The FIFA World Cup of soccer, like the Olympics, brings the world together in celebration of sport. These incredible athletes amaze us with their physical conditioning. Many people get so inspired watching these exciting games on television that they want to do it too. So they go out on the weekend and decide that they are just like those elite athletes they see on television…and inevitably get injured. They strain muscles and sprain ligaments and even break bones.
What is not clear when watching soccer (or any sport) on television is the extent of training that these athletes go through to condition themselves to play at this level. I wish there were some cameras rolling on these guys when they are putting so much time and effort into lifting weights or performing cardiovascular endurance exercises so fans can see that they don’t just walk onto a field ready to compete at the level they do.
Most weekend warriors do absolutely nothing to prepare to play in a competitive nature. They work hard at their jobs during the week and are exhausted when they get home, with no time or energy to train. Then they go out on the weekend and compete as if they were playing for their country’s national team, willing to give up their bodies to win the game. The spirit may be willing but the body isn’t, and this is why accidents happen and people get injured.
The fact is, most sports injuries can be avoided. If you are going to play sports on the weekend, then try to be rational and realize that you must condition yourself.
I have worked with professional athletes and, sadly, found some of them to have very poor work ethics. They clearly were talented but never reached their potential because they didn’t want to do the dirty work when off the playing field. You may want to be able to spin and then kick immediately and your intellect may say it can be done, but unless the muscles of your body are conditioned you are unlikely to be able to achieve this feat and more likely to get hurt.
I suggest having a reasonable program of training during the week so you are ready to go on weekends. And I break up the training program into three sections: strengthening, conditioning and agility.
My strengthening regimen is simply two days a week—one for upper body and one for lower body. For each exercise, perform three sets of 10 repetitions with a one-minute rest between sets. Use progressive resistance—increasing when the resistance being used gets easier. Perform each set of exercises one day a week with one day’s rest in between. You can do these exercises with resistance bands, free weights or weight machines. (If you don’t know how to do these exercises, they are each linked to articles that explain it.)
While strengthening increases the force output of a muscle, you also need to improve the endurance of your muscles when playing sports like soccer. This is achieved by performing cardiovascular exercise—a set resistance for a sustained period of time. Use a bicycle, treadmill, elliptical or whatever strikes your fancy.
Here, you are not trying to increase the resistance. You are trying to increase the time you perform the activity. Start with just a couple of minutes and when that level feels easy, increase the time frame. Just make your increases small to ensure your body adapts appropriately.
Agility is your ability to move quickly or move in different directions quickly. This can be trained by performing techniques like stop-and-gos and cariocas. Here, you set a time frame and try to perform the activity as quickly as possible.
Let’s say you are doing stop-and-gos. You start running forward as fast as you can and somebody says “go” which causes you to stop quickly and run backwards. Then the person says “go” again and you stop quickly and run forward. This should be performed with a person changing the distance you travel each time you move in a direction so you don’t know when the change in direction is coming. This can be done to start for 30 seconds and then progress the time in 10 second increments. This will challenge your coordination as well as your ability to change direction quickly. This can be performed forward and back, side to side or with cariocas.
If you perform the strength exercises two days a week, one day of conditioning and one day of agility training, you should be putting in up to 4 hours a week to train. This shouldn’t be considered too much time when you are trying to play your best on weekends. And I assure you—if you condition yourself, you will play better.
Just remember: Doing nothing to condition your body to play like a World Cup soccer player will most likely have you drinking out of a cup in the emergency room.
Click here to buy Mitchell Yass’s books, Overpower Pain: The Strength Training Program That Stops Pain Without Drugs or Surgery, The Pain Cure Rx: The Yass Method for Resolving the Cause of Chronic Pain and his newest book, The Yass Method for Pain-Free Movement: A Guide to Easing through Your Day without Aches and Pains.