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Strength Training for Soccer

 What the rest of the world calls football, in the United States it’s known as soccer.  While soccer was at first slow to attract fans, today, according to the FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), the United States has more official soccer players than any other nation in the world – 18 million.  No other sport crosses so many cultural boundaries, and it’s no surprise that it’s the fastest growing team sport in the United States.

The Education of A Strength Coach

Recently, I was commissioned by a family to prepare their two teenage daughters for the coming soccer season.  As I wrote in an earlier post, women have an increased risk of ACL injuries  due to biomechanical issues and faulty strength and conditioning training.  The parent’s goal:  maximize their daughters athletic potential and minimize their risk of injury.  To achieve their goals, they hired me.



The Leg Extension

Unfortunately, the leg extension is extremely popular with personal trainers, believing it will improve one’s kicking strength.  But if these personal trainers had even a rudimentary grasp of anatomy, they’d understand that power, maximum shooting and passing accuracy stems from the muscles involved with hip extension and flexion. 

The following photo proves my point.  Notice how far back the player has drawn her leg, generating strength from her hips, not her quadriceps.

Because your body is supported while performing the leg extensions, numerous stabilizer, neutralizer, and antagonist muscles are not recruited.  This will lead to offset strength ratios.  Risk of injury also greatly increases, because during a leg extension, there is minimal activation of the hamstrings and maximal activation of the quadriceps, generating massive shear forces on your ACLs. 


The Split Squat 

The split squat, like the kicking actions in soccer, requires the synchronization of numerous muscles to both stabilize and produce multiple joint actions.  Leg extensions require the use of only one muscle group, the quadriceps, to perform one joint action, extend the knee. 

Making split squats a regular part of your training program, will greatly increase your kicking strength, power, flexibility, and reduce your risk of injuring your knees and ankles.  This is especially important for women, who due to biomechanical issues, already have an increased risk of ACL injuires.


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