soccer training skills

Soccer Flexibility


Flexibility for Soccer

Soccer players will benefit tremendously from having a high level of flexibility and on this page we're going to understand


"flexibility", then dive into some detailed programs, offering increasing levels of flexibility.

a. Maintenance of range of motion prevents or relieves joint pain which accompany aging.

b. A greater range of motion prevents injury and saves energy.

c. Flexibility permits ease and grace in movement.

So what is flexibility?

Quite simply it is the range of motion about a joint. There are 3 categories of flexibility:

1. Dynamic flexibility -- this is your ability to perform dynamic movements within the full range of motion in the joint. An example is twisting side to side.

2. Static Active flexibility -- this refers to your ability to stretch an antagonist muscle using only the tension in the agonist muscle. An example is holding one leg out in front of you as high as possible. The hamstring (antagonist) is being stretched while the quadriceps and hip flexors (agonists) are holding your leg up.

3. Static Passive flexibility -- this is your ability to hold a stretch using your body weight or some other external force. Using the example above imagine holding your leg out in font of you and resting it on a chair. Your quadriceps is not required to hold the extended position.

A flexibility-training program can be made up of different types:

Sport specific strength training programs can have a dramatic effect on your athletic performance.

In fact good sports strength is a precursor to...

  • Improved speed around the field, court or in a race
  • A higher vertical jump to win more aerial challenges, score more baskets
  • Increased distance in your golf game, taking the pressure off the shots that matter
  • Being able to throw further and with greater accuracy
  • The ability to kick with more power, distance and precision
  • Being able to hit the ball or shuttle harder, putting your opponent under pressure with every shot
  • The ability to hold off opponents and win challenges.

Training for your sport needs to be sports specific, but supported with a fitness program that will increase the areas where you need the most help. A program designed to mirror the moves made in soccer, but put more emphasis on strengthening those areas are the best.

These programs could include the following:

  • Functional weight training programs prepare muscles, ligaments and tendons for more intense, specific strength training later on.
  • They help seasoned athletes to regain balance, strengthening under-developed muscles and reducing the risk of both short and long term injury.
  • These programs provide an important form of respite to strength training athletes, giving the body rest whilst counteracting losses in fitness.

The duration of these weight-training programs varies between individuals. If you're a beginner follow a functional strength program for about 8-10 weeks before moving onto more strenuous types of weight training programs. If you're a strength training veteran... 3-5 weeks should be enough.

Each of these functional weight-training programs works all the major muscle groups each session. Try to perform 2-4 sessions per week depending on your fitness level and experience.

One more important point to remember...

Gradually build up the load or resistance as you progress. This will give your body the best preparation for crossover to the more intense types of weight training programs.

Factors affecting flexibility

Age -- decrease in the extensibility of soft tissue with aging is related to d diminished range of movement as we grow older, independent of gender (decrease in flexibility can be significantly slowed down if we keep active).

Gender -- females exhibit a greater range of movement, independent of age.

Activity -- active individuals exhibit a greater range of movement than sedentary individuals (so keep active!). Also, inactivity is strongly associated with increased adipose tissue which decreases flexibility.

Internal Tissue Temperature -- changes in internal muscular temperature may increase or decrease the range of motion by as much as 20 percent (so always "warm-up" first!).

Heredity -- appears to be joint specific (this notion needs more scientific proof, however).

Injury -- scar tissue resulting from injury hinders the range of motion in a joint.

Pain -- as pain increases, muscle spasm results and, therefore, flexibility is decreased.
Strength training does not decrease flexibility unless you do the exercise improperly and not in the full range of motion.

Specificity of flexibility

Flexibility varies considerably between the different joints of the body.
Also, flexibility varies considerably between articulations within the same joint (articulations are the different movements of the joint: flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, rotation).

Continuous participation in a particular activity will result in a unique pattern of flexibility, due to the mechanics of joint and tissue stress inherent in the activity. In other words, most goalies or most defenders (etc.) will tend to be flexible in the same ways.

Dangers of Excessive Flexibility

Hyper mobility has been shown to predispose an individual to
a number of musculoskeletal injuries.
Therefore, it is imperative that adequate muscular strength
be developed in conjunction with flexibility.

