7 Best Lower Body Exercises for Soccer Players

Lower Body Exercises For Soccer Players

Having a strong, powerful lower body is extremely important for Soccer Players. Lower body strength can help players with positioning, kicking power and can even help with endurance by becoming more efficient.

In this article, I’m going to discuss my 7 favorite lower body exercises for soccer players to help improve their performance on the field.

Let’s get right to it.

Lower Body Exercises for Soccer

Clean Pulls

I’m a huge believer in Olympic lifts for athletes to build power and explosiveness. The first Olympic lift variation that I like to introduce to Soccer Players is the Clean Pull.

Clean Pulls are a less technical variation of the full Clean. The starting position is the same as a Clean (and the popular Power Clean variation) but the catch is removed. Instead, the athlete drives up, getting full extension through the hips, knees and ankles but keeps the arms straight throughout.

Clean Pulls allow Soccer Players to start training for power almost right away. As technique continues to become more proficient, the lifter can then progress to more complex variations.

Back Squat

Back Squat is the ultimate lower body exercise to build strength. No other exercise can match it when it comes to developing not just strong quads, hamstrings and glutes but low back, core and even upper back strength.

If you don’t feel you’re ready for Back Squatting with a Barbell just yet, you can try a simpler variation like Goblet Squats while you gain confidence in your technique. Back Squatting with a PVC Pipe is a great way to start learning the movement without having to use any weight.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m a big fan of Front Squats as well. In fact, they are worthy of being in this Top 7 by themselves. However, if I can only choose one or the other, I’m choosing Back Squats.

Reverse Lunge

Now let’s jump into some single-leg movements.

Single-Leg movements are critical for the physical development of soccer players because so much of the sport is actually done on one leg (even if it may not seem obvious). Jumping, sprinting, dribbling and (more obviously) kicking are all done on one leg at a time.

Single-Leg exercises also help fight against any lower body asymmetries that may occur over time (one side being stronger than the other). Asymmetries often lead to compensations (or are caused by compensations in the first place) and eventually oftentimes injury.

Reverse Lunges are one of my favorite single-leg movements because stepping backward takes away forward momentum which can be stressful to the knees. It’s also easier for athletes in my experience to maintain a more upright torso while doing Reverse Lunges as opposed to regular Lunges.

Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat
Pistol Squats are a great single-leg exercise that requires zero equipment at all.

I love Pistol Squats. I love Pistol Squats because they’re a bodyweight movement that will absolutely smoke your legs without putting any added stress on the posterior chain.

If you’re designing a strength and conditioning program you have to be really careful with how much you are taxing the posterior chain. So many exercises – Olympic lifts, squats, and hinging movements like RDLs and Bent Over Rows – all stress the posterior chain. This is part of what makes Pistol Squats truly special.

Pistol Squats are also a TRUE single-leg movement. Many single-leg movements like lunges and step-ups can be ‘cheated’ and an athlete can still compensate for a weaker side. Pistol Squats are one leg and one leg only. No opposite leg to give you a little boost if you need it. Want to find out if one of your legs is actually stronger than the other? Do Pistol Squats.


Speaking of the posterior chain, let’s shift gears to a couple of lower body exercises that focus on the posterior chain. First is RDLs, or Romanian Deadlifts.

I really like RDLs because they do a tremendous job of building strength throughout the entire posterior chain, from the Erector Spinae muscles of the low back, through the glutes and finally the hamstrings. Even the upper body which has to stay engaged to maintain posture throughout the lift gets challenged.

It’s also a great supplemental exercise to almost every exercise listed above it on this list. You can’t get the maximum benefit out of any of those exercises without the foundation of a strong posterior chain and Romanian Deadlifts will build just that.

Nordic Hamstring

Nordic Hamstring Curls are by far my favorite hamstring exercise and it’s not even close.


Because they work. Scientific reviews like this one constantly prove that including Nordic Hamstring Curls in a training program helps reduce the risk of a hamstring injury.

They also happen to be a really tough bodyweight exercise that if you build it into your team’s culture can become really competitive. Anything that can turn competitive in a weight room is something you want to have in the program.

Finally, seeing a player do their first unassisted rep all the way to the floor and back up is really cool to watch.


Soccer Players Sprinting On Breakaway

You may not have expected to see sprinting on a list of lower body exercises, but that’s just how important I believe sprinting is for soccer players. This sprinting can be part of a full program complete with sprinting drills, but it can also be as simple as just getting out and sprinting.

I think too many soccer players have gotten away from doing sprints in their training programs. I see so many players lift, condition and do far too many ladder drills. However, going out, lining up and running as fast as possible is neglected far too much.

If you want to run fast, you need to run fast. Even more, if you want your hamstrings to be prepared (and not pull) to do a full sprint once you’re in a breakaway on the field – then you better be doing that in your training.

Final Thoughts

Are these the only lower body exercises soccer players can do to build strong and explosive legs? Of course not.

But, in my opinion, your training program should have all (or at the very least, most) of these exercises incorporated into it at some point.

Just make sure to focus on technique, don’t try to use more weight than you can safely handle and don’t slack on your nutrition and recovery. Do all of these things and you should see a big-time improvement in your on-field performance!

Finally, if you found this article helpful, then you may also enjoy checking out my favorite core exercises for soccer players.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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