How To Get In Shape For Soccer

Post title over image of soccer field

Getting in shape for soccer is entirely possible. If you follow the right steps and routine along with a well-disciplined schedule, you can make it happen.

I wanted to put together this article to help you understand what is involved in getting fit, specifically for soccer. Let’s take a look at how you can do this.

The best way to get in shape for soccer is to combine high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with a focus around groups, including strength, leg, and agility training. This combination is the most efficient and most effective way to get fit for soccer.

This entire article will be focused on how you should train your body to get into shape for soccer.

We will discuss the benefits of high-intensity interval training and why you need to base your training program around this form of exercise if you are serious about getting in shape. 

So, whether you are a beginner who is just starting out or a soccer player getting ready for a new season, this article is perfect for you.

To make this as easy as possible for you, I have put together a 30-day soccer fitness program that takes you, step by step, through a soccer-focused fitness routine based around HIIT.

There is no need to spend months struggling to get in shape when you can take a giant leap forward in just one month.

Find out more about this 30-day program here, or sign up here and receive the first 5 days completely for free.

What Is The Best Workout For Soccer Players?

Whether you are playing high school, college, or league soccer, you want to be in shape to be fully prepared for soccer.

As I just mentioned, combining HIIT with a focus on specific groups is the most effective way to get in shape for soccer. But before we look at why HIIT is so effective, let’s start by looking at why working out in groups.

As I mentioned above, there are four groups that you need to focus on when trying to get into shape for soccer.

These groups are:

  1. Legs
  2. Strength
  3. Endurance
  4. Agility

Let’s take a closer look at each of these groups.

Leg Workouts

When it comes to soccer, it may seem pretty obvious that almost everything you do involves your legs. Everything from running to kicking the ball is all done with the lower part of your body. 

That is why it is essential to get your legs into the right condition for soccer training and be ready for any upcoming matches.

What I mean by this is that you need to get them to the point where they are strong enough and also fit enough to endure the entirety of the training and matches. 

To help you with this, here is a list of exercises that you should do for your legs to prepare them for strength and fitness. 

I’ve included workouts that you can do with weights and some that you can do with your body-weight.

  • Leg press: Start off by doing light weights. This exercise is a great way to start building strength in your upper legs.
  • Calf raises: Again, start light. Calf raises are extremely important. If you have no strength in your calves, your running will be held back.
  • Squats: You could do this with or without weights. 
  • Lunges: If you choose to use weights, use a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lateral lunges: If you are using weights, use one dumbbell and hold it against your chest.

Strength Workouts

For some people, it may not seem obvious at first that you should work on strength training. It’s not common to see soccer players that look like bodybuilders, right?!

But depending on your position, the importance of body strength can make a significant difference.

Athletic lab states that:

“In soccer, core strength not only can impact the athlete’s ability to move fast and change direction quickly but is vital to the ability to win tackles.”

Strength is vital in soccer because you don’t want another player to easily push you off the ball. 

Many challenges, especially when chasing the ball, can be won by using your body strength. When running shoulder to shoulder with your opponent, often the stronger player will win.

Have a look at my article on using your shoulder in soccer to find out what is and what isn’t allowed.

One of the best workouts you can do for strength training is deadlifts: This is a full-body workout that will increase your core strength. 

Make sure you start off light and do not overdo it. 

Other key areas to focus on include:

  • chest,
  • arms,
  • shoulders,
  • back,
  • and obviously legs.

Endurance Workouts

Exercise for endurance

What endurance training will do for you is to allow you to manage yourself better when you start to feel fatigued. 

Basically, you could think of this as having “heart.”

Being able to go a full 90 minutes in a match is something that will allow you to truly stand out.

The less tired you are, the more impact you will have on the game. As I point out in my 30-day training, “a fitter player is a better player.”

Sports Science Supports states that one of the reasons a high level of endurance helps a player is that it promotes:

“faster recovery from the high-intensity work during the game’s less intense periods.”

Basically, having a high level allows you to recover quickly when your body has the chance and means you are ready to go again at full throttle when you are needed.

Further down in this article, we’ll look in more detail at high-intensity interval training. But believe it or not, interval fitness and be great for increasing your endurance levels.

Peak Endurance Sport say that:

“In recent years, a growing body of evidence has accumulated showing that performing regular bouts of high-intensity interval training is an extremely effective training tool for endurance athletes seeking to maximize performance.”

You don’t have to spend hours running long distances (as I explain in this article), but a highly specialized fitness program focused on HIIT training, such as this one, will give you everything you need for the soccer field.

For more information on improving your endurance, check out my guide on how to increase stamina for soccer.

Agility Workouts

exercise for agility

The fourth training group to focus on is agility.

