility
We have divided these exercises into three separate HIIT workouts that you can do each week. Because they are so intense, you must give your body plenty of time to rest and recover. As well as a description of how to do each exercise, there is a link to a youtube video showing you how to do each training activity as well.
Exercise For Speed
Have you ever wondered how superstar players like Kylian Mbappe can leave defenders in the dust with their astounding bursts of speed? Well, they do it by training for speed.
These next three exercises are designed to increase your acceleration. That means that you will be able to fly past the defense and reach those long passes.
1. Single-Leg Squats
The first exercise that you should add to your HIIT workout is the single-leg squat. This exercise will help soccer players build power in their runs. When you set out to sprint, you are putting all of your strength and power into one leg at a time.
Regular squats or jumping squats are beneficial too, because they activate key muscles like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. But doing the squats with a single leg allows you to train each leg independently to take on your full bodyweight just like you do when you take off for a sprint.
To do this exercise, you will begin by standing on one leg. Hold the other leg out in front of you, the higher, the better.
Then slowly bend your supporting leg the same way you do in a regular squat. Try to keep your bodyweight focused on your heel to activate the glutes. You can hold your arms out in front of you to help with balance.
Go as low as you can and then slowly rise back to the starting position.
For your HIIT workout, you should do the single-leg squats for 45 seconds. Then rest for 15 seconds before you repeat on the other leg.
2. Dumbbell Bench Step-Ups
The next exercise that you should do for speed is dumbbell bench step-ups. The fitness and conditioning coach of Manchester United, Tony Strudwick, says that this exercise helps develop the muscle groups that you use when you go from a sprint to a jump like you do when you go for that set-piece header.
Begin this exercise by standing next to a bench and holding a pair of dumbbells by your sides. If you don’t have any dumbbells and need to get hold of some I recommend these ones from Amazon.
Step on the bench with one foot and bring the other foot up into an elevated position. Hold your balance for one to two seconds and then lower back to the ground.
You should do these step-ups for 45 seconds. Then rest for 15 seconds before repeating on the other leg.
3. Weighted Sled Drag
Weighted sled drags are another exercise that you should add to your HIIT routine. This one is great because it puts heavy resistance on all of the muscle groups that you need to propel forward, including the glutes, calves, core, shoulders, and back.
When you work these muscles hard, you will get a big payoff in acceleration. This exercise will increase your ground reaction forces and power output.
To do this exercise, you will attach a harness to your torso. This one on Amazon is a great option if you’re looking to buy one.
The harness will connect to a weighted sled with two cords. When you first begin, you should go light. If you go too heavy, it will impede your ability to sprint.
Once you’re all hooked up, lean forward and take quick small steps forward, pulling the sled with you.
As you gain speed, make your strides longer. You should maintain consistent pressure to keep the sled from moving side to side.
When you add this to your HIIT routine, you will run for about 50 yards, then stop and repeat. Rest no longer than 15 seconds in between sprints.
Exercise For Endurance
This next set of exercises is designed to improve your stamina. Soccer games are 90 minutes long. If you want to be able to play at the highest level for an entire game, then you must have plenty of endurance.
These three exercises will help you build the stamina that it takes to complete a high-intensity game. Training this way ensures that you will have the energy to make it the final whistle.
1. HIIT on the Treadmill
This first exercise is a HIIT workout all on its own. One of the reasons that we love HIIT so much for soccer players is that it mimics the rhythms of a real soccer game. In a soccer game, you will vary from walking around the field to sprinting in the box.
Training this way on the treadmill will condition your body to be able to switch from anaerobic to aerobic systems and back again quickly. This workout will teach your body to use oxygen more efficiently. That will help you with all of the sudden changes of pace in a game.
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To do this workout, you will begin by setting the treadmill to a one percent incline. Start slow and then build speed as you run moderately for about 10 minutes. Once you’re warmed up, run for 30 seconds at your max speed.
Then return to a walk or slow jog for three minutes.
You will repeat this exercise four to six times.
2. Burpee Pull-Ups
This next exercise is a favorite of Cristiano Ronaldo’s, and it’s a killer. These burpee pull-ups will push your body to the limit. They work several muscle groups, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, arms, and chest.
Burpee pull-ups are particularly great for conditioning and stamina. They will quickly increase your heart rate the same way that dashing for the ball does in a real game.
To do this exercise stand directly under a pull-up bar with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Place both hands on the ground and jump your feet back so that your toes, thighs, and stomach are all touching the floor with your elbows bent.
