Even if you have bundles of natural talent and technique that can take your far, you can never rely solely on ability, as constantly improving your skills is an absolute must. Anyone that wants to reach the peak of soccer mountain will need to put countless hours of practice in to hone their skills and fitness.
Here are some of the top exercises recommended for improving your soccer skills:
Juggling is often associated with nothing more than flashy tricks that have no use in a real soccer game. While there is a degree of truth to this – you won’t get far trying to juggle the ball by every player – juggling remains an invaluable exercise that should be practiced at all levels.
The reason is quite simple – juggling improves your touch. As anyone that watches soccer knows, to get to the highest level of the game you will need a fantastic touch and be able to use it in countless scenarios and conditions.
There are various types of juggling exercises you can try, while you can practice the almost anywhere, making it one of the most accessible exercises for players. When juggling, try to move the ball in different ways, such as adding topspin, backspin, and side-spin on command.
This not only improves your touch but helps understand ball manipulation for making better passes.
Trapping the Ball
Much like juggling, trapping the ball is a great exercise for improving your touch, which is easily the most essential soccer skill to develop. This can work as part of your juggling exercise too, trapping the ball on different parts of your foot when falling from the air.
Don’t be afraid to kick the ball high and across different distances, as this lets you better develop your tough by trapping fast-moving balls while working on your movement. It’s also a good idea to try this with another player who can provide balls at different heights and speeds to help work on your trapping technique.
Remember, the less bounce the ball has when it touches your foot the better, while the ball should always be within your control – that means keeping it as close to you as possible.
Shielding the Ball
Shielding the ball from opposing players is a vital skill any footballer should know. It’s an often-overlooked aspect of ball control and retention, allowing the player to protect the ball from oncoming players looking to reclaim possession.
You will obviously need another player for this exercise, so take turns practicing shielding the ball with your body. Bend your knees when shielding and always ensure your body is always between the ball and the other player, trying at all costs to retain the ball.
Make sure to use touches with the inside of your foot to carry the ball away from the opposing player, continuing to use your body to shield the ball from them. Take turns shielding the ball and once your skill improves start to introduce more players to increase the challenge!
Agility ladders are a useful piece of training equipment that let you easily work on your footwork. Because so much of soccer involves controlling the ball, ladders offer a great opportunity to improve your footwork, increasing speed, coordination, dexterity.
Additionally, this exercise provides a great workout for the various muscles and tendons around the lower body, which also need to be developed to ensure a high level of fitness matches the skill level, while you also get a good cardio workout.
To try this exercise, simply lay agility ladders flat on the ground and spring through the ladders without touching them. Practice running ladders this is various speeds and movement patterns and see your handling of the ball improve over time.
Soccer players looking to develop their skills will want to start doing their squats from an early age! While not the most enjoyable soccer training exercise, squats are essential for developing strength and flexibility in the lower body, including all the important muscles like calves, quads, and hamstrings.
Squats are simple enough to do without any equipment, but you may want to add some weight into proceedings to help further build strength. Kettlebells and barbells are both good additions to squat exercising, although make sure you can handle the weight to avoid injury.
Another unpopular exercise but one that has lots of value to soccer players looking to develop their fitness and skills. Planks allow players to build their core strength which will provide countless benefits in other aspects of their game.
For instance, a strong core will provide players with improved stability that is very useful when trying to guard the ball or go toe to toe with another player. Not only that, when balls are hit directly at the player (such as from a direct free kick or when blocking a shot in your box) there are times when you need to defend the block the strike with your stomach area – a strong core makes this much less painful.
Fitness is certainly a skill soccer players need – you can’t play to your top level if you are always injured. Calf raises are a quintessential fitness exercise that help workout the calf muscles, building strength that helps prevent muscle strains and tears, not to mention reducing the chances of shin splints.
Simply place your hands against a wall or object, lift the heels slightly by a few inches so you are almost on your tip toes, hold for a moment before lowering them again.
Reaching the top levels of Soccer
There are few professional sports careers more lucrative than soccer. A quick look at soccer’s top earners by new betting sites showcases just how much money you can make when reaching the top, with stars like Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo making over $100 million a year, while anyone playing at a professional level can expect a very impressive salary.
Of course, getting to a professional level in soccer is easier said than done. In fact, it’s almost impossible for most soccer players in academies and non-professional leagues to reach the highest level.