The Sport Journal states that:

“Agility is the player’s capability to perform rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus.”

The Journal also goes on to say that

“Agility is one of the main determinants of performance in soccer. It can be successfully developed if the training is based on the changes of direction, which are done quickly and easily. By working on Agility and improving the balance and coordination, soccer players will be able to move faster and change directions more quickly while maintaining control.”

Improving your agility can make all the difference to your ability on the soccer field.

One way to keep on top of this is to make sure you do a lot of stretching before and after any training and exercise.

Stretching will help with your agility and flexibility. This has the added bonus of also helping prevent any injuries.

And to see how quickly you are improving, you may want to check out my article about the best GPS fitness trackers for soccer players to see why all the pros use them and why you should too.

Why High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Is The Best Way To Get Fit For Soccer

Now we’ve understood what we need to know about groups. Let’s look at HIIT, as interval training deserves its own section in this article.

There are several reasons why HIIT is so good when you are trying to prepare for soccer.

  1. It makes your endurance (running) training a lot easier.
  2. Increases your lung capacity, which is vital for fitness.
  3. Increases blood flow.
  4. It is similar to soccer. HIIT is stop and go, so is soccer.

For a moment, I just want you to imagine a game of soccer being played.

When you watch soccer, you will notice one thing compared to other sports that assume running as their fundamental movement. 

Soccer players sprint multiple times during a 90 minute game with intervals of rest or jogging in-between.

A player is not continually running in a soccer game, but instead, they are regularly stopping and going. This is the reason why HIIT is so effective for getting in shape for soccer.

High-intensity interval training is the closest exercise to what it’s like to play soccer. In soccer, a player combines short bursts of intense running with a lot of walking and jogging in between. That is essentially the same thing as high-intensity interval training.

Soccer Is an Anaerobic Exercise at Its Core

Other sports such as triathlons, field hockey, pentathlons, track and field, and cycling also use the legs. But, at their core, these sports are fundamentally different when viewed from the perspective of how the body processes energy for soccer and these sports. 

These sports utilize the aerobic (with oxygen) system of the body to process energy (processes energy gradually). On the other hand, soccer uses the anaerobic system to process energy (it processes energy fast).

Soccer is one of the highest impact sports in terms of high-intensity training for an extended period. Professional soccer players are by far some of the fittest athletes in the world.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise, What Is the Difference?

anaerobic vs aerobic

If we are really going to understand why this is so important to get in shape for soccer, we need to understand the differences between anaerobic and aerobic exercise to precisely see how they differ.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to sufficiently meet the body’s energy demands by breaking down glucose in the blood. (Glucose is sugar at a molecular level that powers the body.) [source]

The body’s heart rate while utilizing the aerobic system is at 70% of its maximum rate.

At this rate, the body burns energy at a moderate pace and can be sustained for very long periods. Regular cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, swimming, and cycling are forms of aerobic exercise. 

Aerobic exercise is also the best way to burn fat.

Once the body runs out of readily available energy, such as glucose, it can break down fat without depleting glycogen levels and turning to protein (muscle), the easiest source of energy to burn and break down.

Anaerobic exercise 

Anaerobic exercise (without oxygen) is where the amount of oxygen taken in is not enough to meet its demand. [source] 

This is fast and intense exercise.

Since the body has to get energy from somewhere and the glucose is not breaking down fast enough, the body turns to glycogen (short-term stored sugar) to break down quickly. When that is gone, it will break down muscle and fatty acids. 

Glycogen can break down and produce energy very fast.

But the downside is that it is in short supply, muscles tire quickly, and a by-product is produced called lactic acid. Lactic acid gets stored in the muscles.

Lactic acid is the sore feeling you get in your muscles the following day after a high-intensity workout. [source]

Anaerobic Exercise for Soccer Fitness

(Ok, so back to soccer!)

Since soccer utilizes the anaerobic system, it can be challenging to get fit, especially seeing that a soccer match’s length is 90 minutes. 

So, how do we get fit for soccer without playing soccer in the off-season, or how do we get ready for soccer?

Fast and intense HIIT exercise is the best way to get fit for a sport, such as soccer, that utilizes the anaerobic system as its energy source. 

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT definition

HIIT training uses the anaerobic system to process energy.

It consists of fast, high-intensity short intervals where you push your body to its max level. You then rest for a short duration, repeating the process repeatedly for a sustained period of time. [source]

The intervals where you push your body are usually between 20 seconds to 1 minute.

During these periods, you will push your body as fast as it can go and to its limits.

The rest intervals could vary in time, depending on how exhausted you are or how hard you want to push your body. The resting intervals could either be a form of aerobic exercise or complete rest, again depending on the workout’s pace and intensity and how your body can cope.

