Improve Quickness and Agility with the Speed Ladder

In the modern era speed and agility are one of the most essential assets a player can attain but training for this purpose is often overlooked. One of the simplest ways to boost this attribute is by implementing the speed ladder into your training routine. The benefits of the speed ladder help improve footwork, coordination and mental concentration. A sample workout that takes no more than 20 minutes can be seen below

Sample Workout

  • Straight Run (one foot in each) x3 repetitions

  • In n Out Hope (two-foot hop inside two feet hop outside) x3 repetitions

  • Continuous Hop( Two footed) x3 repetitions

  • Two Footed Sprint x3 repetitions

  • 180-degree high knee sprint(two-footed) x3 repetitions

  • 180-degree double jump (miss one space) x3 repetitions

  • Thunderbolt Step/Zigzag(forward and backward diagonally through)x3 repetitions

If you are new to the speed ladder be sure to take each exercise slowly and focus on getting the technique right. As you perform more repetitions, the technique will come where you can begin to increase the tempo of each drill. This is due to the science behind how our muscles work. Muscle memory is a type of motor learning called procedural memory occurring in the brain, of course. Through the act of repetition, your brain cements the action into its neural pathways so that the movement becomes second nature. This is exactly what you want. At the same time, there is something called Muscle Adaptation where our body becomes used to the movement and exercises we may be doing which is why it is vital to continue to challenge ourselves once we have reached the point where each drill can be done with ease. Not only do our muscles need to be tested but so does our brain and this is a way to improve both aspects at the same time while working on fitness, so it is a great way to knock out three birds with one stone.

As you begin to advance within performing each exercise you should look to add more game realistic scenarios to it for example upon completing one set, setting off with a burst of pace in a specific direction to train muscle memory when carrying out the motion which you will look to replicate in your game. This subconsciously builds good habits into your form and technique when looking to make changes in direction or a quick dash.

As an aspiring soccer player, all aspects of your game should be worked on, and this is one side of the game that is ignored but really consumes the least time in comparison to more technical drills. It can easily be added to the beginning or end of a session, so there are no excuses, get out there!


Hydration: Why is it important for performance?

Don't wait to hydrate until your feel thirsty!  If your thirst mechanism is triggered, you are already showing signs of dehydration.  Optimize your sports performance by following a hydration plan and make adjusts based on factors such as weather and exertion. 

Dehydration can lead to:

·      ↓ Muscle Strength

·      ↓ Speed and Stamina

·      ↓ Energy

·      ↑ Risk for injury

Avoiding all these negative effects can be the difference between winning, losing and staying healthy. Therefore, it is vital to rehydrate before, during and after practicing or playing games. 

When should I rehydrate?
Before workouts:

·      Close to practice/competition you should be consuming liquid calories, such as, Sports drinks

·      2-3 hours before training, consume 17 ounces of fluids

·      8oz (1cup) immediately prior to competition or practice

During workouts:

·      2-4 cups (16-32oz) of sports drinks per hour (ideally) or

·      1 cup (8oz) every 15-20mins

·      If the practice or competition is longer than an hour try to consume carbohydrates as you hydrate

o   Sports drinks are the ideal method rather than trying to eat foods

Post-Workouts:

·      Aim to start hydrating immediately after practice/competition or at least within 30 minutes post-practice/competition

·      Consume at least 24oz for every pound lost from training or exercise.
 

Over hydration

·      The recommendations above are guidelines and should be used as such. Each individual will be different

·      To avoid over hydration do not drink more than you sweat

·      Try to drink sports drinks because they contain some sodium and carbohydrates

 

Sources: Boston University Sargent Choice Nutrition Center: Nutrition Advisers for Boston University Men’s Soccer.

Villanova University Nutrition Center- http://www1.villanova.edu/content/dam/villanova/studentlife/documents/healthpromotion/Hydration%20guideline%20for%20athletes.pdf

Foam rolling for recovery

foamroller.jpg

What is it?

In scientific terms, foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. In other words, rolling helps treat muscular immobility and pain. It does this by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. The effects from rolling are similar to receiving a massage from another person.

Why should you do it?

Foam rolling has been scientifically shown to reduce post-exercise fatigue, therefore, providing quicker recovery from playing and training. It is important to note though that foam rolling has no effect performance. However, the reduction in fatigue can extend workout time and volume that can then lead to long-term performance enhancements. Remember, the main benefit of foam rolling is quicker recovery.

How do you do it?

Foam rollers are found in many different forms, some are soft, some have ridges, but all are used the same way. Foam rolling can be completed with a specially designed compacted foam roller sold in many sports shops. Alternatively, rolling can be completed with a PVC pipe. All types should give similar effects. To roll you want to apply pressure to the roller as you roll up and down on the roller. Muscle groups to target are calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, IT band (outside of quad), groin, hip flexor (top of the quad), and back (lower and upper).

Here is a demonstration video of how to rollhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khC5J1lkC7s

Source: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2014/01000/The_Effects_of_Myofascial_Release_With_Foam.8.aspx

 

Strength Training for Prospective Student-Athletes

What is strength training?
Strength training is physical exercise that uses resistance. This mainly involves pushing or pulling free weights or resistance machines.

Why is strength training important?
There is a common myth that soccer players shouldn’t lift because they just need to play. People often say that “Lifting is for football, hockey or baseball”. IT’S NOT! Strength training is important in all sports to stay strong and healthy. Soccer is a contact sport therefore strength, particularly core strength, is important for all players at all ages. As a player, you want to be able to hold off opposing players, not be pushed over every time you try to run past an opponent. Likewise, strength training makes you faster and more explosive. Soccer players are beginning to improve physically each year as more and more professionals work on strength training to improve their explosiveness and speed.

More importantly though, strength training keeps muscles and joints strong to prevent injuries. Many soccer teams play on turf fields which place extraordinary amount of pressure on your joints. Many players get to college and the intensity of playing every day wears them down and they get injured. Appropriate strength training is therefore vital to keep your body healthy as you play.

What should I be doing when I go to the gym?
When you go to the gym you should be working on major muscle groups. Great exercises that should be a part of your daily routine are squats or lunges. These are great for quad strength that improves your speed and knee stability. Other exercises such as glute bridges or Romanian Deadlifts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtWtjViRsKo). These are important for posterior strength that is very important for hip stability and is often forgotten by many people. Moving to the upper body, dumbbell bench press and pull-ups should be the two area of focus. Do not fall into the trap of just doing upper body or just working your arms. Having strong biceps provides no physical benefit for soccer players!

What is strength training like in college?
In college, you will lift frequently all year round. In season, you will lift roughly 1 to 2 times per week. In the off-season, you will lift 4 times per week. The lifts will be primarily compromised of the major muscle groups as described above. Therefore, if you can begin to work on strengthening these areas now, you will have an advantage coming into college.

Are you hydrating enough and at the right time? Understanding Exercise and Fluid Replacement

Proper hydration is important for optimal physical performance and endurance for all athletes.  Hydration needs can vary considerably between individuals and for the same individual under different conditions and physical activities.  Therefore, it is important for you to develop an individual hydration plan.   

The experts at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published an article with recommendations for fluid replacement for physical activity.  The ACSM recommends fluid replacement begin several hours before exercise so that you can start the physical activity at "normal" body water and electrolyte levels.   Also, their guidelines note that consuming beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates often provides more benefits than consuming water alone during exercise. 

 To download the full article and begin developing your personalized hydration replacement plan, click here.