An Introduction to Physical Preparation for Soccer

Back to Session Plans Home

This article is taken from United Soccer Academy's Physical Preparation curriculum as a guide to the physical preparation and soccer-specific conditioning of young soccer players.  Contributed by Grant Findlay.


Soccer is regarded the world’s most popular and widely participated sport and is enjoyed by players of all ages and abilities, from both male and female. What’s more, there is nothing more exhilarating than an attacker who explodes through a defensive gap, checks, turns, and side-steps to avoid desperate, defensive lunges and fires the ball into the back of the net... Or, in contrast, a defender who defies gravity by launching themselves into the air, generating enough ’air time’ to intercept a crossed ball and redirecting a header into the path of a supporting midfielder to set up a swift and decisive counter attack. The incredible explosive athletic ability of a goalkeeper diving at full stretch to deflect a shot around the post is also an awesome sight.

Genetic inheritance, however, is often [falsely] advocated to be the sole factor in the development of these wonderful acts of physical prowess. As a consequence, the soccer-specific principles of physical preparation and physiological development are frequently neglected on the practice field and throughout the course of a season.

In response, United Soccer Academy has formulated an innovative physical preparation and soccer-specific conditioning program designed to develop multi-directional explosive speed and to enhance a selected set of physiological attributes, including quickness, reaction, strength and power. USA’s Physical Preparation program provides coaches with a comprehensive curriculum and an array of soccer-specific practices which can be easily integrated into all types of practice sessions.

What is the Physical Preparation Program?

To succeed in soccer, players require a high level of physical fitness to cope with demands of the game and to allow for their technical and tactical skills to be used to their full throughout a match. In terms of physiological demands, soccer is a hybrid sport characterized by intermittent exercise with short bouts of intense activity alternated by longer periods of low-level, moderate-intensity exercise. As a consequence, every practice included within the Physical Preparation program are characterized by explosive movements, acceleration and de-acceleration, agility, turning ability and speed of responses. The program is also tailored around the sequence and progression of the physical preparation elements included within a structured practice session. These progressive elements include soccer-specific running patterns and practices which often include the use of a ball.

The reinforce the above research, United Soccer Academy's Physical Preparation program places a strong emphasis on the repetition of short bouts of explosive speed rather than over longer distances as statistics have shown that  within a 90-minute match the average player will cover 7 per cent more sprints between 8-15 yards than high intensity bursts over 15 yards. However, although the Physical Preparation program is similar to other elite soccer-specific conditioning programs; if certain aspects of fitness are neglected, the positive development of’ explosive multi-directional power will gradually diminish.

Physical Preparation Components

United Soccer Academy’s Physical Preparation program consists of 8 key components:

Speed Agility Quickness Reaction Strength Power Plyometrics Dynamic Flexibility

Click here to download the Physical Preparation Curriculum.