How to Get Back in Shape for Soccer: A Player’s Top Tips

Getting back in shape for soccer is entirely achievable. If you know what you are doing, you follow the right steps, and proper routine along with a well-disciplined schedule, you will be back in shape in no time at all.

To make this as simple as possible, I’ve put together this guide to show you how it’s done. So, let’s take a look at how you can get back in shape for soccer.

To get back in shape for soccer, you should follow a high-intensity interval training program. This form of exercise is perfect for getting back in shape because it raises your fitness levels to meet the demands of playing soccer. Additionally, you should eat a healthy diet to optimize your progress.

I’ve created this guide to show you the best way of training your body to get you fit again to play soccer. 

To help with this, I will cover four specific areas to focus on for your development.

I’ll also explain why following a HIIT program is the ideal option to see your fitness return in the shortest amount of time possible. And direct you to a 30-day soccer-specific workout program that will walk you through the exact steps you need to take each day.

So, whether you haven’t played for 6 months or 6 years this article is perfect for you.

Post title over image of soccer training session

Let’s start by looking at the main four things you should do to return to your previous level of fitness.

Four Areas to Focus on to Get Back in Shape for Soccer

The importance of getting in shape before you start playing competitive soccer again can not be overstated.

If you’re not fit enough then playing will be hard, you may struggle, and are unlikely to enjoy the game anyway near as much.

There are four areas I recommend focusing on to increase your fitness levels.

  • Your diet and nutrition
  • Your agility
  • Strength training
  • And cardio

Focussing on these four areas will give you the best chance of getting back to full fitness quickly.

Just remember, to see success you will need to commit to your goal.

It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it to play again at the level you used to play.

1. Your Diet, Nutrition, and Hydration

You may be surprised that I’m starting here, but this really is a key area if you want to see progress.

What you put into your body will directly affect the performance you get out of it in training and during a game.

Eating nutritious food and staying well hydrated will help you feel better and perform better.

I realize that what you consume will be different for everybody. It will depend on your current BMI (Body Mass Index), fitness goals, and desire.

But whether you have a high BMI or an average one, the type of food you need will be more or less the same with just some slight differences.

When you are working on getting back in shape for soccer, you will be doing a lot of working out. To properly recover from and supplement the energy you will be burning, you need to eat a good balance of proteins and carbs among other nutrients.

It can help to look at a professional player’s nutritional intake to get an idea of what would be beneficial. [source]

A well balanced nutritional intake for a soccer player should be:

  • 15% protein
  • 25% fat
  • and 65% Carbohydrates

I recommend aiming for 4 meals a day, with one of those meals being fruit or vegetable snacks. Fruits are a great way of getting natural sugars that will boost your energy levels.

example of nutritious food for soccer players
Example of nutritious food for soccer players

If you are starting from an above-average BMI you may need to shed off the excess weight. Unfortunately, this probably means you will have to work harder on your diet.

Just remember what you’re working toward to give you the incentive you need.

For this, you will likely want to decrease your carb intake a little.

Ideally, you want to eat clean carbs.

A few examples of clean carbs are:

  • Oats
  • Brown Rice instead of White Rice
  • Broccoli
  • Fruits such as apples and bananas.
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Sweet potato instead of regular potatoes.

Hydration also plays a huge role in getting back in shape for soccer.

It is recommended that you drink at least half a gallon (1.9 liters) of water each day.

When you are training you’ll want to consume more than this and drink specifically before, during, and after training.

2. Your Agility

The last thing you want to happen when attempting to regain your fitness is suffering from an injury.

Obviously, this will slow down your progress as you wait to recover. But there are ways to reduce the risk of this happening.

Regular stretching is one option. And it is especially useful because it increases your agility at the same time.

Stretch each day as soon as you get up and before you begin your training. Also, stretch after your workout is complete. This is one of the most effective ways to avoid picking up an injury.

This is really important when you are in training again after a period of reduced activity.

Soccer player stretching on soccer field
Soccer Player Stretching

You should go easy on yourself at first. Listen to your body. You need to build up to the level you were at before. You can’t just jump into it.

Warming up before activity will also be vital and I even recommend stretching before your warm-up. For more tips on this, check out my article – How to Warm Up for Soccer: Step-by-Step Process.

Regular stretching will prevent injury and increase your agility, which is crucial for soccer players. You want to be as flexible as possible on the field.

3. Strength Training

Strength training is often underestimated when it comes to soccer players.

If you are serious about getting back in shape for soccer, you should include strength training in your workout sessions.

To help you get back in shape as fast as possible, you need to know how to accelerate your strength training.

Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

Your first step is to do circuit training with machine weights.

This is reasonably straightforward.

Depending on how fit you currently are, I recommend doing 30 to 40 minutes of circuit training 2 or 3 times a week.

 Soccer Player Strength Training
Soccer Player Strength Training

The length of time you should rest in between sets will depend on your fitness level. But try to keep the rest times as short as you can tolerate.

If you would prefer to use free weights, then you want to superset your exercises.

A superset is where you do one set on one muscle, and then without taking a break, you immediately go into the next one on a different muscle. After this, you will take a 30-second to 1-minute break.

