Developing a Faster, Quicker and more Agile Soccer Player to Devastate Opponents
During the game, a soccer player is required to perform many sudden and explosive movements .
These random movement patterns may include acceleration/deceleration sprints, running backwards, jumping, cutting sharply inwards or outwards, and tumbling actions etc.
Not all of these movements are naturally inherited though, and you’ll find that a majority of soccer players who are strong in one or two of these skills during game situations, fall short of ability in one or the other.
For example, there are players who have exceptional forward speed such as attacking full-backs, but lack rapid lateral or sideway adjustments to out manoeuvre the opposition. The flip side of the coin is an attacking midfielder who is excellent at off balancing opponents in an explosive manner, yet lack speed when it comes to sprinting forward to support either defence or attack.
Another example would be a centre back with natural jumping ability, but poor mobility.
Speed, Agility and Quickness Training addresses all of these skills, and are instrumental in developing total versatility.
Every competitive amateur and professional soccer player, needs to be exposed to as many different and challenging combinations of movement as possible. And with emphasis on high quality technique, and a good understanding of the mechanics of any particular movement pattern, you can dramatically improve.
As an example both Liverpools Fernando Torres and Christiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid Football Club exhibit these skills to a high level.
Quite often though speed development can be hindered through a laid back approach that sees individuals and soccer teams going through the motions when tackling a specific drill or programme. Or that the SAQ sessions themselves can lack variety and improvisation.
Without the commitment and application in either, you run the risk of becoming to predictable and languid in motion, and be more susceptible to soccer injuries.
NOTE, Before embarking on a SAQ programme, it is also important that a significant amount of time is spent conditioning for strength and power prior to commencement.
A soccer player will repeatebly sprint anywhere between 10 - 60m during a game. To support play, close down or break out to attack opponents.
Therefore Soccer speed is the ability to maximally sprint in a linear or straight line direction on a soccer field.
To attain this particular skill at a high level you are required to increase :
- ACCELERATION -to achieve your speed faster
- STRIDE LENGTH - to cover more ground in front of you
- STRIDE RATE - to achieve more steps you take per second
- SPEED ENDURANCE - to reduce the slowing down effect of repeating many of these short sprints throughout the game.
Soccer Speed Mechanics
In order for you to perform any aspect of the above, you also need to acquire strict technique. A vital prerequisite for developing a soccer players linear speed.
The following being the most important components :
Arms - These work in unison with the thrust of the legs in a powerful pumping action. The quicker the forward and backward movement of the arms, the quicker the legs get pull through in exactly the same way. The arms should also work in parallel to each other, with no diagonal or sideways movement, and have a 90° angle at the forearm and arm.
On the upwards swing, the hand should be at shoulder height swinging down to the hip with as little tension as possible. Hands in a loose mode to help eliminate tension.
Position of body - You should run tall with sufficient but not excessive forward lean of the body, starting from the feet up. There should be no bend at the waist so your centre of gravity is activated in a forward direction.
Ground contact - Strike the ground in a claw like fashion on the balls of your feet from a high knee lift. There should be a strong pushing action from the moment you make contact with the ground.
Stride Length - To attain maximum speed you must strive to achieve getting the right balance between overstriding and under striding, where to much of one or the other can negatively effect sprinting performance.
Over striding - means you are reaching out to far forward with your leading front leg on impact with the ground, causing your speed to considerably slow down.
>Under striding -> is the complete opposite, whereby your front leg fails to extend forward to its optimum position causing high turnover of leg speed, but very little ground covered. To address this area always allow the balls of the feet to push away from the ground directly under your centre of gravity.
Form Drills for Sprinting
Seated Arm Thrusts
The purpose of this drill is to develop powerful opposite force vectors when sprinting in a forward direction.
In other words, when you execute an explosive full range of motion from the arms, your legs simultaneously react in the same way equally and oppositely. This drill concentrates on isolating the pumping action mechanics of the upper body without assistance from the legs, which makes the arms work faster.
