Strength Training in Soccer

All football coaches and managers need to understand the Importance of Strength Training in Soccer to overcome fatigue and injuries in games


Author: Luka Hoti (Strength & Conditioning Coch) Dinamo Zagreb

The improvement in the physical profile of players across most levels of the game over the last 15-20 years has been continually discussed.

The professionalisation of the game itself, the increased player support in terms of staffing levels combined with the player education and understanding their own requirements to perform at the elite level, has led to more specific strength & conditioning work in soccer.

Arguably the main aim of integrating S&C training in highly competitive sports is to improve players’ sporting-specific athletic movements.

In order to achieve this improvement in the physical status of elite soccer players, various modes of strength or power training have been adopted with the target pointing towards the improvement in players’ performance in position specific movements & enhancing efficiency (e.g., jumping, sprinting, and changing direction).

In order to achieve this, individuals must first understand the demands of the game imposed on the individual players, position requirements and fatigue-related impact of both training & competitive match play, all of which are highlighted within the ISSPF online course Certificate in Strength & Conditioning for Soccer Performance.

Italy, Milan, sept 14 2022: Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb striker) attacks the penalty area in the second half during soccer match AC MILAN vs DINAMO ZAGREB, UCL 2022-2023 matchday2 San Siro stadium

Adapting Strength Training in Soccer

Strength training can be divided according to types of muscle contraction: eccentric, concentric and isometric muscle contraction, which is directly in accordance to the duration of work (time under tension): duration of work up to 30 seconds, or neuro-muscular stimulus (mechanical overload), and duration of work over 30 seconds, or hypertrophic stimulus (metabolic overload).

The most important division of strength training discussed here is the division into generic and specific strength training.

Within the ISSPF online course, this topic is well described by ISSPF faculty member Alessandro Lonero in Module 4 as he highlights the biomechanical structures of the strength & conditioning, in addition with Generic vs. Specific strength training.

When discussing Generic strength training, it can be suggested that it has more influence on the development of body components without a significant impact on the soccer field.

Although everything has an important impact on the performance of soccer players from an S&C perspective, specific strength training has a smaller impact on the development of the whole body components from a conditioning perspective but has a major impact on the sport specific aspect. What is interesting is that both strength training methods have an important impact on injury prevention.


According to many researchers in this area, it is known that a muscle that is able to produce a greater amount of maximum force (fast muscle fibers) is equally able to absorb a greater amount of force, which actually tells us that a stronger muscle can endure a greater force.

Training for maximum strength gains in soccer may significantly affect the reduction of non-contact injuries in soccer.

Certain muscle groups must also maintain sound & correct posture through the training & competitive environments, both in standing, slowly moving and explosive actions during the soccer game.

It must be understood that some muscles do not produce regular maximum force outputs, but have the possibility of a large number of repetitions (slow muscle fibers).

There are several more divisions and types of strength training according to different authors, and different definitions of strength training terminology, but for the purpose of this article, the terms described above will be continued in their definition.

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Weekly Planning of Strength Training

The planning of the weekly microcycle in soccer is always building towards the match.

More often, these are weeks with one game, however weeks with two or more games maybe structured differently, this is where real skill-sets of practitioners come in order to create a weekly microcycle. Furthermore, this is where the term ‘periodization or tapering’, the so-called art of coaching comes to fruition.

When it comes to creating strength training programming within a weekly training microcycle, it becomes even more challenging, given that several external and internal factors must be taken into account, which significantly influence decisions when deciding specific conditioning tools to use.

Historically, it is known & reported that, technical staff within the game (head coaches or support coaching staff) became very skeptical surrounding strength training, which led to players also then voicing opinions of ‘heavy legs going into games’ or ‘making me slow’ when performing strength exercises.

However, as expert practitioners in this area, and research around solid planning has shown, in fact it is completely on the contrary, as properly planned and dosed strength training will always improve on-field performance and, as mentioned previously, reduce the risk of possible injury and increase player robustness.


Many other justified reasons also impact on strength training planning in soccer, such as observing & understanding the physiological processes (fatigue, adaptation, supercompensation).

Immediately post-match, and +48hrs post-match, some muscle fibers are still in a fatigued state with limited glycogen levels, and coupled with individual needs of the player such as: history of injury, strength training competence, minutes played, etc… determine our weekly planning of strength training & decision making processes.

Therefore, the question is then asked…. when and how much strength training can be performed according to the requirements of the competition?

One Game Per Week

In the weekly microcycle with one match, and where players have the next match in 6/7 days, there are several examples of how to dose strength training, however, one example is presented below according to the experience of the article author (Luka Hoti).

The Importance of Strength Training in Soccer 4

In the table above, we can see a classic example of a planned strength training that follows the weekly periodization according to the requirements of the match.

Two Games Per Week

The limitations or factors impacting on the planning of strength training in a week with two or more games have previously been discussed.

It is certainly true that there is a certain amount of opportunity for strength training in this fixture-congested week, however, it is crucial to include the micro-dosing of strength work.