Next, use your triceps to do a push-up. Allow your hips to lift so that you can jump your feet back underneath you. As you stand up, jump and catch the pull-up bar overhead. In one smooth movement, pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar.
Then drop back to the ground to the starting position and repeat.
To add these to your HIIT workout, do the exercise for 45 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds before you repeat.
Have a look at this pull-up bar on Amazon if you need one.
3. Lateral Band Walks
Lateral band walks are another exercise that you should do work on stamina. This exercise activates the medial glutes. Strengthening these muscles will prevent you from getting injured either from overstretching and muscle fatigue or from the punishing soccer cleat of a flying defender.
To do this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. These ones of Amazon is a great option.
Start by placing the band either around your ankles or above your knees. Keeping your knees bent and your feet about shoulder-width apart, slowly step out to the side while keeping your toes facing forward.
You will take five to 10 steps to one side and then repeat traveling to the other side. Be sure that you keep your feet at least a few inches apart so that you maintain tension in the resistance band.
To add this exercise to your HIIT routine, do the side steps for one minute and then rest for 15 seconds before repeating.
Exercise For Agility
The soccer players that are the most exciting to watch are the ones who display amazing feats of agility. There’s nothing like watching a player dance around the ball while darting between defenders. Their superhuman agility is the reason that they call soccer “the beautiful game.”
But excellent balance, footwork, and the ability to change direction on a dime don’t just happen by chance. They happen because the pros dedicate time in the gym to work on it.
These next three exercises will help you to perfect your technique.
1. Medicine Ball Push-Ups
Now I know what you’re thinking. How do push-ups help with agility? Well, these aren’t your ordinary push-ups. The medicine ball push-ups are excellent for building your core strength. A strong core is required for every aspect of the game.
And on top of that, this exercise is great for balance and stability. That means you will be able to make those quick turns and change of direction without falling flat on your face. Gareth Bale does this exercise for that very reason.
To do the medicine ball push-ups, place both of your hands on the ball. Try to keep your hands as close together as possible. Then get into a plank position, balancing on your toes and the ball.
Slowly lower your chest until it touches the ball, and then push back up to the starting position. You must use equal pressure on both arms. This will prevent the ball from trolling out from under you.
Have a look at this medicine ball on Amazon if you need one.
2. Lateral Hurdle Sprints
Lateral hurdle sprints are the next exercise that you should be doing to work on agility.
This exercise will help you not only to be quick on your feet but also to be accurate with your foot placement. We use the hurdles because they force you to pick your feet up higher than normal. If you want to dodge those sliding tackles while not losing your momentum, then you need to do this exercise.
These ones from Amazon would be a great option.
Start by placing mini hurdles on the ground, lined up with about a foot between each one. Then as quickly as you can step over each hurdle with one foot before bringing the other foot along in the same direction.
You should travel both to the left and right. And as you get more comfortable with the movement, you should increase your speed.
To do this exercise in your HIIT workout, you should run back and forth over the hurdles for 45 seconds, followed by a 15-second rest period. Repeat at least five times.
3. Forward-Backward Sprints
The truth about soccer is that you won’t always be in possession of the ball. There will be times when you need to sprint both forward and backward.
Forward-backward sprints will help you to make abrupt changes in direction. This exercise is excellent for training your body to move in any direction quickly.
Sprinting backward particularly helps to build muscle memory. That means that you will be able to keep your eyes on an oncoming striker without losing pace.
To do this exercise, start by placing four or five cones in a line about 20 meters apart. Then stand behind the first cone. Sprint forward to the second cone. Once you reach the second cone, travel around it and sprint backward back to the starting position. Try to sprint as fast as you can.
Repeat this exercise sprinting forward to each cone and then sprint backward to the starting spot. You will travel the furthest distance when you reach the final cone.
One time through all of the cones is one set. Rest for 30 seconds between sets. And do five to eight sets in total.
Have a look at these cones on Amazon if you need some.
10-Minute Core Workout
Now that you’ve worked your aerobic and anaerobic systems, it’s time to focus on your core. As I mentioned, your core is vital to every single aspect of soccer.
Your core involves a lot more than just your abs. Core muscles also include your obliques, back, hips, and hip flexors, all of which are important for soccer players.
We recommend this short, intense 10-minute workout. You will do each exercise for 45 seconds with a 15-second rest in between each one.
