The DSP Guide to Maximum Soccer Player Strength

After Anatomical Adaptation, a soccer player is now prepared to move up to the Strength Phase.

This is an essential pre requisite before embarking on a Power programme.

The importance of developing Strength before power is paramount, and contributes significantly towards nearly every functional requirement of the game.

Dramatically improving the players ability to adjust to random situations such as :

  • Stability and control

  • Enhanced interaction between all 3 energy systems

  • Reduced injuries, through increased stability and strength of ligaments and tendons

  • Greater speed

  • Ability to accelerate more efficiently

  • Increased movement patterns and jumping ability

These are attributes that players like Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Lionel Messi of Barcelona Football Club exhibit to an exceptional standard each and every game.


One of the main goals of any soccer player, must be to incorporate an effective strength conditioning programme. Where significant tension in the prime movers and stabilisation muscles, results in specific tensile strength without excessive gains in muscle mass.

This increases better communication between the central nervous system (CNS) and other muscle groups that play a significant role for performance.

Strength training needs to be structured accordingly, and is split into 3 Phases:

Phase 1: Activation Strength Drills : These drills are performed right at the beginning of pre season training and consist of relatively simple and static movements.

They help activate appropriate muscle groups to respond to various movement demands.

Phase 2: Pattern Strength Drills : The motive behind these drills is to mimic movements made in the soccer, such as front and lateral lunges etc. These are performed using bodyweight, in the early stages, before progressing to more advanced drills using equipment.

Phase 3: Loaded Strength Exercises : Requires a player to use resistance equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or Rubber bands. Where the weight used is 70% - 80% of your 1 Rep Max, developing Strength / Strength Endurance.

NOTE : Most conventional trainers and text books will advocate using a certain percentage of your 1 Rep Max to attain the required strength gains needed.

However Dynamic Soccer Player uses Escalating Density Training (EDT) as a unique and flexible training programme to achieve excellent strength gains.


The game of soccer involves many multidirectional movements, executed in a spontaneous and random manner. Such as cutting, lunging, and sprinting etc. executed

For a soccer player to be able to respond effectively to these explosive and demanding movements, the activation of key muscle groups is required.

Activation Drills do exactly that, and literally stimulate muscles that have become dormant or switched off.These drills not only asist a player to move efficiently, but are instrumental in preventing soccer injuries.

Bent Knee to Sky

This is a great exercise for activating the Gluteus Medius muscle.

They assist in stabilising the hips, that requires the soccer player to demonstrate balance in undertaking multidirectional movement patterns.

  1. Position yourself on the floor, side on with your knees bent.

  2. Make sure your trunk, back and pelvis are not twisted, and that your spine is in neutral mode as it would be in a vertical position ( Proper Anatomical Allignment )

  3. Starting with your knees and heels together, gradually raise the top knee by activating your glute or buttock muscles, until you can take the knee no further without discomfort.

  4. Hold for about a second and slowly return to the start position.

  5. Perform 3 x 10 reps both sides without rest

Squat and Squeeze

An exercise for activating the Vastus Medialis Muscle ( inside muscle of the thigh), Adductors, and Glute Muscles.

Again, these muscle groups are instrumental in helping a soccer player move from one position to the next in a smooth transition under high intensity.

  1. Sandwich a Swiss Ball behind your back and a wall, or some structure of support.

  2. Remember to keep a neutral spine, and head looking forward.

  3. Place a soccer ball or two yoga foam blocks between your knees

  4. Over a 3 second period gradually squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, all the time squeezing the ball with the inside of your knees.

  5. Hold for 5 seconds, still squeezing the ball.

  6. Remove the ball, and over a 3 second period return to starting position.

  7. Rest for 5 seconds, and repeat for 6 reps

Table Maker

The Table Maker by Matt Furey, of Combat Conditioning is probably one of the best alround exercises you can add to a soccer strength training or conditioning programme.

Strengthening the upper and lower back, buttocks and hips, triceps and shoulder muscles, as well as increasing excellent flexibility in the spine.

  1. Begin by sitting on the floor, in an upright position , with legs straight out in front of you, hands touching the floor, arms straight at your Sides.

  2. Move your body forward lifting your hips, until your feet are flat on the floor. You should end up in a tabletop position.

  3. Tense your glutes or buttock muscle hard, so that your hips and body stay elevated horizontally.

  4. Keep your head in a neutral position as it would be standing vertical. (no tilting back or forward)

  5. Hold for a count of 20 seconds and return to start.

  6. Repeat for 10 reps

Overhead Lateral Ball Squat,

A terrific exercise for a soccer player to reinforce posture, spine, and hip mobility, as well as activating the abductor muscles for lateral movement in soccer.

  1. Stand straight with arms extended above your head,holding a soccer ball with feet together.

  2. Still keeping your arms extended, carefully push your hips back and proceed to slide your right leg out laterally as far and comfortably as you can. While keeping it straight and bending your left knee.

  3. Concentrate on looking forward, keeping the chest out, and tensing your core at all times

  4. Return to start position and repeat 3 x 6-8 reps each leg

NOTE: In the beginning it is important to only slide as far as you can, and gradually increase your range of motion (ROM) as you get stronger and more flexible. Do not allow any part of your upper body fall forward.

Swiss Ball Assisted Ham Glute Roll Out

One of the most common soccer injuries associated with any soccer player tends to be the hamstring pull. An irritating and debilitating injury, that can take months or longer to recover from.

The Swiss Ball Assisted Ham Glute Roll Out can help address this problem, and acts as a pre cursor before attempting a more advanced version of this exercise.

  1. Place yourself in a kneeling position, body bolt upright, with your knees cushioned, and your ankles being supported by a partner hands.

  2. With your hands on top of a swiss ball in front of you, proceed to lower your body while keeping your torso straight and core activated. Allowing the arms to roll across the ball while straight.

  3. Activate your hamstring and glute muscles while pushing against your partners hands with your ankles to control the descent.

  4. Still activating the hams and glute muscles, proceed to reverse the action back to the start.

  5. Repeat this exercise for 3 x 6 reps

NOTE: Make full use of the swiss ball in assisting you back and forth, so that pressure is alleviated on the ham and glute muscles when performing this exercise for the first few times.


Once the soccer player has acclimatised to a strength programme, they are now ready to progress onto Pattern Strength Drills. These drills are designed to recruit specific strength and biomotor abilities, in response to relevant movements that occur within the game of soccer.

Multidirectional Lunges,

As a natural progression from the Over head Lateral Ball Squat, this exercise helps a soccer player to further build strength and flexibility for posture, spine, and hip.

With the addition of programming all the major leg muscle groups to respond to multiple planes of motion executed in the game of soccer.

  1. Holding a soccer ball above your head arms extended, proceed to lunge forward on your left leg, keeping your head looking forward and core activated. Hold for 2 seconds before pushing back to start.

  2. Repeat with right leg

  3. Laterally lunge to your left, hold for 2 seconds and return back to start.

  4. Repeat right side

  5. Reverse Lunge with left leg, hold for 2 seconds and return back to start.

  6. Repeat with right side

  7. 4 x 3 cycles with 60 secs rest between cycles ( 1 set equals 3 cycles of the above)

Note: Make sure your knees do not extend over your toes on front and reverse lunges, and that your feet remain facing forward when performing the lateral lunges. Keeping a neutral spine throughout the exercise.

Lateral Swiss Ball Squat

The LSBS strengthens major muscle groups, involved in replicating cutting and stopping moves while playing soccer. It also includes the additional element of stability and balance.

  1. Position a swiss ball between yourself and a wall, standing side on and leaning into the ball at 45°.

  2. Lift the inside leg so that you are now supported using just your outside leg, the ball being at elbow height.

  3. Lower your hips and bend your leg pushing outwards, and descend for 3 seconds until the swiss ball arrives at shoulder height.

  4. Hold for 1 sec before reversing the action and pushing up over a 2 sec period.

  5. Repeat for 6 reps for each side for 3 sets with 90 sec rest between sets.


After a pre determined time in the first two phases of the strength programme, the soccer player has now developed a solid base to progress to the next level.

This is where greater loads can be administered to the Prime Mover muscles, such as the Hamstrings, Glute Muscles, Quads and core. All playing a pivotal role in a soccer players performance.

The purpose behind Loaded Strength Drills is to create as much tension as possible in the muscles, to produce a greater number of fast twitch fibers (FT).

This enhances the CNS to communicate and coordinate muscle synchronisation to a far higher level, where opposing muscle groups do not restrict each other of movement.

Also known as the ‘Law of Recipricol Inhibition’ or Sherringtons Law.

This fundamental rule states that whenever a muscle primarily responsible for generating movement is activated and contracted (agonist muscle), its opposing muscle (antagonist muscle) must relax.

Therefore it does not resist flexion and acts as control mechanism, to protect the joints, especially when performing soccer moves at high speed.

Using the Squat exercise as an example, the Hamstrings act as the agonist muscles, where they contract and lengthen on the downward phase of the squat. Allowing the Quadriceps (thigh) antagonist muscles to relax.

The roles being reversed on the upward phase.

When applied in the correct way, these actions eliminate any restrictions in the functionality of the soccer player, and result in huge strength gains and a greater freedom in movement patterns.

Escalating Density Training (EDT)

As described above, a normal strength conditioning programme works on the basis of determining your 1 rep max ( the heaviest load you can lift for 1 rep ) and then lifting at a specific percentage of that figure to achieve the required strength benefits.

In the case of soccer, this would be between 70% - 85%. where maximum strength and strength endurance become prominent .

However logistically, conventional strength training for soccer has certain restrictions and time restraints.

What I mean by this, is that because the game of soccer is run almost on a perpetual basis year after year. It is difficult to organise a soccer strength training programme that accommodates short duration sessions.And one that can produce excellent strength gains for the soccer player without fatigue setting in.

Especially when running alongside other important disciplines such as speed, agility, plyometrics etc. And not forgetting competitive soccer games.

This is where Escalating Density Training can address those problems.

Devised by Charles Staley, a prominent and pioneering fitness coach within the world of sports conditioning. EDT is a totally flexible and effective training system, that allows any soccer player to perform as much work as possible within a short timeframe.

Yet reduce post exercise fatigue.

Escalating Density in a training sense, represents a measurement of work accomplished over a specified time, which in the case of EDT is 15 mins also known as a PR Zone.

Where the main goal of each session is to accumalate as many reps as possible, but with the emphasis on strict technique and flexible rest periods.

Methodically progressing with the weights and reps in an escalating manner, as the name implies.

For any soccer player playing competitively week in week out over a gruelling soccer season, EDT can offer an ideal training vehicle that can bring immense benefits to strength and cardio conditioning.

The EDT System

How the EDT system works, involves the soccer player choosing a weight that he/she can lift, no more and no less than 10 reps for each exercise they do, performed with good technique.

So that it allows for the maximum recruitment of bio motor ability when performing the speed and force movements explosively.

They then set a countdown timer for 15 mins, and pick two exercises that accommodate opposing agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

For this example we will choose Squats and Deadlifts which recruit two primary muscle groups used in soccer

Squats - Quadriceps (Agonist) Hamstrings (Antagonist)

Stiff Legged Deadlifts - Hamstrings (Agonist) Quadriceps (Antagonist)

Starting with the squats first, perform as many reps up to a maximum of 10 for the first set, that you feel you can average for the full 15 minutes. For instance, a good number to start with would be 5 reps, although this can fluctuate, depending on how fit and fresh you may feel. This is also where the flexibility of the programme plays an important role, as you must always remember that the ultimate goal is to achieve maximum strength gains without fatigue.

Once you have executed 5 reps of the squats, you then take a short rest, before moving onto the Deadlifts and repeating the process. Once again performing with a weight that is not to easy or to difficult to lift, but taxes the body and CNS so that it adapts in a consistent and progressive manner.

The soccer player should have a note book ready so you can list the exact amount of Weight, Reps and Sets they perform throughout the session.

When the 15mins is up, they then add up the total amount of reps for both the squats and deadlifts, plus the total individual and accumulative sets for both exercises.

The aim is then to perform more reps in your PR Zone by at least one on the next workout.

Your 15min session may look something like this :

SET 1: Squats - 80kg x 5 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 5

SET 2: Squats - 80kg x 5 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 5

SET 3: Squats - 80kg x 5 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 5

SET 4: Squats - 80kg x 6 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 6

SET 5: Squats - 80kg x 5 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 6

SET 6: Squats - 80kg x 4 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 4

SET 7: Squats - 80kg x 3 Stiff Legged Deadlifts - 85kg x 3

Therefore :

Total Time = 15mins

Total Sets/Exercise = 7 sets

Total No Sets = 14 sets

Total Reps (PR ZONE) = 67 ( Squats - 33 reps / Deadlifts - 34 )

Now that a benchmark or target no of reps has been set. The soccer players main objective now for each session, is to beat the previous no of reps by at least one.

So if we take 67 from the above workout, they would attempt to achieve 68 on your next session.

Eventually you will begin to accumalate a number of reps that far supersede your original rep total as your strength increases. In which case it will be time for the soccer player to possibly take the weight up by a small increment of 5%, and start the process again

In a standard EDT session there are 3 x 15 min sections (45mins), interspersed with 5min rest periods between sets and performed 3 times a week. The other two 15 min sessions catering for alternating upper body muscle groups etc.

For soccer however, taking into consideration what I explained earlier that touched upon time restraints.

You may find that performing 1 x 15 min session 3 x a week after the early foundations of a strength programme have been laid, may suffice to begin with.

Progressing To 3 x 15mins x 2/3 times a week during the later stages of pre season training as an example.

This is the beauty of the EDT System for any soccer player looking for a competitive edge, where you are in complete control of the weight you lift, without resorting to excessive loads prematurely.

Helping you achieve specific strength gains for soccer.

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