Optimal Off-Season Preparation For Soccer Athletes

I HAVE SEEN MANY PLAYERS GET INJURED IN THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF PRE-SEASON. 

BE SMART IN YOUR OFF SEASON...

OVER PREPARE; BUT DON'T OVERWORK.


After many months of hard work, pushing the limits and disciplined focus, EVERY ATHLETE needs the off season to rest, recover and prepare. 


The goal in off season is to not begin training for personal bests or to kill yourself in the gym. The goal is to recover and then prepare the body to return to the pitch feeling fresh and ready to go.


My name is Lucas Kruel and I am a personal trainer of 30+ professional athletes worldwide. Over the years I have seen athletes over-train in the off season... which doesn't allow the body to recover and increases the risk of injury/exhaustion; and I have also seen athletes do absolutely nothing in the off season which can result in poor condition and a higher risk of injury.


I can't tell you the amount of times that I've seen an athlete injure a muscle once the pre-season sprint sessions begin.


So the off season needs to be a time that an athlete works on mental and physical recovery initially; then onto improving strength, resistance and stability; and finally maintaining a good fitness level while not overdoing it.

And that is what I will be helping you with today!


WHY IS OFF SEASON TRAINING IMPORTANT?

  • Lowers your risk of injury when returning to pre-season training
  • Maintains a good level of overall fitness - making pre-season preparation easier
  • Improves resistance, stability and strength in bones, joints and muscles - to enhance future performance and avoid injuries 
  • Helps to maintain overall physical and mental health, energy, nutritious diet and sleep routine
  • Recovers and strengthens physical weaknesses (small injuries, stiff areas etc.)
  • Improves soccer weaknesses (ball skills etc.)

OFF SEASON: 8 STEPS TO SUCCESS

1. REST & RECOVER (1-2 WEEKS)

  • REST - Athletes are completely exhausted after a full season. Use this time to get good sleep, relax the body and chill out! Benefits from rest include healing the body, reducing stress, boosting the immune system, increasing energy, managing weight, reducing pain, improving mood and much more. Some of these overall health aspects can be lost while your body is working at it's limit during the season, so it is important to restore that. Sleep Guidelines for Athletes here.
  • RECOVER - Many athletes come out of the season with injuries, minor injuries, pain, stiffness and body tension. Use these 1-2 weeks to loosen up the body, stretch, roll out the muscles, visit your physiotherapist or doctor and maintain a routine to help the body recover. There is no point in beginning any off season training when an athlete is still burnt out or in pain - that's a recipe for failure. Begin training when you feel that your body is healthy and recovered again.
  • MENTALLY CHECK OUT - You have a few weeks in a year to get your head OUT of the game. Athletes can carry a great deal of anxiety, focus and emotion as they play through the season. Use these weeks to give your head a rest from football, care for your mental health and feel emotionally fresh for the new season. Ways to reset your mind can be to spend time with friends and family, go on vacation, talk to a trusted person/professional or try something new.
  • LET GO OF STRICT ROUTINES - This is not the time to go overboard, however don't be afraid to relax the general discipline and focus in everyday life. Feel free to be more flexible with your sleep schedule and diet. Athletes put in a lot of work during the year and as long as the athlete does not change their routine to the extreme, a couple of weeks of a more relaxed schedule will not negatively affect the body long term.
  • RETURN TO BASIC TRAINING - Begin gently introducing the body to training again. I recommend full body weight workouts that are low impact on the joints and engage all muscle areas. The focus is to not overload or exhaust the body; but to start moving and getting accustomed to training again.

Foundational Training

Foundational Training

  • BEGIN MENTAL PREPARATION - Now is the time to set your goals for the off-season/pre-season/season, plan your off season routine, and understand what you need to achieve success. With mental and physical preparation; your vision and plans will be clearer, and your goals will be more likely achieved.
  • Learn How to Set Successful Goals here
  • Create an Optimal Training Plan here
  • Access Your 6 Week Off Season Program here
  • RETURN TO A HEALTHY ROUTINE - To perform and feel good in all parts of your season, your daily routine and health need to be at an exceptional standard. So sleep and nutrition need to be a priority as well - starting this week! This will help you to feel energised and focused as you begin training again.
Lucas Kruel
  • Optimal Sleep Guides for Athletes here
  • Top Athletic Nutritional Guidelines here
  • UNDERSTAND YOUR CURRENT CONDITION - Before you start your training, goal setting and planning; it's important to analyse your current condition. A good place to start is to do a simple fitness test, get a check up at your general practitioner, and see a health professional for any ongoing injuries. Also check in with your mental health - are you feeling positive about the new season? Are there some unresolved issues in your personal or football life? Once you understand your current condition, then you can create a plan that will allow you to safely and effectively progress.

