When Should Soccer Players Start Lifting?
Soccer is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, speed, agility, and endurance. Some of the best athletes in the world happen to be soccer players.
To achieve optimal performance, soccer players need to develop a well-rounded fitness base that includes strength training.
However, there is a debate on when soccer players should start lifting weights.
Some coaches and trainers believe that soccer players should start lifting weights as early as 13 or 14 years old to build a foundation of strength and prevent injuries.
Others argue that strength training can interfere with a player’s growth and skill development and should be delayed until their late teens or early twenties.
So, this begs the question…when should soccer players start lifting?
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and risks of strength training for soccer players and provide evidence-based recommendations on when to start lifting weights.
We’ll also discuss the different types of strength training exercises that soccer players should focus on and how to incorporate them into their normal training regimen.
Benefits of Strength Training for Soccer Players
Increased Power and Speed
Strength training can improve a soccer player’s power and speed on the field.
This is because strength training helps to increase muscle mass and produce more muscle fibers within the human body.
This, in turn, can lead to more explosive movements and faster sprint times.
Additionally, strength training can help to improve a player’s jumping ability, which can be beneficial for winning headers and scoring goals.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Strength training can also help to reduce a soccer player’s risk of injury.
Strength training can improve joint stability and increase bone density, which can help to prevent injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures.
Strength training can also help to improve a player’s balance and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and other accidents on the field.
Strength training can increase the amount of oxygen that the muscles can use during exercise, which can help to delay fatigue and improve overall endurance.
Additionally, strength training can help to improve a player’s recovery time, which can be beneficial during long games, back-to-back games or tournaments.
Factors to Consider Before Starting Strength Training
Age of Soccer Player
The age of a soccer player is a crucial factor to consider before starting strength training.
Youth players who have not yet reached puberty should definitely avoid heavy lifting as their bodies are still developing.
Strength training can cause damage to growth plates, leading to stunted growth and other complications.
On the other hand, players who have reached puberty can consider starting to lift weights under the guidance of a qualified trainer.
Years of Experience
Beginner soccer players should focus on developing basic skills and techniques before moving on to strength training.
Intermediate and advanced players who have a good grasp of the game and have been playing for a while can benefit from strength training.
At the beginning, they should start with light weights (with more reps) and gradually increase the intensity of their workouts.
Personal Injury History
If a player has a long history of injuries, they should always consult with a medical professional before starting strength training.
In general, strength training can help prevent injuries, but it can also exacerbate existing injuries if not done correctly.
A certified trainer can design a custom program that takes into account the player’s injury history and helps them build strength without causing further damage.
When to Start Strength Training for Soccer Players
The off-season is the best time for soccer players to start and continue strength training.
Players have more time to focus on building their strength and conditioning without the demands of regular games and practices getting in the way.
During this time, players can work on building a solid foundation of strength and power that will carry over into the upcoming season. It is recommended that players start strength training at least 8-12 weeks before the start of pre-season training.
Pre-season is the time when soccer players should focus on transitioning from the off-season strength training to on-field performance.
During this time, players should continue to lift weights, but with a focus on maintaining strength and power while improving speed, agility, and endurance.
It is recommended that players continue to strength train 2-3 times per week during pre-season.
During the soccer season, strength training should taper off at a reduced frequency and intensity.
When in season, soccer players should prioritize their on-field performance, with strength training serving as a supplement to improve overall athletic ability and prevent injury.
Does Lifting Stunt Growth?
One of the most common concerns among parents and coaches is whether lifting weights at a young age can stunt a player’s growth.
While there is much debate on this topic, the consensus among experts is that lifting weights does not have a negative impact on growth and development.
In fact, research has shown that strength training can actually affect:
- Increased strength and bone strength index (BSI)
- Decreased fracture risk and rates of soccer-related injury
- Higher self-esteem and interest in the improvement of their health
It is also important to consider the individual athlete’s age, physical maturity, and training experience when determining if and how much weightlifting should be incorporated into their training regimen.
Athletes that are starting their growth spurt or younger may benefit more from bodyweight exercises and resistance bands before progressing to heavier weights.
Ultimately, the decision to incorporate weightlifting into a young athlete’s training should be made on a case-by-case basis and with the guidance of a qualified coach or trainer.
Here are some helpful exercises you can do as part of your off-season workout program…