Soccer Sports Performance – Injury Prevention
Soccer is unpredictable. You’ve got to cut left and right, leap into the air, strike a ball and land safely, all while trying to avoid the other people around you. How you train and play at a young age sets the foundation for performance in college, into the pros, or just pick up ball in the park. The longer you can outlast injury, the more you can work at honing your craft. It’s a long season, so make sure you can play through the entirety of it unscathed. Sure, you’ll get some bumps, bruises, and maybe a few battle scars. But if you do these four posterior chain exercises, you can outlast any serious injury and stay in fighting shape.
Split leg RDL
Strong hip extension is crucial for any athlete, but especially important for soccer players. In addition to constantly running for 90 minutes, soccer players are constantly extending and flexing the hip at high velocity when kicking.
Romanian Deadlifts place the hamstrings on a stretch while working them, essentially elongating the muscle while strengthening it. The body adapts to this, and becomes strong when it’s place on a stretch – like in the tail end of a kick. Offset your feet a so one foot is in front of the other and go through the hip hinge pattern. Rather than reaching towards the ground, think of sitting the hips back. These can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even a band. Whatever you’re holding, be sure to grip it tight to create tension, keep the shoulder packed and back flat.
Every athlete should include band walks in their warm up. Stability is often a limiting factor in injury prevention, as it’s when we’re stressed in an unstable position that injury occurs. When walking, running, jumping, or anything that involves moving while upright, our glutes are responsible for keeping our hips stable and in a strong position. Band walks strengthen the gluteus medius especially. Weakness in the glute med has been shown to be a primary contributor in knee injury. Band walks train the body to keep the knees at a good angle in relation to the hip and ankle while moving through space.
Band Assisted Nordics
Nordic hamstring curls are tough. Even though it’s just a bodyweight movement, using just your hamstrings to slow your descent to the floor proves exhausting as gravity presses down against you. However, they are a fantastic exercise to eccentrically load the hamstring and posterior chain with the knees bent. The stronger you are at resisting flexion (knee bend), the better you’re going to be able to slow acceleration at the knee, keeping your knee in a healthy position to cut, run, and kick another day.
Most athletes lack the hamstring strength to do these properly at the start. They run the risk of arching the back, placing the stress on the low back or even over-flexing the calves. Have a friend hold your heels while you’re on your knees, facing away. Add a band to a high anchor, face away while holding the other end, and let it guide you down to the floor, then kick in your your heels and pull yourself back up. Keep your hips extended, glutes engaged and back flat the whole time. The band provides extra assistance through the tougher parts of the descent, and helps you keep the focus on the hamstrings.
PB Iso Holds
Soccer players are notoriously quad dominant, and for good reason. A strong set of quads can be the difference between a shot sailing into the back of the net or into the keeper’s hands. But we need to balance that constant force with an even stronger set of hamstrings.
Isometric holds generate greater activation of the muscle. By keeping the knees bent in one position on an unstable surface, you bring the unexpected element from the field in to training. Lay flat on your back with a physioball underneath your heels at hip width. Keeping the toes flexed and knees at 90 degrees, bridge up off of the floor. Your glutes should now be squeezing and helping your core stabilize the spine, while your hamstrings are keeping that ball from rolling away from you. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, or until you start to break form.