Start the V-ups by laying down on your back with your arms raised overhead. Then, keeping your core tight bring both your arms and legs off of the ground in one smooth movement. At the top of the exercise, your body will be balanced on your glutes in the shape of a V, hence the name.
Then slowly lower back down to the beginning position, keeping your arms and legs straight.
This is an advanced exercise. To protect your lower back, you must keep your core tight throughout the movement.
2. Up and Down Planks
Up and down planks are the next exercise in this circuit. Planks are excellent for the entire core plus your arms and chest.
Begin this exercise by getting into a push-up or plank position, balanced on your hands and toes. Be sure that your body is in a straight line from your heels to your head.
From there, you will lower one arm down to your elbow. Do the same with the other arm so that you are in a low plank. Using the same arm you started with raise back up to your hand and repeat with the other arm.
Each time that you lower to your elbows, you should lead with a different arm.
Like with all of the exercises in this HIIT workout, you should keep your abs pulled in tight.
3. Russian Twists
The next interval will include Russian twists. To do this exercise, you can hold a soccer ball, or you can make it even more challenging by holding a medicine ball.
Start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Holding the ball in front of your belly button and leaning back slightly, lift your feet off of the ground so that you are balanced on your glutes.
You will then twist your body side to side, bringing the ball to touch the ground next to your hips. Make sure that you keep the movement in control. You want to move quickly, but not so fast that you allow momentum to take over.
4. Side Planks
Side planks are next. This exercise will work your obliques. It’s also great for balance and stability.
Start by lying on the floor on your side with your elbow on the ground directly under your shoulder and your legs extended. Balancing on your foot and elbow, slowly lift your hips and legs off of the ground.
You want your body to be in a straight line from your feet to your head.
You will do the side plank on your right side for 45 seconds, followed by a 15-second rest, and then repeat on the left side.
5. Scissor Kicks
The next exercise in this HIIT workout is scissor kicks. This one will work your lower abs and hip flexors.
Start by laying on the floor with your legs extended and your arms by your sides. Keeping your lower back firmly on the ground, lift your legs up to about a 45-degree angle.
With straight legs, you will then scissor your feet crossing one leg over the other, repeating on both sides.
6. Bridge with Reverse Crunch
Bridges with reverse crunches will work your lower abs and glutes. This is a compound movement that incorporates two different exercises.
Start by laying on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Slowly lift your back into a bridge, keeping your core tight and squeezing your glutes. Then lower back to the starting position.
From there, you will lift your feet and do a reverse crunch. The movement should initiate from your lower trunk.
7. Medicine Ball Throw-Ups
Medicine ball throw-ups are next. You will start this one by sitting with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Hold the ball in front of your stomach. Slowly roll down to lying on your back.
You will then do a sit-up. At the top of the movement, throw the ball straight up into the air. Catch the ball as you lower down to your back and repeat for 45 seconds.
8. Leg Lift Circles
The next exercise in this HIIT workout is leg lift circles. This one is great for your lower abs and obliques.
Begin by lying on the floor on your back with your arms by your side. If you need some extra support for your lower back, you can place your hands under your glutes.
Keeping your legs straight and together, you will lift them to about 45 degrees. This exercise is similar to leg lifts, but instead of going up and down with your legs, you are going to move them in a circle.
You will do four circles in one direction and then four circles in the other direction and repeat for 45 seconds.
The final exercise in this circuit is the superman. This one works your glutes and lower back.
Begin by laying on the floor on your stomach with your arms raised overhead. Slowly lift your arms and legs as high as you can go and hold for a second before returning to the starting position.
A Final Thought
Because HIIT workouts are so intense, you should only do them three to four times per week. We recommend doing the speed exercises on day one, then take a day of rest. On day three, do the endurance exercises followed by another day of rest. And then do the agility exercises on day five.
You can do the core workout at the end of each HIIT workout.
These are all exercises that the pros do because they have been proven to be effective. If you want to look and perform like them, then you should do them too.
And to make this even easier for you, I created the 30-day Soccer Fitness Guide. This program gives you a new fitness routine each day that builds on the previous day’s activity and guides you along the journey of becoming the best soccer player than you can be.
It’s time to stop messing around, join the professionals, and actually follow a fitness program that works. Get your 30-day soccer-focused fitness guide here and start to achieve what you’ve dreamed of.
For more great soccer tips check out my article 21 soccer tips you need to know!
If you’re interested in the drills pro soccer players do then click here to check out my article on the best 10 soccer drills.