- Sit on a comfortable surface such as a mat or grass verge with legs extended in front of you
- With arms at 90° proceed to thrust both arms alternately backwards and forwards in an explosive manner.
- 2 x 20 secs
Concentrate on :
- relaxing the upper body
- Keeping the movement of the arms parallel to each other ( no cross movements )
- Making sure there is full range of movement (ROM) so that the elbow comes up to shoulder height, and your hands to about eye level.
When performed correctly, your buttocks should bounce consistently off the ground.
Wall Drills ( 1-2-3 count )
The wall drill aids in driving for acceleration, and helping a soccer player develop correct sprint mechanics.
- Position your arms while extended against a wall or similar support, with your body straight and the feet about 4 ft away from the wall. So that you are at an approx 45° angle
- Raise either the left or right knee up to the chest, with the same side foot dorsiflexed or pulled up.
- Make sure the opposite extended leg is always balancing on the ball of the foot.
- From that starting position quickly swap leg positions and pause for about 2-3 secs concentrating on keeping good form. Repeat for 4 reps alternating between legs
- Immediately after 4 reps go into a 2 count and repeat for 4 reps
- Immediately after 4 reps go into a 3 count and repeat for 4 reps
- Rest for 1 min and repeat for 3-4 sets ( 1-2-3 count = 1 set )
Forward Stepping Extensions
To develop good technique, maximum stride length, and strong hip flexor / iliopsoas muscles for sprinting.
- Move forward, alternately pumping the arms at 90° while driving the knees up and extending the leg forward.
- Repeat for 2 x 20 yds
NOTE: Concentrate on driving with elbows and a strong high knee lift and leg thrust.
Shake and Bake
This is an excellent drill for the soccer player to perform in helping the body relax before exploding into a full sprint.
- Position 3 cones in a straight line 10 yards and 20 yards from each other (30 yards total)
- From cone 1 to cone 2 (10 yards) completely relax the body from head to toe while trotting, as if you are made of jelly.
- The moment you reach cone 2 suddenly explode into a powerful sprint for 20 yards to cone 3.
- Concentrate on good sprinting form
- 4 x 10 yrd / 20 yrd sprints
Having good speed endurance enables a soccer player to sustain consistently high levels of speed during the game.
This especially applies in the latter stages when fatigue sets in and being first to the ball when running onto a threaded pass, or to chase and tackle an opposing striker en route to goal, can make a huge difference.
Ideally, once speed endurance has been attained to an above average level, soccer players should be able to perform each explosive burst of speed nearly as fast as the first.
With the added benefits of :
- Minimum rest between short intense bouts of speed
- Achieving a quicker maximum speed
- Sustaining speed for longer periods
NOTE : To gauge present and future progress, it is advised that soccer players use the 120yd dash test before starting training for speed endurance. An indispensable and invaluable source of information that reveals any strengths and weaknesses in technique and fitness.
Drills for Soccer speed endurance
As mentioned previously, a soccer players movement continually involve short bursts of stopping, starting, running , sprinting and walking.
So speed endurance drills should mimic these actions as they would on the soccer field, but where a high percentage of the activity centres around a soccer players intensive bursts of speed.
Below are two examples that can help you attain soccer speed endurance :
30 metre shuttle sprints
- Place 7 cones 5 meters apart for a distance of 30 meters
- Starting at cone 1 sprint to cone 2 and back to 1
- Once back at cone 1 immediately sprint to cone 3 and then back to 1 again.
- Repeat this action for cones 4, 5, 6, 7
- Perform this shuttle for 6 sets, resting for 90 seconds between sets.(this can also be an active rest where light activity such as jogging on the spot can be used)
50 meter Soccer Endurance Pyramids
This drill is a great combination of all out soccer speed and low intensity walking, very similar to what a soccer player experiences when playing soccer.
- Position 6 cones 10 metres apart for a distance of 50 meters
- From cone 1 sprint 10 metres then walk 40 meters to cone 6
- From cone 6 sprint 20 meters and walk 30 metres
- Back at cone 1 sprint 30 meters and walk 20 metres
- At cone 6 sprint 40 metres and walk 10 meters
- Finally at cone 1 sprint the full 50 metres to cone 6 and sprinting back to cone 1 to finish.
- Perform for 4 sets, resting for 90 seconds between sets
Soccer quickness requires a soccer player to possess fast reaction times, in response to any scenario posed within the game of soccer swiftly and efficiently.
For instance, soccer players must be able to create or close down available space in many combinations, involving explosive multidirectional movements in an instinctive and subconscious manner.
To do this effectively, specific soccer quickness drills need to be implemented that help the CNS to optimally fire and relax.
Drills that not only reprogramme the neuro muscular system to adapt instantaneously, increasing acceleration / deceleration movement patterns. But also Eliminating any restrictions that may inhibit explosive motion.
This ultimately develops quicker reaction times (RT).
To put this into perspective, consider the analogy of the common house fly.
What happens when you try to swat it ?
More often than not you’ll miss, no matter how fast you try to react the fly always seems to be one step ahead.
The reason for this is because of its highly evolved evasion reactions, and when you try to hit it it literally sees you as a slow motion action replay. Which is no surprise when you consider that a flys reaction time is 12 times faster than a humans !
Of course its highly unlikely you’ll achieve that kind of performance, but by continuously striving for perfection, and training explosively to react to a multitude of situations with soccer speed training. You will begin to read opponents and the game of soccer to a much greater degree, and spend more time in the ‘Zone’.
This is where everything seems to slow down, and enables all soccer players to make far better decisions mentally and physically.
Soccer Quickness Drills
On many occasions the soccer player will be forced to retreat in a backwards mode especially after a attack has been broken down and he/she needs to get back while keeping an eye on play.
The Backpedal Drill not only improves quickness in the retreat, but helps the hip flexors become more flexible.
- 4 x 20 yards
Used by boxers for decades and for a good reason, this exercise builds great quickness and elasticity in the lower body.
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High Knee Carioca
This is a great drill to develop high knee lift, quick feet, and the hip flexor muscles used for sprinting in soccer
- Moving laterally to your left, raise the right knee high over your left leg in a circular fashion for a count of 3 steps
- Immediately raise your right knee high in a circular fashion over your right leg for a count of 3 steps before repeating step1
- Concentrate on getting the knees as high as possible.
Evasive Shadow Drill
- Working in pairs facing each other across a line 10m in length, have one of you to dictate lateral movement by stopping and starting and using any move to escape your partner. The role of your partner is to shadow your every move while keeping directly in front of you.
- Perform 1 x 20 secs for both roles x 2/3 sets
Medicine Ball Rebound Twists ( upper body plyos)
A drill that helps in the sudden movement of directional change such as turning an opponent with and without the ball
Soccer player agility is a skill closely linked to quickness that involves complex movements and change of direction, while keeping balance without loosing speed. For instance being able to absorb and control impact with the ground when tackled, or evading multiple opponents while keeping steady on a wet and slippery surface.
Once again, applied technique and application is the key to effective agility, to increase economical leverage and activate optimal thrust vectors to respond to random movements instinctively.
One of the great benefits of agility as opposed to speed and quickness, is that it serves as a excellent programmed muscle memory . Which means that once you have learned a particular movement pattern, it more or less stays with you for life without the need of continual repetition.
Therefore, by continuously exposing yourself to as many different variations, in preparation for the unpredictable nature of movement patterns posed within the game. Plays an important role in soccer speed training.
Probably one of the best exponents to illustrate this particular skill would be George Best in his heyday.
Many top class players in the modern era would give their right arm to possess the kind of elusiveness that Best demonstrated in many games he played in the 60’s and early 70’s. A wonder goal he scored about 25 years ago in america by beating 4/5 opponents inside the penalty area by using just sheer agility and multidirectional movement, is a testament of how important this skill is when developed to its maximum potential.
As an attacking soccer player, being able to sell a move is your ‘ace in the hole’ and where quickness and agility come into their own. You’ll be surprised how easily certain drills and games such as Tag that develop exaggerated multiple movements can quickly transfer onto the soccer field.
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