What Types of HIIT Training Programs Are There?

You should keep in mind that all you have to do to achieve this is to pick an exercise and push your body as hard and fast to a point where it does not use oxygen to process energy.

Then you have to take that exercise and repeat it through intervals over a sustained period of time for no less than 20 minutes.  

So, in essence, depending on how you want to strengthen your body, you would do sports-specific fast exercises that target the part of the body you want to work.

These exercises could include:

  • weights,
  • kettlebells,
  • Bosu balls,
  • jump ropes,
  • resistance bands,
  • or they could not include any equipment at all. 

There are multiple examples of exercises that you could do without weights that could fall into a HIIT program and help you get in shape for soccer. 

These exercises would include: 

  • jumping jacks, 
  • burpees, 
  • sprinting in one spot, 
  • sprinting short distances, 
  • fast push-ups, 
  • quick lunges over a short distance, 
  • and jump squats. 

For soccer, these exercises are great, and they are compound exercises on top of that (they work multiple muscle groups).

Exercises with equipment could include doing circuit machines and weights to strengthen specific muscle groups.

They could also include:

  • jumping rope,
  • squatting,
  • and lunging on a Bosu ball. 

One last type of program that is HIIT loosely based on is cross fit. Although cross fit has developed into its own form of exercise utilizing gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting movements. 

HIIT training is more based on speed and uses the anaerobic energy system  

How Long Will HIIT Training Take to Get You in Shape?

How long it will take you to get fit using HIIT depends on a few factors.

If you are overweight and do not eat correctly, HIIT training, I’m afraid to say, is a bit out of reach until you have reached a normal BMI for your height and age and sufficiently done aerobic cardiovascular exercise.

If, however, you are an average person with a normal BMI, then HIIT training can make you fit fast. 

Very fast, in fact. 

Because you are pushing your body to such extremes very quickly when performing HIIT training, if you take the time afterward to rest and recover, you can get fit within a matter of weeks. 

This is because your cardiovascular system has to adapt quickly to cope with HIIT training strengthening your heart and lungs in a short amount of time.

This is also the reason I created the 30-day Soccer Fitness Guide based around HIIT.

Ebook image

I want to help you increase your fitness fast and enable you to see the results on the soccer field in a matter of weeks. No more endlessly long runs that are not even similar to what you have to do on the soccer field!

If you’re specifically looking to get fit after a period out of the game, check out my article: How to get BACK in Shape for Soccer)

How Long Should You Do HIIT For?

A great aspect of high-intensity interval training is that you don’t need a lot of time to experience the benefits of the exercises.

So, where most people go to the gym or do exercises for up to 1 and 1/2 hours, you don’t need to set aside that much time with HIIT.

HIIT is perfect for people with busy lives because they only need about 30 minutes of training each day to receive even more benefits than regular exercise would have given them over a greater period of time.

In fact, Men’s Journal says that you should not do HIIT for more than 30 minutes a day due to the risk of injury.

Now, although HIIT will play a significant role in your journey of getting fit for soccer, there is another significant area to focus on as well. That is your nutritional intake.

Nutrition Needed for Getting Soccer Fit Fast

The most important aspect of getting fit for soccer fast is understanding that the body uses a different energy system (anaerobic) to the aerobic system. You need to exercise utilizing the anaerobic system if you want to get fit fast.

However, a diet will have a massive effect on your fitness intensity, recovery, and longevity. [source]

Diet plays a role in all forms of exercise and sport, and soccer is no different. 

If you are doing an insane amount of HIIT training, then carbs are your friend (not doughnuts and milkshakes, though) because they give you an abundance of energy that you need for fast HIIT training. 

There are different diets available that you can check out but make sure that you eat enough high-quality carbs for energy and that when you are training, you drink lots of water and perhaps have an energy drink or two (not red bull!).


In conclusion, I just want to add one more thing. I mentioned this in a previous post but wanted to reinforce it again because I believe it is so important. There is a huge misconception that getting in shape for soccer is impossible for people with certain body types.

This misconception plays a huge factor in the number of people who give up before even starting.

With the right program, you could really quickly get in shape no matter what body type you have. You can also get to the point where being in shape becomes natural to you, and you don’t have to work as hard for it anymore.

Follow an appropriate fitness program that utilizes HIIT, and combine that with good healthy nutritional intake (including more carbs than would typically be allowed if you’re doing HIIT!), and you should find yourself getting in shape in no time at all!

Don’t forget to check out my 30-Day Soccer Fitness Guide to give your fitness the boost it needs, and have a look at one of the following articles to increase your knowledge and understanding in this area as well.

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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