Soccer Resistance Training

Abby Wambach heads the ball against Canada.
i Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

You love soccer, but you don’t yet have the ability of an Abby Wambach to sky in front of the goal and slam a header past the goalie. You’re in luck -- you can emulate the women’s national team scoring star and players in thousands of high school and college programs. Add a little resistance training -- following the example of Wambach, a beast in the weight room -- to become stronger and sleeker.


You can make your greatest gains in strength and power from resistance training in the offseason, typically for two or three days a week throughout the late spring and summer. If you play in a summer league, or are now in the middle of a fall or early spring league, it’s still a good idea to start resistance training. But go lighter, once or twice a week. Even a modest 20-minute program can lead to improvements after six weeks; if you have time for 30 to 60 minutes per session, that's even better.

Body Weight

Resistance entails using the weight of your body or that of a partner, free weights or machines, bands or even water to progressively challenge the muscles and increase strength. If you are unaccustomed to resistance workouts or are coaching a young adult or younger-than-30 women’s team, start with body-weight exercises to avoid getting into poor movement patterns and overloading yourself or your players. Body-weight exercises can include pushups, situps, planks and burpees, as well as wall sits and lunges to strengthen the quads, coach Debra LaPrath advises in her book "Coaching Girls' Soccer Successfully."

Free Weights and Advanced Body Weight

Greg Gatz, soccer conditioning coach at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, recommends total-body resistance exercises to make the best use of your time. In the weight room, you can work with dumbbells, performing high pulls, squats to a curl and press, and jump shrugs. On the field, complete power pushups, attempting to get off the ground at the top of each pushup, as well as well as lying leg raises. Wambach performs advanced free-weight work, including hang cleans, split push jerks, dumbbell rear delt raises and the tricky squat to dumbbell front raise -- on a balance ball.

Resisted Running

You can improve your acceleration and stride frequency in soccer by performing resisted speed drills. The resistance can be in the form of a hill or ramp, towing a sled or a partner at the end of a towing strap, or running in the deep-water end of a pool or a sand pit, Gatz suggests. Each of these options allows you to work on quick up-and-down foot movements at the proper body angle. Just avoid overdoing resisted running, as it’s pleasantly challenging but taxing.

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