Methods and Guidelines for Soccer Flexibility

Types of Stretching Exercises

a. Static or slow-sustained stretching -- a steady position which elongates, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia.
b. Dynamic or ballistic stretching -- a bobbing, bouncing movement, involving muscular contraction, which moves into and out of an elongated position.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (P.N.F.) a maximal contraction of the muscles to be stretched followed by relaxation of that same muscle and progressive stretching of it. The maximal isometric contraction helps in the relaxation of the muscle to be stretched which allows for more lengthening of the muscle.
While the P.N.F. is believed to be the most effective flexibility development method, its drawbacks are a need of a helper, a longer period of time, and a higher degree of pain for success.

Implementation of Flexibility Training for Soccer

Static stretching is preferable to ballistic (dynamic) stretching because: 

  • In ballistic movement, there is a danger of exceeding the extensibility limits of involved tissue, thereby causing injury.
  • Static stretching promotes muscle relaxation by reducing sensory activity and muscle spindle tension.
  • Ballistic stretching tends to elicit pain and soreness both during and after exercise.
  • Static stretching is just as effective as ballistic stretching in producing gains in range of motion.
  • Ballistic stretching elicits the stretch reflex, which contracts the muscle.


It is generally recommended that each flexibility exercise be repeated four to six times and that the stretched position be held at least 10 seconds and no longer than 60 seconds.

For maximum results flexibility exercises should be held daily, over a period of six to eight weeks at the initial stage of a flexibility program.
A certain level of achieved flexibility may be maintained with as little as two or three weekly sessions using three to four repetitions of 10-30 seconds each.

Stretching regimes designed to enhance specific movement patterns should be comprised of similar movement patterns.
In order words, stretch the muscles in the position you will
be performing and stressing them.

Flexibility with stretching

How do we define dynamic stretching?
Have you ever swung your arms round in circles just before you start a weights session?
This is dynamic stretching. It gradually increases reach and
range of motion while limbs are moving.

Kicking an imaginary soccer ball is a dynamic stretch for the hamstrings and groins.

Twisting side to side is dynamic stretching for the trunk.

Don't confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretching consists of bouncing, jerky movements
and can be quite dangerous because it forces a limb beyond
its normal range of movement.

Dynamic stretching is useful before starting an aerobic
workout and particularly for martial artists. Dynamic stretching
is a great way to loosen up first thing in the morning to prepare you for the day.

Perform dynamic stretches in sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Perform as many sets as is required to gain your full range
of motion. Stop stretching when you are tired.
Fatigued muscles produce diminished returns during dynamic stretching exercises.

Flexibility training is by far the most undervalued component
of fitness. That's a shame because with something so simple
and painless comes so many benefits.

Flexibility training improves your posture and helps to prevent
low back pain.
Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and low
back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.

Many experts now believe flexibility conditioning has an
important role in maintaining healthy joints.
Stretching increases tissue temperature, blood supply,
nutrient transport to tissue and synovial fluid within the
joint capsule.

Every professional athlete will start and complete a training session with stretching exercises. And while there's ongoing debate as to its effectiveness for preventing injury, stretching after exercise when muscle tissue is warm is a great way to increase flexibility.

A muscle can only contract as forcefully as its antagonist can relax (the quadriceps muscle for example will contract more quickly if the hamstring muscle group relaxes easily). Flexibility training has been shown to reduce tension and resistance in muscle tissue.

The same leg is used to strike thousands of shots over and over again. One side of the body becomes more developed and is placed under more stress than the other. Even soccer, rugby and football players will have a predominate kicking foot.

Stretching regularly is essential for maintaining balance and reducing the risk of long term, chronic injury.

Functional Strength Program #1 - Beginner

Follow this program for 8-10 weeks.

- Warm up thoroughly before starting any exercise session.
- Perform each exercise one after the other.
- Rest for no longer than 90 seconds between each exercise.
- Once you have completed all 12 exercises rest for 2-3 minutes   ``and repeat the circuit.
- Do 2 circuits at first and build up to 3 towards the end of
   the program.
- Try to complete each session in less than 30 minutes.
- Complete 2-3 sessions per week.

Full body work out for strength and balance

1. Press ups
Aim for 12 press ups to start with. Each week try to increase it by 2-3 press ups. Women can perform press ups on their knees.

2. Squats
Start off without any weight and concentrate on correct form. Aim for 12-15 repetitions and using a barbell, gradually add a small amount of weight each week. The idea is to add just enough weight to keep the exercise demanding NOT back breaking!

3. Lat pull downs
Aim for 12-15 repetitions.
Again gradually add weight over the weeks but not so much that you can only perform 7 or 8 reps for example.

4. Bent knee crunches
Use the same approach as you did with press ups. Start off doing 12 and add a few each week. Have a qualified instructor show you the proper form if you're unsure... it makes a big difference.

