Soccer Specific Exercises to Prevent Injury

Photos by David Donahue

Both of my older kids play soccer and I have noticed a lot of injuries these past years, especially ankle and knee injuries. The most important thing any of us can do for our bodies is to stabilize our joints with strong core muscles and work toward proper alignment. When one side of our body gets tight and the other side stretched, or one side strong and the other weak due to repetitive motions or postural patterns, we are asking for pain and/or injury eventually.

This program is modified from the FIFA-11+, the gold standard in injury prevention programs for soccer. It will take at 20-30 minutes to complete depending on your speed and should be completed 3x/ week to train proper alignment and stability.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having proper stability, especially for an intense sport like soccer which requires cutting, quick stops and starts, explosive power, and agility while on one leg. Below are some of the key muscles to focus on and why. This program will help improve function of the whole body.

Your Core (abdominals, back, pelvic floor): Stability of the core is critical for all people, especially athletes. The core muscles help control motion of spine and limbs, protect the back from injury, and a strong core significantly increases the power available through the arms and legs.

Gluteus medius: Strength of the gluteals (buttock muscles) especially the more lateral gluteus medius help control the position of the knee by controlling the femur (thigh bone). This is important for any person who runs or even walks, but critical for an athlete who asks a lot of the body while standing on one leg. Proper gluteal function prevents the thigh from rolling inward, thus preventing extreme strain and injury on the knee.

Hamstrings: Strength and length are both important for the hamstrings so that deceleration is controlled during running, kicking and cutting and so that there is resiliency in the muscles to quick stretching alternating with explosive power.

Proprioception (knowing where your body is in space through joint sense): This is critical to a player being able to safely adjust to an uneven field and manage direction changes and impact without having to think.

Ankle stability: This is important and can be trained with this program as well as specific theraband, body-weight-resisted and other simple exercises. If you would like an ankle specific program, let me know.

Foot position/ arch support: When I assess clients, I always do so from the foot up through the head, focusing on alignment of each joint. The foot is where posture begins because everything else is stacked on top of our foot. If the arches are not supported or strong enough, if there is not enough dorsiflexion in the ankle, if not enough movement (and shock absorption) in the bones of the foot and ankle, or if the heel has lost flexibility, this can set a player up for injury of the ankle and up the chain into the shins, knees, hips, back, and even neck and shoulders.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions or if you have a specific injury for which you are in need of a more specific program.

To your soccer joy and long injury-free play!

🙂 Robin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *