Functional Training for Soccer Players

Optimal preparation and development for soccer players.

Professional and amateur athletes are searching for the most effective training, nutrition, sleeping patterns and recovery mechanisms to gain a competitive advantage. As the personal functional trainer of various professional players worldwide, my job is to complement their game performance by enhancing their movements, strengthening their body and improving injury reduction and recovery.

Optimal performance means a combination of soccer team training plus high-quality functional training.

I’m going to be talking to you about everything you need to know about functional training and how it improves soccer development and performance. I also delve into effective training schedules and equipment, the importance of consistent training and you can access my free soccer functional training workouts to try for yourself.

Lucas Kruel

Personal Trainer of 60+ Pro Players Worldwide

What is functional training?

Functional training exercises essentially aim to help players perform better sport specific movements with effectiveness, ease and without injuries. Exercises usually focus on full body engagement, target core muscles and involve body weight bearing activities.

Why is function training beneficial for soccer players?

Functional training is important for soccer players as it perfectly complements individual and team game and training performances.

Functional training:

  • Betters the overall condition of the athlete
  • Provides game changing benefits to the performance of the athlete (see benefits in next paragraph)
  • Is efficient and effective with people of all circumstances (financial, time, space, equipment, fitness level, past injuries, training knowledge)
  • The exercises engage and stimulate multiple muscle groups and are low impact - which ensures safe and effective results.
  • Functional exercises are sport specific with the purpose to improve the performance of the athlete.
  • Can easily be incorporated into a busy soccer game and training schedule.

How does functional training improve soccer performance?

Functional training complements player’s performances in the best way possible as it:

  • Strengthens the entire body to perform on a wholistic and balanced level.
  • Helps reduce risk of injury to avoid sitting on the sidelines.
  • Betters the overall fitness level, the understanding of the body and it's capabilities.
  • Improves agility, coordination and balance to create fluid movements with and without the ball.
  • Strengthens the core and foundations to be stronger in body-on-body battles.
  • Improves flexibility and mobility to play pain free.
  • Increases speed, endurance and power to beat opponents again and again.
  • Strengthens joints to improve landing, balance and changing of direction.
  • Functional exercises allow faster recovery from an injury or soreness.

Can both professional and amateur athletes do functional training?

Players of all fitness levels, ages and goals can incorporate functional training into their weekly routine. It doesn't matter whether an athlete plays for their country or if they play for their local soccer club; functional exercises can be done by anyone, anywhere and anytime. The exercises are truly adaptable, versatile and beneficial for all who use them.

I personally train athletes that face very different circumstances. Some athletes have past injuries, some are teenagers, some athletes have access to minimal equipment, some have no previous knowledge of functional training... the list goes on. And yet, every one of them can incorporate functional training into their lives.

As each player’s body is of absolute importance, players can trust functional training as a safe and effective form of performance development because it is low impact on the body; focuses on full body strengthening as opposed to over-working isolated muscle groups; efficient and effective; sport specific; and reduces the risk of injury.

Where and what do you need to do functional training?

I train over sixty players worldwide and each player trains in a very different environment and with different pieces of equipment - at home, in their hotel room, at the gym or outside. Which leads me to one of the great benefits of functional training; the fact that you do not need any special equipment, special spaces or previous knowledge to effectively work your body. Any player can workout anywhere as we mostly train with body weight bearing exercises and slowly build up to activities using mini bands, kettlebells, medicine balls and more if feasible - however it is not necessary.

For comfort reasons, I do recommend using a yoga mat or towel during the exercises. However, it is not compulsory.

When and how much should you do functional training?

Depending on what you would like to personally achieve, I recommend functional training 2-4 times a week depending on your team training and game schedule. Each functional workout that I create is aimed to be packed with efficient and effective exercises to save time, avoid overworking players and get the best out of each player’s body. The workouts should usually endure 30-60 minutes depending on how you feel and your soccer schedule.

When scheduling your workouts, ensure that you have plenty of recovery time between your functional training workouts and your game or team training. For more intense functional workouts, do them on rest days or on opposite sides of the day of your team training (approximately 8 hours before your team training). For the lighter workouts, you can do these at any time as you need minimal recovery time.

For example, if you play a soccer game on a Sunday, you could do a lighter Mobility based workout on the Monday to assist recovery; an intense Endurance and Power workout on Wednesday to push progress; and a Coordination based workout on Friday to sharpen up your movements.

I also suggest that you include dynamic stretching into your warm-ups; maintain joint strengthening exercises every week to prevent injuries; and incorporate mobility exercises 2-3 times a week to maintain good condition. You can do these kinds of exercises at any time.

Which functional training exercises improve soccer performance

As functional training aims to strengthen the entire body and improve your movements, I have put together some top exercises and workouts that will specifically help your performance on the pitch; while still importantly engaging and building up your body in an effective and efficient way. 

Try the workouts yourself and incorporate these exercises into your soccer training or regular workouts! You will surely feel the benefits!

The key to getting results

If you are wanting to become a better player, CONSISTENCY is the key in creating optimal performance.

Consistency includes smart training schedules, excellent exercise technique and guided workouts to safely build up your strength.

One training will not make a difference. Incorrect technique will not get the best out of your body. Unplanned workouts will be less effective in the long run. So you need to be smarter about your training to get the results that will last and make a positive impact on your game.

There are many areas of the game that we can improve - and the good thing is that fitness and conditioning are things that can be enhanced through simple but effective functional exercises, discipline and focus.

As you can see from the information in this blog, functional training is the gift that keeps giving! The exercises provide many benefits such as enhancing speed, endurance, agility, mobility, flexibility, core strength, injury prevention, body alignment and more. People from the professional circuit all the way to amateur players can use functional training exercises to better their performance on the field.

By educating yourself about the effectiveness of functional training for soccer players and by consistently incorporating these functional soccer exercises into your weekly routine, you can reap the performance benefits that the professional soccer players gain as they execute their functional training as well.