How to Develop Soccer Strength Like a World Cup Athlete

Soccer stadium

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup is showing, soccer players are some of the fittest people on the planet, enduring 90+ minutes of play with little time off between matches. They need to be in shape to run around 6 miles during a game, cut back and forth across the field quickly, and use stellar eye-foot coordination to cut through and shoot around their opponents while constantly on the move. That’s no easy feat!

If you’re thinking about getting in on the action, playing with your kids, or simply looking to shake up your workouts, we have you covered. Try these exercises to build your endurance, strength, core, and balance. In no time you’ll be ready to move from the sidelines to the starting line-up. Go USA! #LiveYourGoals

Soccer Speed Play

Cardio is the cornerstone of soccer. Here’s a great drill combining high intensity work with agility and coordination. Find an agility ladder and some open space (or create a makeshift ladder with masking tape; mimicking the foot patterns and pretending a ladder is there works too).

First & Second Run: Begin at the back of the ladder and “tiptoe” right-left, right-left, through each square (both feat enter the square before moving on). At the end, hustle back and repeat with the left foot leading.

Third & Fourth Run: Turn sideways and repeat the “tiptoe” move traveling laterally through the ladder, starting with your right foot. Hustle back to the start and repeat with the left leg leading.

Fifth Run: Face forward and travel down the ladder with a straddle foot pattern (start with both feet in the first square and go out-out-in-in before moving to square two).

Once you’ve completed all five passes, rest for 15 seconds and repeat four more times. You can increase your speed each time, but focus on accuracy before speed! Consider holding a medicine ball at chest height to increase the challenge, as well.

Balanced Backside

Strong glutes help soccer players accelerate and avoid injury, while excellent balance skills enhance agility, coordination, and many of the sport’s one-leg skills. Here’s a great exercise to tackle both simultaneously. Stand on your right leg with a medicine ball at your chest, and extend your left leg behind you. With a slight bend in your right leg, extend your arms in front of you and begin lowering your torso toward the ground. Keep your back as straight as possible, and bend the knee of the standing leg as much as you need to for the ball to reach the ground. Come back to a standing position and repeat 5-10 times before switching to the left. As you get stronger, increase the number of reps or add a ball roll (on the ground) around the foot before returning to a standing position.

Plank Play

A strong core is essential for soccer players. Try this multi-part plank exercise: Begin in high plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and feet together. Open to side plank with your left hand as your foundation. Come back to regular plank and execute 1 triceps push-up. Once back in plank, shuffle to the right and back to center while holding your position. Then, begin again by opening to the opposite side plank. Repeat 5 times through. Feel free to perform on your knees and/or take rests in between sides.

Bridge Bonus­

Strength and power come from the midsection. Here’s one last glute and hip blaster, with a side of core thrown in for fun! Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Your arms can be down by your sides or out to the side in a “T” position. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the floor, then lower back down and perform a crunch. After the crunch, extend your legs out along with arms overhead. Roll over onto your belly, reach your arms and legs up and out for a back extension, then lower down. Roll back to your starting position and repeat, this time rolling the opposite direction for the back extension.

Watch a run-through of these exercises:

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.