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Balance Exercises for Soccer Players
Having good balance will give you a subtle edge on the soccer field—one that could make all the difference in that critical moment where your team really needs you to come through.
If, say, you’re dribbling up the field and an opponent bumps into you, you'll need to be able to shift your body weight appropriately so that you don’t lose control of the soccer ball. Think of the balance players like Maradona or Messi or women's soccer star Alex Morgan possess. They are all strong on the ball and don't let players knock them off the ball easily, even when they're dribbling at speed.
The key to maintaining balance is to understand that your body is always moving. What do I mean? Well, first of all, try standing on one foot for 30 seconds. Go on, try it! You may have noticed that although you were able to remain standing in one place, your body was still wobbling and oscillating just ever so slightly. You see, it’s impossible to stand perfectly still because your body is constantly transferring energy all over the place, in addition to reacting against external forces such as gravity. Therefore, your goal is to maintain a center of balance by focusing this transfer of energy to work for you, not against you.
Think of your center of balance as a flock of sheep. I know this is far fetched, but play along with me, okay? Imagine some sheep start straying from the flock. This is where sheepdogs (or in this case, your energy) come in. The sheepdog redirects the wandering sheep back to the flock, thus restoring the flock’s size, or in our example, your balance. Your job is to redirect your energy to restore your balance.
These are some exercises that’ll help you maintain good balance and strength on the soccer field:
- Test how good your balance is to begin with. Stand in place, feet hip-length apart. Raise one foot and do not let it touch the support leg. Try closing your eyes and maintaining your balance for 30 seconds or more. Do not let that foot touch your other leg or the floor, don’t let your body touch anything for support, and don’t hop. How good is your balance? Return to this test to see how your balance has improved.
- Balance on one foot and toss a medicine ball back and forth in your hands; this strengthens the muscles in the legs and abdomen. It’s even better if two people do it, each on one foot, throwing the ball back and forth.
- Get a foam cylindrical pad to roll your legs upon to work out muscles, along the side of your leg and thighs.
- Yoga is an excellent way to improve your balance and is discussed later in this guide.
- If you live near the coast, surfing is actually a good way to train for balance.
And now here are some more tricky and difficult balance exercises that are excellent for soccer players:
• Hover Step-Up – Get a fairly heavy box/platform approximately 6-10 inches in height, then stand on top of it, directly on the edge with the back of your foot alongside it. Slowly move your right foot towards your rear until it’s dangling above the ground and bring your body forwards so that your body weight is suspended directly above your left ankle. Want you want is a slight bend in your leg, not a stiff position. Then, slowly lower body using your left leg until the right foot is about one inch away from the ground. Hold for 10 seconds (and for longer lengths of time later), then return to your original position. Alternate feet. Don’t straighten your legs because you want your gluts and quads to remain contracted at all times. Include weights to increase intensity. Plus, you can increase the height of the box/platform.
• One Leg Dumbbell Squat – Basically, this exercise is a variation of a dip, or a lunge, but here you want to place your hind foot on an elevated surface while holding two dumbbells in both hands. Do around 15 repetitions on each leg. To increase balance put your front foot on an unstable surface, such as a pillow or a narrow wooden board. You can also use one weight and then switch hands halfway during the set.
• One-Leg Deadlift – Stand on one leg while the other leg hovers right above the floor for balance. Hold in each hand a heavy object, such as a dictionary, a dumbbell, a gallon of water, etc., and then squat down as low as you can possibly go, while keeping the back straight as an arrow. For enhanced balance, try doing this with weight only in one hand, then switch hands halfway during the set. Also strengthens the gluts, quads, ankles, and hips.
• Balance Beam – If a balance beam is unavailable, suspend a wooden plank about 1ft off the ground. Then, simply stand on the board or beam with arms stretched out while maintaining balance. Hold weights in one hand to increase balance. Close your eyes for added benefit.
• Jump Step Ball Tweak – First, do a standard jump step. To do this, simply jump forwards from two feet and then land on only one foot. The “ball tweak” part of this exercise comes in when someone feeds you with a soccer ball to strike with the other foot. This is especially useful since it incorporates a soccer ball into the routine.
Learn more: Pump Up the Volume - Weight Lifting