Speed training for soccer players is more than flying through sprint drills.
It is more than strapping on parachutes.
It is more than ladder drills.
It is more than plyometric training and box jumps.
Soccer is a dynamic game, and the actions that make or break a win or loss are ones that involve speed and power. A counterattack. A diagonal run onto a through ball. A cross from the winger. A one-versus-one victory. A rocketed shot into the corner.
The more we can design a multi-faceted program for soccer athletes that blends strength and power training, the more we can optimize their neuromuscular efficiency, ability to produce force, and most critically, enhance their speed and power for these exhilarating actions.
Now, none of this is to say ladder, sprint and plyometric drills do not have their place. In fact, ladders are excellent for improving contralateral coordination, sprints are very much required for exposing players to maximal speed, and plyometric drills are stellar for optimizing fast-twitch muscle fiber production via the stretch shortening cycle.
Contrast Training is a way to tie all these attributes together inside the weight room. Contrast Training entails pairing a heavy strength exercise with an explosive power exercise to enhance post-activation potentiation of the muscular system. The strength exercise fires up the nervous system, which allows for faster contractions during the explosive movement.
For soccer players, Contrast Training is a technique you can use in the weight room on your non-practice days. One of the beauties of Contrast Training is that it isn't overly complicated, but it can get some amazing results when done right.
With that in mind, here are three Contrast Training pairings that can build more explosive soccer players.
1. Deadlifts and Hex Bar Jumps
The Deadlift is one of the best strength exercises to build the hamstrings and glutes, which are key muscles involved in acceleration and speed. Pairing a Deadlift at 85-90% of an athlete's one-rep max with a low-load jump proves to be a deadly combination for improving rate of force development in the muscles, as well as honing in on triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips.
How to Use It: Perform 1-3 reps of a Deadlift at 85-90% of your one-rep max. Rest for 20-30 seconds. Next, perform 5-6 reps of a Hex Bar Jump.
2. Lateral Lunge and Skater Jumps
Moving in the frontal plane is something soccer players need to do more of in the gym. Being able to produce force side to side will improve change of direction and soccer-specific skills (shuffling, one-versus-ones, cutting).
How to Use It: Perform 4-6 reps of a Lateral Lunge with a challenging-yet-manageable weight. Rest for 20-30 seconds. Next, perform 8-10 total reps of a Skater Jump.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat and Broad Jump
Force vector angles absolutely matter when it comes to building faster athletes, so make sure your Contrast Training includes elements of producing horizontal force.
The Bulgarian Split Squat is an excellent strength exercise for building quadriceps and glute strength. While it is not a horizontal force exercise, the Broad Jump is. The Broad Jump is the perfect horizontal power exercise to enhance the contractile rate in these muscle groups for improved acceleration and "first step" speed.
How to Use It: Perform 4-6 reps of the Bulgarian Split Squat with a challenging-yet-manageable weight. Rest for 20-30 seconds. Next, perform 4-6 Broad Jumps.
Keep in mind Contrast Training is just one method to improve explosiveness in soccer players, and it must be incorporated into a comprehensive speed training program that includes on-field maximal speed, resisted sprint, and acceleration and drills. A nice sample plan would have 2-3 days of Contrast Training with strength and power work in the gym, and two days of speed/agility training out on the field..
Photo Credit: Ismailciydem/IStock
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