sport like soccer are incredibly demanding on the body. Players must be continually running around a large field exerting themselves in all kinds of ways, whether it be sprinting, jumping, sliding, tackling, or kicking. The average soccer play will run over eight kilometers in a ninety minute game, and this distance will be covered with all kinds of different speeds and intensities. This is why plyometrics are particularly powerful exercises for the soccer player. In fact they are beneficial for athletes of any sport, so if you are not a soccer player do not be dissuaded. Any sport that requires jumping and sprinting lends itself to plyometric training.
Plyometrics are exercises which harness sudden and powerful movements of the body in order to optimize muscle contraction for the fastest possible movements. Before beginning any plyometric exercise it is important to begin with some light cardio, preferably a light jog, just enough to work up a sweat. It is also important to stretch thoroughly before beginning plyometrics because the high impact of the exercises can be hard on muscles and lead to injury if the muscles are cold.
After warming up there are some very simple plyometric exercises you can try, just to get into the swing of things. For example, you can place your feet together while jumping side to side, then forwards and backwards. Skipping is also a good warm up exercise, just try to get as much distance and height as possible while you’re skipping.
Another simple one is to jump as high as you can while simultaneously pulling your legs up into your body so you’re a cannonball in the air. Running up stairs also counts as a plyometric exercise, just be sure to put as much purpose into it as possible, really explode up the steps, skipping as many as necessary. Jumping is really good in terms of plyometrics, so incorporate lots of jumping exercises. Another good jumping exercise is to jump up onto a platform and quickly jump back down again, this exercise can be increased with higher and higher platforms.
Now we’ll consider some more specific plyometrics, for both the lower body and upper body.
Bounding: This exercise is done as you’re running and involves pushing off explosively. Begin by jogging forwards, then push off with your left foot very forcefully as you bring that left leg and your right arm forward. Keep jogging and then jump again with your right leg and left arm forward.
Split Squat Jumps: Begin by standing with your feet apart, then bring your leg back about two feet and put the pressure on the ball of your left foot. Your back and head should be perfectly aligned and straight. Now lower your body by bending the right knee until your upper leg is parallel to the floor and your knee is basically bent at a ninety degree angle. Once you hit that angle jump back and switch your feet in the air so when you land your left leg is in the front and your right leg is in the back.
Tuck Dumps: This exercise was already covered briefly, but it merits special emphasis because it is actually a very effective exercise. Begin by standing straight with legs apart and knees slightly bent. Explode into the highest jump you can muster and bring your legs up into your body on your way up. Try to get as high as you can and tuck our legs as tightly as you can, you want to look like a ball in the air. When you land be sure to hit the ground with the balls of your feet, and quickly explode into another jump. You want to be on the ground for as little time as possible, so you can start out slow but try to go into the next jumper faster and faster each time.
Overhead Throws: This exercise requires a ball, no special ball in particular, just something you can throw easily like a baseball or a tennis ball, but it could also be a soccer ball. Begin by standing straight with your feet apart, and knees bent slightly. Now pull the ball back behind your head and throw the ball as hard as you possibly can against a wall. Catch the ball when it comes back to you and keep repeating that movement. Every time you do it again you should do it faster, the time it takes to pull the ball back before throwing it should steadily decrease until you’re doing it as fast as you can.
Explosive Start Throws: This exercise always requires a ball but should probably be a bigger ball if possible, like a soccer ball. Begin by standing straight up with your feet apart, knees slightly bent. Take the ball and lift it up towards your chest, then very quickly run forwards and throw the ball out from your chest as forcefully and quickly as possible. As you throw you should explode into a sprint, even faster than you were running when you threw the ball.