In the fiercely competitive sport of soccer, agility and strength are not just requirements, they are necessities carved through disciplined, targeted training.
An optimized body, honed through the relentless pursuit of physical excellence, is a player’s finest instrument on the pitch.
But, what if you don’t have access to any equipment?
Whether you’re at home or traveling on the road, sometimes getting into a gym just isn’t an option. If this is where you’ve found yourself, you’re in the right place!
In this article, I bring to you an arsenal of the 10 best bodyweight exercises, meticulously curated to sculpt you into an unyielding force on the field.
Best Bodyweight Exercises for Soccer Players
Here they are, in no particular order, my 10 favorite bodyweight exercises for soccer players.
Stick around to the end because I put these 10 exercises into a workout circuit that you can try out right now.
Why: Push-Ups target the chest, shoulders, and triceps while engaging the core, promoting upper body strength which is crucial for shielding the ball and competing physically in challenges.
Push-Ups aren’t just one of my favorite bodyweight exercises, it’s one of my favorite upper-body exercises for soccer, period.
- Lie face down on the floor.
- Pull your toes in so that you’re on the tip of your shoes.
- Eyes should be focused straight down or slightly up.
- Pull your hands close to about the nipple line of the chest and bring them out about 2-3 inches away.
- Take a deep breath, engage the core and brace.
- Push yourself up in one unit. There should be no sagging of the waist. The entire body from head to toe should move up and then back down in unison.
- Feel your scapula upwardly rotate and make sure the antagonist muscles (Back and biceps) are fully engaging.
- Lock out your push-up and pause.
- Slowly lower yourself back down and get ready for the next repetition from just above the ground. Do not fully relax at the bottom of the push-up unless your program specifies.
Why: By working the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, Bodyweight Squats help in building lower body strength which is essential for powerful sprinting and jumping during the game.
- Perform your bodyweight squat by placing feet shoulder width apart, toes straight ahead or slightly pointed out.
- Squat down by first hinging the hips back and then bending the knees and dropping the hips straight down.
- Chest should stay up, eyes focused straight ahead.
- Feet should remain flat on the floor with weight evenly distributed between the heel and ball of the foot.
- Stand tall by pushing the feet ‘through the floor’, driving the hips up and the shoulders tall.
Why: Burpees are a full-body exercise that not only builds muscular strength but also enhances cardiovascular endurance, a crucial element for maintaining high energy levels throughout the match.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides.
- Lower your body into a squat position by bending your knees and hips. Place your hands on the ground in front of you, just outside shoulder-width apart.
- Jump your feet back into a plank position, with your hands still on the ground and your body in a straight line.
- Do a push-up by lowering your chest towards the ground, then pressing back up to the plank position.
- Jump your feet back towards your hands, then stand (or jump) up and reach your arms overhead.
Why: Planks enhance core stability, aiding in better ball control and improving balance during one-on-one confrontations.
- Start on the ground on your stomach.
- Assume a push-up like position on your elbows and toes. Elbows should be directly under the shoulders.
- Position your body in a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and ankles.
- Brace the core tight. (As if you’re going to be punched in the stomach)
- Do not let the body slouch to the ground nor push the hips up high in the air.
Why: Mountain Climbers is a dynamic exercise that promotes core stability and strength while working the hip flexors, helping in quick directional changes and sprint recoveries.
- Begin in a push-up position – hands under shoulders, core engaged, body in a straight line
- Now raise one knee toward the chest and place the ball of the foot on the ground – from this position you’re ready to begin performing reps.
- Drive one leg up and place the foot right next to where the opposite foot just left.
- Simultaneously extend the ‘up foot’ back to the original starting position.
- Continue alternating back and forth until all reps are completed.
Why: Lunges are vital in developing lower body strength and stability, enhancing a player’s ability to maintain balance during challenges and improving stride length in sprinting.
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart, shoulders relaxed and engage your core
- Step forward with one leg and lower your body, bending both knees at 90 degrees.
- Front knee above ankle, not past toes. Back knee close to but not touching the ground.
- Push off the front foot and return to the start position. Alternate legs each rep.
Why: Russian Twists targets the obliques, improving core strength and rotational power, which is essential for powerful shooting and passing.
- Start by taking a seat on the floor and clasping your hands together.
- Slightly bend the knees and raise your feet roughly six inches off the floor.
- Start by rotating your torso to the left, taking your right elbow toward your left knee.
- Now turn your shoulders and rotate your torso to the right, now taking your left elbow toward your right knee.
- Keep legs mostly still and maintain the feet off the floor throughout the movement.
- Continue rotating back and forth until all reps are completed.
Why: Glute Bridges target the hamstrings and glutes, helping prevent hamstring strains and enhancing power in sprints.
- Start by laying on your back on the ground.
- Bend both knees to about a 90-degree angle and place both feet flat on the floor.
- Begin the rep by driving your hips up into the air. Try to attain a straight line from the shoulders through the hips and knees.
- Squeeze the glutes at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.
Why: Incorporating Squat Jumps can improve explosive strength, which is beneficial in aerial duels and quick accelerations.
- First, make sure you have enough clearance to safely do Squat Jumps (no low ceilings!)
- Start in a shoulder-width with toes either straight ahead or turned slightly out.
- Squat down, exactly how you would with a normal Bodyweight Squat.
- As you squat down, cock your arms back so that they are down and slightly behind the hips.
- When you get to the bottom of the squat, explosively drive yourself up – hips and arms – into the air as high as possible.
- Land softly by bending the hips and knees to absorb force when contacting the ground.
Why: High Knees aid in enhancing agility and speed, cultivating a faster and more agile player on the field.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Lift one leg off the ground and bring your knee up towards your chest, keeping your foot dorsiflexed (toe pointed up), your heel tucked under the hamstring and your core engaged.
- As you bring your knee up, bring your opposite arm up to just in front of the face with the elbow at roughly a 90-degree angle.
- The arm on the same side as the knee that is up should be placed just behind the hip with the elbow at roughly a 90-degree angle.
- Lower your foot back to the ground and repeat the movement with the opposite leg and arm.
- Continue alternating legs and arms, lifting your knees as high as you can while keeping your balance and form.
Here’s a bodyweight circuit that a soccer player can follow to build strength and endurance using the exercises above:
|Circuit 1||3 Rounds|
|Bodyweight Squats||x 15|
|Plank||x 45 seconds|
|Circuit 2||3 Rounds|
|Mountain Climbers||x 15 each leg|
|Squat Jumps||x 12|
|Russian Twists||x 10 reps each side|
|Circuit 3||3 Rounds|
|Glute Bridges||x 15|
|Lunges||x 12 each leg|
|High Knees||x 30 seconds|
Make sure to start off with a proper warm-up. I have a few sample warmups here if you need one.
Perform each exercise in Circuit 1 one after another, with minimal rest in between, until 3 total rounds have been completed.
Rest 2 minutes.
Continue on to Circuit 2 in the same manner, resting another 2 minutes between Circuit 2 and 3.
If you want to increase the challenge, try 4 rounds of each circuit instead of 3.
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Investing time in bodyweight exercises (in or out of the gym) can be a game-changer for soccer players aiming to enhance their physical fitness. This selection of exercises offers a well-rounded approach to building strength, flexibility, and endurance without the need for any equipment.
By regularly incorporating these movements into your training, you can set a solid foundation for improved performance on the field.
Start with commitment to yourself, recognizing that each rep, each set is a step toward reaching your personal goals and unlocking your full potential as a soccer player.
It’s time to get started — your future self will thank you.