A strong core is essential for any athlete, regardless of sport, and this holds true for soccer players as well. A strong core helps transfer power, aids in balance and it provides stability when engaged with another player.
Soccer players inherently know this because when given ‘free time’ in the weight room they always do extra core work. (Or they’re just wanting to look good at the beach)
The issue I see all the time though is that most players do the same three or four core exercises over and over again. I believe we, as coaches, are guilty of this as well. We tend to program the same core exercises for our athletes that we’re familiar and comfortable with.
In this article, I’m going to try to help break you out of the monotony and give you eight of the best core exercises for soccer players so you’ll have plenty of fresh ideas for your next core routine.
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Core Exercises For Soccer
What you may notice is the large majority of these core exercises focus on the low abs and heavily involve the hip flexors. This is important for soccer players because the hip flexors are prime movers for kicking.
I know, Toe Touches is probably a core exercise that you’re already very familiar with. However, it is one of my favorite bodyweight core exercises for athletes.
Is it because having to hold your legs in the air makes the lower abs (and those hip flexors I just mentioned) have to work harder than regular crunches? Although that is a plus, that’s not the main reason.
I love Toe Touches for soccer players because it gives me insight into who is extremely tight in their hamstrings. Players with really tight hamstrings will struggle to get into a proper position and will struggle even more to maintain it.
If this sounds familiar then it’s time to start addressing those hammies.
To do Toe Touches, lay on your back with legs straight up in the air, hands close to your legs. Raise the shoulder blades off the ground and reach the hands up the shins. Squeeze the abs at the top of the rep, lower back down and repeat.
Next, let’s up the ante on the regular crunches that you’re probably already doing. Suitcase Crunches are an advanced variation of regular crunches.
Instead of laying your back, you’ll balance yourself up on your butt with your legs and back up off the ground.
Start with legs straight about six inches off the ground and torso leaned back as far as possible (while staying off the ground). Now crunch up, bringing your shoulders and knees together at the top. Lower back down to the start position and repeat.
There are so many reasons that I love programming Planks for athletes, especially soccer players.
First, it teaches and reinforces what it means to brace your core. Knowing how to properly, and effectively, brace your core is so important not only in the weight room but on the field as well.
Second, holding a plank can sometimes be as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging. I think anytime you can introduce situations (safely!) that get players out of their comfort zone and force them to strain is beneficial.
Finally, planks are extremely versatile. You can add weight or time to make them more challenging. You can switch to a side plank to incorporate more obliques and they also work great as a competition to finish a workout.
Med Ball Slams
Incorporating a medicine ball into your core routine is a great way to add resistance to some of the bodyweight exercises I’ve already listed. But, that’s not where a medicine ball really shines. Utilizing the ball in dynamic movements to build power is why you want to add a med ball to your core training.
These next two exercises are great examples of that.
Med Ball Slams is the perfect example of a dynamic core exercise incorporating a medicine ball. A Med Ball Slam is essentially utilizing your core to generate as much power as possible flexing at the torso and releasing that power in the form of slamming a med ball into the ground.
Coach Tip: Make sure to test how ‘bouncy’ your med ball is before slamming it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched athletes almost lose teeth because they weren’t prepared for the bounce coming back at them.
Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Reach med ball high overhead with arms extended and use your core to aggressively flex the torso and follow through with the arms and slam the ball off the ground.
Med Ball Side Toss
Med Ball Side Throw is another rotational core exercise utilizing a medicine ball. It’s essentially a more dynamic variation of the Seated Med Ball Twists that we just went over.
Find a sturdy wall or, better yet, a partner. Get in a good athletic position – feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Load the starting position by slowly rotating the ball to the back hip and then aggressively rotate and release the ball toward your partner.
I love Med Ball throwing movements like Slams and Side Tosses because of how much power players are able to generate. In fact, I like Side Throws so much that they’re also one of my favorite upper body exercises for soccer!
Hanging Straight Leg Leg Raises
Hanging abs are some of my absolute favorite core exercises.
Not only are they very challenging ab movements, but they also provide extra benefits as well. In addition to the core, most hanging ab movements also work the grip, shoulders, back and biceps.
For Hanging Straight Leg Leg Raises, find a bar and take an overhand grip. Arms will stay relatively straight, but do make sure you engage the Lats so you’re not just dead hanging from the bar. This will make it much easier to keep the body stable when moving the legs.
From the hang position raise the legs until they’re waist-high, or slightly higher. Actively lower the legs back down and repeat (Allowing the legs to just fall will almost undoubtedly cause the body to swing).
One of the hardest core exercises to do, hands down, is Windshield Wipers. It takes a tremendous amount of core strength and will stress your entire core (and your hip flexors, upper body and grip).
If you progress to the point where you can knock out a set of ten Windshield Wipers, you should feel pretty good about your core strength.
Same hanging starting position Hanging Leg Raises. Lift legs up until your feet are about a foot away from the pull-up bar.
Now rotate your hips and move your feet about two to three feet to the left. Rotate back and forth from side to side until all reps are completed.
Too often when players think about doing ‘core work’ they only think of working their abs. However, low back work is just as important, but it’s often either overlooked or just ignored.
Hyperextensions are one of the best movements you can do in a weight room to focus on building a strong low back. Hypers will also work the glutes and hamstrings as well.
If you don’t have access to a Glute Ham Machine, you can try either Supermans or Back Crunches. Both also work the low back and require no equipment.
There are dozens of core exercises to choose from so there is no need to get into a rut of doing the same movements over and over again all the time.
You also don’t have to limit yourself to just bodyweight abs, like crunches and sit-ups, either. Grab a medicine ball or find a pull-up bar and add some variety (and difficulty) to your core routine.
Finally, don’t forget about that posterior chain! Exercises like Hyperextensions, Supermans or even Back Crunches can help strengthen your low back – an important part of your core.