This article is based around an interview with Justin Leduc who is a Certified Athletic Trainer/Strength & Conditioning Specialist. We would like to express him our thanks for sharing some of his knowledge of soccer training.

Q1/ Before undertaking weight training, most coaches recommend a warm-up, can you give us a few tips on warming up for this particular type of training.

A1/ A proper warm-up is an essential component of any conditioning program, weight training included. The warm-up should consists of exercises that mimic the patterns of movement used in the sport or activity to be performed.
We generally begin our warm-up for weight training in the gymnasium. We mark off a 20 yd. area and perform two sets of each exercise at an intensity level of approx. 50-75%. Many coaches still begin their sessions with static stretching I save this activity until the end of the workout. Your warm-up should last 10 - 15 min. Here's a look at an example of some warm-up activities:

1. Jogging
2. High Knees
3. Butt Kicks
4. Walking lunges
5. Back-pedal
6. Skipping with Arm Circles
7. Side Shuffle
8. Carioca
9. Body weight Squats 2 sets of 10
10. Push-ups 2 sets of 10

Q2/ From what age do you feel weight training is not only safe but also beneficial? Do you recommend specific strength work for younger or female players ?

A2/ When developing strength and conditioning programs it is important to take age, and gender into consideration. When working with younger athletes I do not use chronological age as the deciding factor as when to begin. It is necessary gauge an athletes based upon maturity, or biological age. Here is an example that will illustrate my point. An early maturing athlete is finished with his growth spurt. He is about the same height as his parents and his voice has deepened. Another 14 year old is tall yet his parents are above average height, his voice has not yet deepened and he has a slight build. I would begin weight training exercises with the first athlete, and not with the second even though they are the same age... That is not to say I would not train the second athlete, our focus however would be different. We would hold back on the weight training but would focus on balance , body control , core strength (abdominal /low back), and body weight exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.

In the past I would train male and female athletes the same, However I now make some modifications. Female athletes are at a 2 - 6 times greater risk for sustaining a serious knee injury. Several risk factors have been identified. Some of those factors can be addressed through a properly designed strength and conditioning program. Muscular strength imbalances between the hamstring and quadriceps muscle along with technique when performing cutting and landing maneuvers have been identified as a potential risk factors. Keeping this in mind we focus on developing hamstring strength utilizing many single legged exercises, since majority of soccer skills are performed while the athlete is supported on one leg ( shooting, passing, trapping).

Q3/ Could you explain the difference between strength and power training ?

A3/ I differentiate strength training from power training to the coaches parents, and the athletes I work with by telling them Power training is athlete specific training. In a sport such as soccer a player needs to be able to "explode." Power has to deal with the amount of force placed upon an object and the distance the object covers and the speed or time it takes for that distance to be covered. This is what occurs in sport. Lets take a closer look at how this applies to soccer. Kicking a soccer ball the athlete applies a force to the ball (taking accuracy out of the picture) what is important is how far and how "hard " the kick is. A perfect example of the role of power in soccer. Here's another example. Soccer is a sport in which players are required to change direction quickly. How does this occur ? Force is applied by a single leg in one direction "pushing the body in the opposite direction the greater the applied force the quicker the body will move.

Q4/ According to you, do soccer players require upper body strengthening exercises ?

A4/ Yes. When I train an athlete I want to develop the entire athlete. A restart in the game of soccer is an important goal scoring opportunity having a player who can make a long accurate throw-in can be a lethal weapon. Upper-strength also plays a role in speed development, take a look at a Olympic sprinter what does there upper body look like? From an injury prevention stand point it is important to keep your body balanced. So yes I feel it is important to train both the upper and lower body even through the majority of work is performed by the lower body in soccer. I spend a large amount of time training the "core" ( abdominal / low back) I believe it is often neglected, or trained improperly perhaps we can discuss this at a latter date.

Q5/ How much of a role does sports science play in your fitness preparation ?

A6/ In order to develop a successful training program you must have an understanding of "sports science." All of the variables of a training program must relate to soccer. Which exercises to perform? How many repetitions, How long to perform a drill or exercise? How much rest to take? The answers all of these questions can be found in sports science. If you are designing a program be able to answer why to everything you chose to have your athletes do. Having a player go for a mile run as part of their training. Ask yourself what part of the training season are we in? What is the focus of this part of the training season ? How is this going to help my athlete. Here's a hint if the player has a good fitness base I very rarely ever have them go on a continuous steady paced run. Look at the sport soccer which requires many bursts of speed.

Q6/ Do you think it is important and if so, why, to sometimes individualise training programs for different playing positions such as defenders or midfielders ?

Q6/ I do feel it is important to individualize a training program. In order to individualize a program I find it necessary to test players throughout the year. Improvements can be noted and weaknesses identified. With that said I will then develop a program based upon that individuals strengths and weaknesses as they relate to other players, not necessarily players of particular positions... Developing a better athlete should be the first goal, especially at the younger ages.

For further expert fitness information, please contact Justin below:

Justin Leduc
Certified Athletic Trainer / Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Contact information:
Justin LeDuc
34 Dale Rd. Avon CT. 06001
(860) 676 - 4371 extension 525
EMail: justinlatc@msn.com

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