If America’s response to the World Cup wasn’t enough to convince you, soccer is huge. It’s gaining increased attention in the United States, and I think everyone is a little more interested in taking out a soccer ball and kicking it around, even if they’ve never played before.
Not only is soccer a great competitive sport, but it is an amazing workout that feels more like playing a game than working out. Soccer is unique because it engages all parts of your body: your core, legs and arms. It’s a great cardio workout, but also improves your strength and muscle condition. Basically, any physical activity you may want to do in a workout – running, jumping, cutting or developing hand-eye coordination – is part of soccer.
Below is a short list of easy soccer activities that anyone can do, not only to have fun, but also get a great workout in. One of the many appeals of exercising with a soccer ball is you can do almost all of these activities solo, with a partner or with an entire group. Compete against yourself, or compete with your friends. Regardless, you’re bound to get an excellent workout.
Solo: Pick any exercise – such as burpees, sit-ups, push-ups, squats or lunges. Then, take a soccer ball and throw it as high in the air as you can. While the ball is in the air, do as many reps of that exercise as possible. But, you have to catch the ball before it hits the ground. Each time, try to improve the number of reps you’re able to get in before you catch the ball.
Group: Have each person complete this exercise with their own ball, but take turns yelling out which exercise to do next as the balls are caught. This adds an auditory component to the workout, plus it challenges you to do more than the people around you.
Solo: Put the ball on the ground. Do toe touches (tap the top of the ball with your toe, alternating right and left) on top of the ball for 30 seconds and see how many reps you can do. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat. You can also jump over the ball front to back, and then side to side. After several rounds of this, you’ll feel a great burn.
Group: Same thing, but race against each other.
Solo: Place a cone about 20 yards in front of you and then kick the soccer ball and try to knock over the cone. If you hit it, you win. If you don’t, sprint to the ball and dribble the ball back and keep trying until you knock over the cone. This game works on your aim and punishes you for not being accurate.
Group: Again, nothing gets you working harder than friendly competition. See who can knock over their cone first. You can change up the distance to make it more or less difficult.
Solo: Toss the ball in the air and go through a series of skill drills, including hitting the ball with your inner laces (left then right), knees, thighs, chest and head. Do 10 reps each on your left and right sides for every region of your body.
Group: Have a partner stand five to seven yards away from you and throw the ball to you for each hit. Take turns, and see how accurate you can be. A complete circuit should take 10-15 minutes per person.
One-on-one soccer is not only a ton of fun, but it will guarantee you a great conditioning workout. Set up goals with cones about 20 yards apart and about 10 yards behind each you and your partner. Try to get the ball past your partner and stop it on the goal line. If you succeed, you get a point. If you fail, turn over the ball and let your partner try to get it past you. It’s great for competition, and you won’t even realize you are exercising. I’d take a one-on-one game over 10-yard sprints any day.
You should be all set to kick the ball around with a little purpose and confidence, so hit the field and get out and play. With the great summer weather, remember to take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Your treadmill can wait until winter, you have some soccer to play.
Nick Downing is in his third season as the New England Revolution’s strength and conditioning coach. Downing is responsible for developing and enhancing the Revolution players’ speed, strength and endurance. He is also charged with improving their overall conditioning and fitness in conjunction with the coaching and medical staffs.