3. ESTABLISH FOUNDATIONS (1 WEEK)

Access your 'Foundations Week' Plan here

  • FOCUS ON CORE, JOINTS & STABILITY - Now is the optimal time to build up the foundations again. Once your foundations are strong, then you have the tools to progress and FLY in your trainings and on the pitch! By prioritising the foundations, this will allow your body to safely adjust to the future physical increases and lower the risk of injury. 
  • PERFECT YOUR TECHNIQUES - Increase your body consciousness, your muscle activation and postural correctness by perfecting your techniques. This will allow you to progress quicker in your performances, lower the risk of injury and improve quality of movement. Read more on optimal training techniques here
  • NO 'I' IN TEAM - Keeping contact with your team is an important factor in maintaining a strong bond, ensuring everyone is doing ok and staying healthy, and keeping the focus on the end goal. If you maintain a strong relationship through the hard times, your team will flourish in the good times. Also, keeping in touch with your teammates can encourage and motivate all players to keep moving and pushing themselves to be match fit for the first team training back.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR WEAKNESSES & IMBALANCES - Through fitness tests, check ups and monitoring your body as you work through the foundational trainings; you should be able to see or feel the weak areas. This is a great chance for you to understand why it is weak and how to correctly strengthen the area. It is an important time to do this, as once the season begins, this kind of attention to detail can be less prioritised. 

Joints & Stability Workout

Core Workout

4. INCREASE INTENSITY (1 WEEK)

Access your 'Intensity Week' Plan here

  • INCREASE TRAINING DIFFICULTY - A couple of weeks of basic training are now complete, so it's time to increase the difficulty of your exercises! Depending on your age, fitness level, functional training/sport experience and self-evaluation, we recommend the following increases below:
  • BEGINNER ATHLETES (under 18 years and/or recent athlete) - We recommend that you increase holding times and repetitions; while introducing some new exercises or variations. This will allow you to push yourself to the next level, while still maintain good techniques and foundations.
  • INTERMEDIATE ATHLETES - (over 18 years and experienced athletes) - We recommend to increase holding times and repetitions; introduce new exercises or variations on current exercises; and introduce mini bands, Swiss Balls, light weights and balance pads.
  • ADVANCED ATHLETES - (over 18 years and very experienced athletes) - We recommend to increase holding times and repetitions; introduce new exercises or variations on current exercises; introduce mini bands, Swiss Balls, light to medium weights and balance pads; and introduce some plyometric exercises. 

Beginner Workout

Intermediate Workout

Advanced Workout

5. BRING BACK THE BALL (1 WEEK)

Access your 'Ball Work Week' Plan here

  • START SLOW - Athletes may not have touched the ball for a few weeks, so the aim is to start slow and begin with simple skills and foot work to get the athlete's touch back and quicken up the feet.
  • AVOID EXTREME MOVEMENTS - We recommend that you begin with first and second touch drills, juggling, dribbling, short and medium distance passing and some easy shooting - all at a medium intensity. This will allow your body to adapt again to the movements, get the touch back and lower the risk of injury. If an athlete goes directly into high intensity movements; this risks pulling a muscle or over exhausting the body.
  • HIPS, ANKLES & KNEES MAINTENANCE - During this time especially, athletes should be maintaining their functional training and focusing on the hips, ankles and knees. Hips and legs normally feel sore after the first ball sessions, so it is important to regularly practice mobility and flexibility. Likewise ball sessions test the stability of the ankles and knees; so ensure that you incorporate injury prevention sessions before the training.
  • Read more on Injury Prevention here
  • Read more on Soccer Mobility here
  • Read more on Soccer Flexibility here