Micro-dosing enables practitioners to constantly perform strength training with players in order to maintain muscle tone, avoid inflammatory muscle processes, reduce the risk of ‘burnout syndrome’ in players, whilst also influencing the prevention of injuries.

Research has shown how 10 minutes of strength training per day may be sufficient in order to maintain the existing musculature. Of course, the exercises must be carefully selected according to the needs of your soccer players, combined with the efficiency and quality of the practitioner involved.

What is certainly not an advantage of micro-dosing is that you are not able to develop the strength training capacity of the players due to the limited training time & volume involved with micro-dosing.

The Importance of Strength Training in Soccer 5

From the table above, a weekly microcycle with two matches is presented, where the complexity of strength training planning can be seen.

UEFA Champions Youth League (UCYL) Program

The Importance of Strength Training in Soccer 6

This program is only to be performed with expertly educated individuals as practitioners or S&C coaches.

What should be noted is that this type of training is not for everyone, it largely depends on the player’s level of training, and it is necessary to gradually introduce the players to such a working system or training intervention.

Additionally, this training does not last more than 20 minutes in duration, due to fact practitioners take into account the player’s mental state post-match, regardless of whether players play full-games (minutes) or less, a certain emotional state is present and should be respected.

During the MD+1/-2, coaches can focus on recovery and integrate upper-body strength training as part of the recovery process.

For the rest of the presented week, coaches have the possibility of strength training on the day after the match in order to enable the players to fully recover.

On the MD+2, S&C coaches have the opportunity to perform an upper body strength training session in accordance with some isometric muscle contraction of the lower extremities – however this depends on your preference as a coach & strength training experience of your players.

During isometric muscle contraction, the muscle fibers do not shorten and lengthen, but the length of the muscle remains the same.

This enables us to activate the muscles of the lower extremities without causing damage. An example of such training is the following:

  • Hip thrust- 80% of 1RM 10 seconds x 3
  • Split squat-50% of 1RM 7 seconds each leg x 3
  • Half squat- 80% of 1RM 10 seconds x 3
  • Deadlift(knee position) 60% of 1RM 15 seconds x3
  • Plantar extension( smith machine with opposite knee up) bodyweight 7 seconds x 3

Again, this is an example for soccer players who already have a high level of training, and it is certainly necessary to gradually introduce athletes to this type of work system as the author of this article does in his club environment.

Strength & Conditioning for Football Performance Course

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Holistic Approach to Strength Training

Throughout this article – strength training has been suggested to have a couple of main functions:

  1. For the purpose of building muscle tissue or increasing the output/absorption of force
  2. Injury preventive measures

The problem that coaches often face when planning strength training in a weekly microcycle can be very complex according to the requirements of the competition.

The tools used to condition the players depend exclusively on the level and training history of the soccer athletes involved, their physiological needs (i.e. how many minutes played or how much they will play the next match – especially when dealing with younger or youth athletes), and their morphological-anthropometric characteristics.

Future maximization of S&C in soccer certainly requires a higher individual needs analysis & programming of the training process, in order to enhance the physical preparation, robustness & positional requirements from the soccer athlete.

Samara, Russia - June 25, 2018. Russian midfielder Roman Zobnin lying on the pitch, after he was commited a foul upon, during FIFA World Cup 2018 match Uruguay vs Russia

How This Course Will Improve You

The demand for sports science, S&C coaches, physiotherapistsperformance & coaching specialists in soccer & team sports is growing year upon year. Thousands of students are leaving university with a sport science degree, physio or therapy related qualification, however many of them asking the key question……

  • What now?
  • What’s the next step? 
  • Which area of sport or football science & medicine do I want to specialise in? 
  • How can I take my learning to the next level? 


These are certainly interesting questions as progressing from completing a sporting, medical or therapy related degree to then working in professional soccer & trying to understanding all the key components, and soft skills that come with jobs in soccer or careers within sport is complex.

As a result, the bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Fitness, Medical & Football Science Faculty members are a way of further exposing learners, parents, professional coaches, students, or other individuals interested in football science with a thirst to develop & up-skill further.

The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF endorsed & accredited Strength & Conditioning for Soccer Performance online sport science course, where you will be exposed to soccer medicine & coaching science-led research, with practical examples used by the game’s leading practitioners.

Strength & Conditioning for Football Performance Course

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Who is this Strength & Conditioning Course for?

  • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the strength & conditioning, training, preparation & coaching aspects of soccer players.
  • Individuals with an interest in developing their own knowledge in the strength & conditioning, training & development of individual soccer players and teams.


The Certificate in Strength and Conditioning for Soccer Performance provides you with the most efficient and modern training methods, drills and exercises to maximise the speed, endurance and strength of your players for peak match day performance.

This course is suitable for:

  • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for
  • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in

The course is comprised of the following:

  1. 15 study hours
  2. Pre & post-lecture reading references
  3. Multiple-choice tests
  4. Course assignment
  5. Certificate of Achievement

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