The physical demands of modern soccer are serious. It’s no longer just about who is well conditioned and can run 6+ miles throughout the course of a 90 minute game.

The real difference maker in today’s game is a offensive player’s ability to create separation and conversely, for a defensive minded player it’s the ability to close this separation. A quick look at the world’s best (e.g. Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar) shows this ability through speed, agility and power. Enhance this physical base with proper technical ability and skill and you’ve narrowed in on crucial components of a well rounded player.    

Below I have included two conditioning segments as well as a strength training workout which will have you on your way to “soccer game shape” in no time.

The Cooper Test

Although it’s lost some popularity among progressive S&C coaches, I would be remiss if I did not start here with the infamous Cooper Test.

A true test of aerobic capacity and a staple in many collegiate soccer programs, it’s a simple 2 mile run for time. A good score is under 12 minutes. In my opinion, it’s best performed on a 400m track, which requires some serious mental toughness when you’re hitting the same gust of wind on that same turn on laps 5,6,7 and 8.

Tips and advice: Don’t come out too fast! Dialing in an appropriate pace is everything here and will make or break your score. The pace won’t be comfortable, but it shouldn’t feel like an all out effort either.

**Traditionally this test was performed as 12 minutes of running for distance but in the soccer setting has morphed into a 2 mile run for time.

300 Yard Shuttle Test

  • Using cones measure out a 25 yard distance.
  • Sprint up and back 6 times for a total of 12 lengths. Rest 2 minutes and Repeat.
  • Good scores are under a minute and have less than 2 seconds deviation between attempts.

It’s close to if not an all out sprint and is a great indicator of recovery capacity and total anaerobic output. The change in direction, stress of a max effort followed by allocated recovery time makes it in a way more indicative of the natural flow of a game relative to the Cooper Test. Consequently, this may be a better indication of “game shape.”

Tips and advice: Run hard, control your breathing and make sure you’re turning on opposite feet with each turn! Not only does turning on the same side each time cause an asymmetry in loading, but under fatigue can cause your turns to be more circular and not as sharp. 

Interval Strength Training Workout - “Husker”

  • Back Squat 3x10
  • RDL 3x10
  • Weighted Step Up 3x10
  • Bench Press 3x10
  • Lat Pull Down 3x10
  • Push Press 3x10
  • Seated Row 3x10
  • Bicep Curl 3x10
  • Cable Tricep Extension 3x10

This is a fully body circuity with each exercise performed every minute on the minute. For the first minute you complete 10 back squats, rest the remaining time and begin the second set of ten squats on the next minute, by the fourth minute you will have transitioned to your first set of RDLS and so on. Your goal is to complete each set as fast as possible without sacrificing form and quality of movement.

Tips and Advice: For best results, perform this workout twice a week (Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday) for a total of 4 weeks. The load for each exercise should be such that is challenging but able to be completed without breaks. Try to make an incremental increase in weight for each exercise on a weekly basis. You may complement this routine with accessory and recovery based strength training and conditioning.

Ian Jentgen is a former member of the Columbus Crew youth system and played four years of collegiate soccer at Salve Regina University, receiving All Conference and All New England Honors.  Ian currently a fitness professional, serving as a CrossFit Subject Matter Expert (Strongman) and Lead Instructor.

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