Strength and conditioning in soccer: Pumping up the little beasts!

Jun 10, 2023

The age-old question: When do we start turning our soccer players into mini Haalands? 

The answer is a bit more nuanced than a specific age. Generally speaking, there is a common sense thinking that strength and conditioning exercises can be introduced at around 7 or 8 years old. At this age, it’s crucial to keep the exercises fun and engaging, so young players stay interested and motivated. Not every kid is so fond of running, sprints and lunges. You want them motivated and not looking at their watch at every minute.

Picture this: a group of pint-sized soccer players, all geared up and ready to conquer the field. Now, let’s add a dash of strength and conditioning to the mix. We’re not talking about little bodybuilders in the making. We want them to have fun while getting stronger.

At around 7 or 8 years old, it’s time to introduce some playful strength and conditioning exercises. Think of it as a game, where they get to be superheroes in training. Jumping over hurdles, doing crab walks, or even squats – make it a laughter-filled adventure! (find below some tips)

As our soccer stars grow older, around 12-14 years old, we can turn up the intensity (just a tad). It’s time to unleash their inner little superheroe with exercises like lunges, sprints, and explosive jumps. But remember, we’re not aiming for Arnold Schwarzenegger here; it’s about building power and speed while having a blast.

Let’s not forget the importance of proper supervision. We need our young athletes to stay safe and injury-free. So, bring in the coaches and trainers who can guide them through these muscle-building shenanigans.
Additionally, warming up and cooling down are critical components of any strength and conditioning program. Young athletes should always stretch and limber up before and after training to prevent injuries and improve flexibility.  Stretching routines for youth athletes

So, there you have it – the age-old mystery of when to start strength and conditioning in soccer, cracked wide open. Remember, it’s all about making fitness fun and helping our little players become agile, powerful, and injury-resistant on the field.

In conclusion, introducing strength and conditioning exercises at a young age can help young athletes develop their skills, prevent injuries, and improve performance. While there’s no specific age to start, it’s essential to keep the exercises fun and engaging, with proper supervision and attention to safety. By building strength and agility in young soccer players, we can help them become better athletes and enjoy the sport for years to come.

A few tips. For the youngest:

Animal Walks: Have players imitate various animal movements, such as bear crawls, crab walks, frog jumps, and duck waddles. This adds an element of playfulness while working on strength and coordination.

Obstacle Course: Set up an obstacle course using cones, agility hurdles, and other objects. Have players navigate through the course while performing different soccer-related tasks like dribbling, shooting, and passing.

Simon Says Fitness: Play a game of “Simon Says” where the leader gives fitness-related commands like “Simon says do five jumping jacks” or “Simon says hold a plank for 10 seconds.” This engages players’ minds while incorporating fitness exercises.

Soccer Yoga: Incorporate yoga poses into a soccer-themed routine. For example, have players hold a tree pose while balancing on one leg and pretending to juggle an imaginary soccer ball. This enhances flexibility, balance, and body awareness.

Soccer Tag: Play a game of tag where players must dribble the ball while avoiding being tagged by the “it” player. This combines fitness with soccer skills and keeps players engaged and active.

For our less young athletes

Hurdle Jumps: Set up a series of small hurdles or cones and have players jump over them in quick succession, focusing on explosiveness and coordination.

Squat Jumps: Ask players to perform squats and then explode into a jump, reaching as high as possible. This exercise helps develop leg power and explosiveness.

Ladder Drills: Use an agility ladder or create one using cones to perform various footwork drills, such as high knees, lateral shuffles, and quick steps. This improves agility, coordination, and quickness.

Plank Variations: Have players perform planks in different positions, such as front planks, side planks, and plank rotations. These exercises strengthen the core muscles, essential for stability and injury prevention.

Shuttle Runs: Set up two cones a distance apart and have players sprint back and forth, touching each cone. This drill enhances speed, acceleration, and endurance.

Medicine Ball Throws: Provide players with a lightweight medicine ball and have them perform various throwing exercises, such as overhead throws, chest passes, and rotational throws. This develops upper body strength and power.

Single-Leg Balance: Ask players to balance on one leg while performing various movements, such as reaching forward, sideways, or rotating. This drill improves balance, stability, and ankle strength.

Resistance Band Exercises: Utilize resistance bands for exercises like lateral walks, resisted squats, and standing leg kicks. Resistance bands add resistance to movements, building strength and stability.

And remember always to prioritize safety and provide proper supervision during these drills to ensure the well-being of our young athletes.