For soccer players, building strength is a key part of improving and being successful in their sport. In fact, the importance of strength in the sport cannot be overstated as it underpins all the important aspects of the game: speed, agility, and endurance. The difficult part is prioritizing which exercises need to be done to build the most strength in the most important areas, and how to program appropriate periodization during different points of the season. For personal trainers training athletes looking to build soccer-specific strength, here are general guidelines on soccer programming.

Soccer Programming Guidelines for Reps/Sets

When doing any sort of weightlifting, it is important to take into account what part of the athletic season you are in. Is it the offseason? Preseason? Regular or postseason? Periodization is key. Depending on which season your client is in, the sets, reps, and resistance should be planned accordingly.

Here are some general guidelines to help your client get the most out of their lifting without overexerting themselves during a season of competition.

Offseason- Ideally the offseason would be split further into two different periods:

  • Hypertrophy period- The goal of this phase is to increase lean muscle mass, allowing appropriate time to build strength in the following phase. For the muscle-building phase, focus is on volume; the aim should be 3-6 sets of 8-12 reps at around 80%-90% of your clients 1RM.
  • Strength period- The number one goal in this phase is to increase the strength in the muscles most used in the sport. During this period 2-6 sets of 2-5 reps should be performed at 90%-100% of your clients 1RM; volume is lower, but intensity higher.

Preseason- The preseason should be a period no longer than 2-3 weeks where ideally you are prepping your client’s body to handle the competition that lies ahead. That means for soccer players in this phase, focusing on muscular endurance and mobility is important. During this time the aim should be 3-6 sets of 12-15 reps at 60%-75% of your clients 1RM.

Regular/Postseason- During the season, the goal is to maintain the strength your client has built without overtraining. When some people think of in-season training, they think of dropping weight and sets immediately to prevent burnout. However, your client built the strength by moving heavy weight in the offseason; in order to maintain this progress it is important not to drop the weight too significantly, if at all. Instead, decrease the number of reps to prevent overexertion.

For example, if during the strength phase you were having your client do 4 sets of 6 reps at 95% of their max, during the maintenance phase you could program 4 sets of 3 reps at 80%-85% of their max using the same weight. This ensures their volume of work decreases, but they will remain accustomed to moving the same heavy weight and not lose strength. During this phase, aim to keep the weight and sets about the same as you had it in the strength building phase, and do about half the number of reps.

Which Lifts?

In my follow-up blog, the specific exercises/lifts that benefit soccer players the most will be outlined and explored. Clearly, soccer athletes utilize lower body strength and agility primarily to excel at their game, but total body strength is truly the focus. Stay tuned!