5. Shoulder press
Perform 12-15 repetitions gradually increasing the weight over the weeks. You can use dumbbells, a barbell or a machine... which ever you find the most comfortable.

6. Calf press
Perform 15 calf presses or toes raises and gradually add weight to keep it difficult.

7. Hyper extensions
Be careful with these! If you are not used to hyper extensions you must have a qualified instructor show you the correct form. Do exactly the same as for bent knee crunches.

8. Bench Dips
The same as for press ups -- Aim for 12 dips and gradually add a couple of repetitions each week.

9. Leg curls
Aim for 12-15 repetitions. Again gradually add weight over the weeks but not so much that you can only perform 7 or 8 reps for example.

10. Seated row
As above. 12-15 repetitions.

11. Torso twists
Use an empty barbell and aim for 15-20 full twists. At this stage it is probably better to add more repetitions as the weeks go by rather than adding weight.

12. Upright rowing
Last but not least! Aim for 12-15 repetitions, gradually adding weight. 

Functional Strength Program #2 - Intermediate

Follow this program for 6-8 weeks.
- Warm up thoroughly before starting any exercise session.
- Rest as long as you need to fully recover between sets and exercises.
- Try to complete each session in less than 45 minutes.
- Complete 3 sessions per week. Start off by completing 2-3
   sets of 15 repetitions for each exercise. Use a weight
   or resistance that allows you to perform 15 reps with
   the 14th and 15th being difficult.

As the program progresses increase the weight and reduce
the number of reps for each exercise. You could do this say every other week. By the final week you should be performing
3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise. Again the weight should
allow you to complete 10 reps with the 9th and 10th being difficult.

1. Leg press
2. Shoulder press
3. Lat pull downs
4. Bent knee sit ups
5. Press ups
6. Lunges
7. Hyper extensions
8. Bent over row
9. Toe raises
10.Decline sit ups

 Functional Strength Program #3 - Advanced

Follow this program for 3-5 weeks.

- Warm up thoroughly before starting any exercise session.

- Rest as long as you need to fully recover between sets and exercises.

- Try to complete each session in less than 45 minutes.

- Complete 3-4 sessions per week.

Start off by completing 3 sets of 15 repetitions for each
exercise. Use a weight or resistance that allows you to
perform 15 reps with the 14th and 15th being difficult.
As this weight training program progresses increase the
weight and reduce the number of reps for each exercise.
You could do this say every other week.
By the final week you should be performing 3 sets of 8 reps
for each exercise. Again the weight should allow you to
complete 8 reps with the 7th and 8th being difficult.

1. Chin ups
2. Squats
3. Bench press
4. Hyper extensions
5. Shoulder press
6. Bent over row
7. Decline sit ups

Almost every sport requires either muscular power or muscular endurance or both. The greater you maximum strength, the
more potential power or strength endurance you can develop.

There is a big difference between bodybuilding weight training programs and those designed for maximum strength.
Think of the program as body strengthening rather than body building.

It is possible to become significantly stronger without huge
gains in muscle mass and this is an important distinction.
Too much muscle bulk can hinder the performance of many athletes. This is especially true with an aerobically demanding sport like soccer.

Maximum Strength Program

The weights used should be 80-90% of your 1 repetition max
(1-RM) so it goes without saying that you need to test yourself first.
You must be an experienced weight trainer with at least a
year or two of strength training history. Rest interval is the
other important factor.
You should rest for 3-6 minutes or until you feel completely recovered between sets. The idea is to avoid training to exhaustion.

1. Leg press
2. Bench press
3. Sit ups
4. Military press
5. Standing calf raises
6. Lat pull downs (wide grip)

Start off the program using a weight that is 70% of your
1-RM. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps with plenty of rest in between.
Increase the weight by 5% each week until you reach
90%-95% of your 1-RM.
As you increase the weight obviously the number of reps
you can perform will decrease.
As the reps decrease add in an extra set or two.
A rough guideline is;

70% 1-RM - 8 reps, 3 sets
75% 1-RM - 7 reps, 3 sets
80% 1-RM - 6 reps, 4 sets
85% 1-RM - 4-5 reps, 5 sets
90% 1-RM - 3 reps, 6 sets
95% 1-RM - 2 reps, 6 sets

Remember, this type of strength training is a stepping stone
for more sport specific strength. The time spent on maximum strength weight training programs depends on your sport.

This will take you to some links to other sites on
Flexibility and sports injuries.