6. PROGRESSING TO PEAK LEVEL (1 WEEK)

Access your 'Peak Level Week' Plan here

  • INCREASE THE INTENSITY - Once you are feeling confident with the basic ball work, it's time to increase the intensity. This means faster and more agile movements, longer passing and more powerful shooting.
  • MAINTAIN FUNCTIONAL TRAINING - Continue your flexibility, mobility, stability and core training to maintain your strength, resistance and lower the risk of injury.
  • INTRODUCE CONTROLLED SPRINTS - During your running sessions, introduce controlled sprints. Focus on controlled power and establishing good technique. It is also a good chance to understand how the body is feeling as it exerts higher effort. Ideal sessions include sprinting at 80-85% for 20-30 metres each time, with 1-3 minutes to recover in between (long sprints); and 80-85% for 5-10 metres each time, with 30-60 seconds recovery (short sprints). There are many examples for optimal sprint training so the options are endless - the important thing is to choose a plan that suits the current level of the athlete.

Sprint and Ball Work

  • DECREASE THE INTENSITY - Athletes have done the hard work up until now, and now it's time to take it down a level so we are feeling fresh for the preseason. The worst thing is if an athlete overworks in the week coming up to the pre-season, and starts back with team feeling exhausted or injured.
  • MAINTAIN FUNCTIONAL TRAINING - Continue your flexibility, mobility, stability and core training to maintain your strength, resistance and lower the risk of injury. If athletes are using weights, give it a rest for this week and focus on lighter, body weight trainings.
  •  START HEAVY, FINISH LIGHT- To avoid exhaustion before pre-season begins; hard and high intensity training should occur at the beginning of the week, and eventually tail off into recovery and lighter workouts towards the end of the week. This enables athletes to keep reaching towards their peak level, while still giving their body enough time to be fresh for pre-season.
  • FINAL CHECK-IN - Before an athlete's first training back; it's important to revisit goals, check the current mental and physical condition, evaluate the progression, monitor the feelings towards pre-season and anything else in mind. From there, the head and body can be clear and focused on the best pre-season yet!

Feel Like a Pro

8. CONSISTENCY IS KEY (PRE-SEASON)

Access your 'Consistency Week' Plan here

  • CONSISTENCY WINS - A successful off season preparation is complete and the athlete should be feeling prepared, fresh and confident to begin the pre-season training. To maintain a healthy condition, it's important to remain consistent in the individual training, nutrition and sleep schedule that the athlete has built up during the off season.
  • MOBILITY, STABILITY & FLEXIBILITY - Continue the flexibility, mobility, stability and core training to maintain strength, resistance and lower the risk of injury. During the pre-season, it is not absolutely necessary to do individual weight training or high-intensity training as pre-season is already very intense.
  • FOCUS ON RECOVERY - Pre-season is extremely exhausting on the body; therefore it's critical that athletes incorporate recovery methods to maintain healthy condition. This can include ice baths, stretching, foam roll, regular physiotherapy, leg elevation etc. And don't forget to hydrate, eat well and sleep adequately!

Rest Day or Pre/Post Training Workout


SOCCER SEASON PREPARATION PROGRAM

BECOME THE COMPLETE PLAYER WITH YOUR NEW GAME PLAN

6 WEEK FUNCTIONAL TRAININGS, CONDITIONING & BALL WORK

You want to show the world that you are a complete player? This 6 week program incorporates full body functional training, ball work and conditioning sessions to perfectly prepare you for your upcoming season. More info here.



I hope this knowledge can help you have a great off-season and guide you towards success in the coming season. Remember to progress through the steps at your own pace, enjoy the journey and be smart with your choices. 


If you have any questions, please let myself or the team know at team@trustmycoach.com .


I wish you the best of luck in your preparation!



Lucas Kruel 
Personal Trainer of the Pros - #TRUSTMYCOACH


NOTE: Before you start: Consult your healthcare professional before beginning any fitness regime. When doing the free #TRUSTMYCOACH Workouts - ensure you warm-up before and train at your own level and comfort. If you feel pain, dizziness or nauseous, stop training immediately.