Getting better at the “beautiful game”

By: Nathan Thomas Hoang

           The World Cup is months away and soccer fever is in full swing. The weather this time of the year is ideal for playing soccer, so let’s talk about simple exercises to improve strength and flexibility in order to get an edge above the competition.

  • First and foremost, make sure you do these exercises with attentiveness and caution.
    • Also, I cannot stress the importance of stretching before doing any sort of physical activity. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many athletes underestimate the importance of stretching.
  • Our first exercise is to help increase your dynamic flexibility, which simply means stretching with motion in order to move a muscle though its complete range of motion. Stretching dynamically helps your body prepare for physical activity such as more rigorous exercise or playing soccer.
  • This is an exercise often used by soccer coaches widely and it mimics the motion of kicking a ball to help you stretch dynamically.
  1. Find a sturdy object waist high to help you keep stability and balance such as a desk, short fence, or railing.
  2. Shift all of your weight to the leg closest to what you are using to support yourself (keep this leg straight) and lift your other leg until you are standing on one leg.
  3. With your foot pointed down as far as possible, swing your leg back and forth gently to stretch your leg muscles dynamically through its range of motion.
  4. As your muscles start to loosen up a bit, you can increase the speed and velocity to a comfortable level.
  • Do not go beyond your possible range of motion. This is ballistic stretching and doing it incorrectly can lead to injury. We are going for dynamic.

5.  Repeat steps 1-4 for the other leg

Dynamic Stretch
photo from: protrainingprograms

These next two simple exercises are designed to build strength which will allow you to kick the ball with more power and force. Even better is that you do not require any equipment. The repetitions for these exercises depend entirely on your strength and skill level, but 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions is always a good start.

  • Exercise number one: One-legged squat
  1. Stand on one leg with your arms out a little further from your body.
  2. Slowly lower yourself putting all of your weight onto the targeted leg and lowering yourself as low as you possibly can.
  3. Slowly raise yourself all while keeping your balance.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 for other leg.
  • This exercise takes an extreme minimalist approach, but it is extremely effective.
  • For those who are inexperienced, this exercise can be very difficult especially while trying to propel yourself up. For those who are very experienced, this exercise can be a cakewalk and dumbbells may be used.
One-Leg-Squat-1
Photo from: bodiempowerment
  • Exercise number two: Power Jumps
  1. Stand with your feet at shoulder width
  2. Lower yourself into a partial squat position
  3. Quickly propel yourself into the air while getting your knees as close to your chest as possible
  4. Land with soft knees to avoid injury
  5. Repeat
  • You can even modify the power jump into the box jump if you choose to.
  • Depending on your pace, this exercise is also great for cardio
Step 3 of the power jump
Photo from: acurvygirlsjourney

There you have it: Three overwhelmingly simple exercises to increase dynamic flexibility and build strength in your legs. For the athletes that eat, sleep, and dream success, remember: There is no off season. Keep working and it will all pay off long term. Enjoy the World Cup.

sources:

Photos from:

http://www.protrainingprograms.com/

http://www.bodiempowerment.com/

http://acurvygirlsjourney.files.wordpress.com/

featured photo image: http://www.coverbooth.com/uploads/covmg/soccer-balls-on-green-field-facebook-timeline-covers.jpg

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