One set becomes a combination of two sets.

Doing this not only speeds up the entire process, but keeps your heart rate and body temperature up, and increases your lung capacity.

You are essentially doing strength training with a little bit of cardio involved as well.

4. Cardio

When it comes to getting fit, any type of cardio is effective.

You should aim to do cardio five days a week. If at first, that is a struggle, then push yourself to do as many cardio sessions as you can. Just remember, you do need at least 1 or 2 rest days each week.

Although any cardio is better than none, there is one type that stands head and shoulders above the rest

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

HIIT is the fastest and most efficient way to increase your heart rate and body temperature, and increase your lung capacity. All of which helps you get in shape.

HIIT is also by far the best type of cardio you can do when looking to get back in shape, specifically for soccer.

Soccer professionals regularly use HIIT to work on their fitness as it accurately simulates the type of activity you face during a soccer game.

Because following a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) based workout program is ideal for getting fit again, let’s have a closer look at this and I’ll also show you how to access my HIIT-based, soccer-focused, workout guide.

Why HIIT Is the Best Way to Get Back in Shape for Soccer

man running up stairs

When getting back in shape, I find it’s best to implement HIIT fitness training because it boosts the particular kind of energy system that the body uses while playing soccer. 

Your body primarily uses the anaerobic system to process energy when playing soccer.

Anaerobic exercise processes energy fast by breaking down glycogen instead of glucose in a player’s blood.

You can find out more about anaerobic vs aerobic exercise in my article – How to get in shape for soccer – or – Why long-distance running is NOT good for soccer players.

The best way to exercise this way is by using HIIT training.

To get back in shape for soccer, you should exercise using this system.

Just think for a moment about how soccer is played at an individual level.

During a soccer game, you are not constantly running. Rather, you are frequently stopping and starting.

Replicating this type of activity is why HIIT is so effective for soccer fitness. 

High-intensity interval training is the closest activity to what it’s like to play a game of soccer. A soccer player regularly undertakes short bursts of intense running with a significant amount of walking and jogging in between. High-intensity interval training is essentially the same.

One thing I really appreciate about high-intensity interval training is that you don’t need a lot of time to reap the benefit of the exercises.

So, instead of being like most people who go to the gym and exercise for anytime between 45 minutes to 2 hours, you don’t need to take that much time out of your day with HIIT.

HIIT is perfect for people with busy schedules because you only need about 30 minutes of training a day to obtain the benefits that regular exercise would give you over a more extended period of time.

If you are trying to get back in shape, HIIT is perfect for you.

To make this as simple as possible for you, I have created a 30-day soccer fitness program that uses HIIT.

ebook cover and text

This 30-day program takes you, step by step, through daily soccer-focused fitness workouts based around HIIT.

Find out more about this 30-day journey to fitness here, or click the button below.

Soccer Drill to Help You Get Back in Shape

Just before I finish, I want to give you a soccer drill you can use that will help increase your fitness.

I included this in my list of the 10 Best Soccer Coaching Drills as it’s perfect for any level of player.

It’s called Dribble-Sprint-Dribble and it works like this.

Purpose of the Drill

The aim of “Dribble-Sprint-Dribble” is to increase a player’s anaerobic fitness.

The beauty of working on a player’s fitness is that it should improve every area of their performance on the field.

A player’s fitness levels determine how long they can keep playing, how quick they are to the ball, and how effective they are with the ball.

Equipment needed: A ball, and a soccer field or two cones

Step-By-Step Walk Through of the Drill – “Dribble-Sprint-Dribble”

run through of Soccer fitness drill
Soccer coaching drill for improving fitness

Step 1 – Positioning

For this drill, you should start on the touchline, or sideline, of the soccer field, have the ball at your feet, and be ready to dribble.

If you don’t have access to a soccer field, any field or flat surface around 50 yards wide will do.

Use two cones to mark the spots 50 yards from each other and then one more cone at the halfway point between them.

Step 2 – Run halfway

With the ball at your feet, dribble as fast as you can toward the halfway point of the field, parallel with the center spot.

At this point, leave the ball and sprint as fast as you can to the opposite touchline.

Step 3 Touch, turn and run

When you have reached the 2nd touchline, you should bend down and touch the line with your hand. After this, turn around as quickly as possible and sprint back to where you left the ball.

Step 4 – Dribble back

When you get back to the ball, dribble back to the original touchline as quickly as possible.

Step 5 – Rest and repeat

When back to where you started, take 30 seconds or 1 minute to catch your breath and then repeat the drill.

Do this 5 times in a row.

As your fitness improves, you may wish to repeat the drill consecutively more than 5 times in one go.


Getting back in shape for soccer is a worthy goal and I’m excited for you to see how far you can go!

If you want to get in shape for soccer, you need to improve your anaerobic ability, and the best form of exercise for that is HIIT training.

Don’t forget to check out my soccer-focused HIIT training program and discover a sure-fire way to get fit fast.

No one ever regretted working on their fitness!

If you want more information on staying fit for soccer, check out one of my previous articles:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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