Soccer players are like an amped-up Energizer Bunny – you can run for seemingly forever, but you also need to be fast.
The last thing you want is to be beat to the ball or mess up a break – so how do you build this unstoppable speed?
In this article, we’ll check out exactly how plyometrics will make you become a faster soccer player and take a look at 8 of my top plyometric exercises you should do to leave your competition in the dust!
Let’s jump in!
What Are Plyometrics & Why Do They Matter For Soccer?
Plyometric exercises teach your body to access as much strength in your body as possible in as little time as possible.
They basically make your body more efficient at creating speed – especially explosive speed!
Think of a world-class bodybuilder trying to race…
Chances are that they won’t beat someone who trains to sprint or plays a sport with running involved, and that’s because they can’t access their immense strength very quickly.
Plyometrics condition our nervous system to activate our strength as quickly as possible (power).
You train plyometrics through short, explosive exercises that tap into your strength without tiring your muscles out.
And we want to get specific to soccer here – that’s why you need a mix of bilateral (both legs at same time) and unilateral (one leg at a time) exercises to hit all aspects of speed production!
Unilateral exercises will also uncover any weaknesses from side-to-side and then fix them.
That’s super important, especially since most of you soccer players have a dominant leg that compensates for the non-dominant leg…
One key thing to remember: each rep should be done with the best form possible while keeping fatigue to a minimum – so make sure to rest 2-5 minutes between sets!
Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the best exercises you can do to reach new speeds (in no particular order)!
1. Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps
This is a darn good one for soccer players!
You can really load up one leg at a time, focusing on building that important unilateral explosive power.
It’s designed to bring out any weaknesses between each leg, and then really force you to work on them.
It refers to your ankles, knees, and hips extending at the same time, which is a powerful movement pattern needed to build killer speed.
Aim for 3-8 sets of 3-6 reps on each leg.
2. Box Jumps
An absolute classic (and for good reason), box jumps are a wonderful plyometric that take the stress off your knees.
Landing higher up than your starting point lowers the force going through your body, making this one perfect if you have sore knees or tired legs!
On top of building speed, box jumps will give you that extra vert for headers!
Gradually increase the height of the box as you get better.
Go for 3-6 sets of 5 reps.
3. Banded Broad Jumps
Banded broad jumps knock regular long jumps up a level, making them a great progression for soccer players looking to challenge themselves.
You can do these like in the video above, attaching a band to a post – or you can have someone hold a band behind you… just make sure you trust them not to let go!
Jump as far in front of you as you can, slightly leaning forwards so you don’t fall back.
The type of band you use depends on your skill level – try to use one that’s not too skinny for risk of snapping it, but use a thickness that you can get at least 2-3 of distance with when jumping.
Come back to the starting point by shuffling back if you attached a band to a post, otherwise you can just have your workout partner walk up a couple steps behind you for the new starting position.
Shoot for 2-4 sets of 4-8 reps.
4. Split Squat Box Jumps
This is an interesting box jump variation that builds powerful forward drive – perfect for sprinting!
It’s a 3 step combo:
- Step 1 – Begin in a split squat stance. Your feet should be the same distance apart as if you’re about do to a lunge.
- Step 2 – Crouch down and bring your arms in front of you before swinging them back and forward to create momentum.
- Step 3 – Explode off your feet, leaning on your front leg. Jump as high as you can and land with both feet on the box.
Switch legs every rep, and maintain perfect form – if you have to curl up in a ball to get your legs high enough then your box is too big!
Try doing 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps on each leg.
5. Skater Jumps
Another classic, skater jumps are perfect for building soccer speed in side-to-side movements.
Doing it like the video above will strengthen the stabilizers in your legs and hips, plus build balance which is super important for reaching high speeds.
You can also do it more explosively, focusing on jumping sideways as far as you can, one leg at a time.
I suggest mixing up the two variations every couple of weeks to take advantage of the benefits from both!
Try doing 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps per side.
6. Reverse Lunge Knee Drives
Every fast soccer player needs insane knee drive, which is exactly what this exercise develops.
Start in a lunge position, and drive your back knee forwards and upwards as hard as you can while explosively straightening your front leg.
I’d even suggest adding a little jump at the end from your planted foot to add some more explosiveness and get that ankle extending for the triple extension pattern, but either way is great!
Stay on the lower end of reps with this one, going for 3-6 sets of 5 reps per side.
7. Banded Sprints
You already know all about sprinting… so let’s make that a bit harder.
There’s the classic trope in movies of training with ankle weights all your life so that, one day, when you take them off, you have lightning speed.
You can do something similar with sprinting by adding a band around your waist!
Have someone hold the band behind you, trying to keep a consistent space between you and them.
Sprint as hard as you can, trying to pull your partner towards you.
Give a 10/10 intensity, sprinting your heart out for 20-30 seconds, 3-5 sets – give yourself a good 3-4 minutes of rest in between, you want to be fresh enough to give it your all for each set!
8. Single Leg Lateral Box Jumps
Another great one for side-to-side speed.
It’s like combining box jumps and skater jumps, which is perfect for building speed and explosiveness in multiple planes.
Try increasing the height of the box over time – but you’ll likely take a little longer to progress with this one than regular box jumps!
Go for 3 sets of 5 reps per leg here.
And that’s it!
These 8 exercises are sure to bring up your max speed, letting you breeze by your opponents and tear up the pitch!
Not only will these level-up your speed, but also bump up your jump so that you can hit headers all day.
Make sure to mix up jumping forwards and sideways, as well as single leg and double leg exercises to get the best of all worlds.
Progress them as you’re able to by upping the box height, using tougher resistance bands, or putting on a weight vest!
Also check out our list of best overall plyometric exercises to get even more speed!