No single definition of the perfect soccer body exists. On a given weekend, you can see players with the willowy figures of American women such as Alex Morgan and Heather Mitts, and players with the classic build of Carli Lloyd, who stands at 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a lean, toned appearance. To get a "soccer" body, you can borrow elements of the fitness process followed by elite players like these.
Play the game itself to obtain cardiovascular benefits, whether you go to the park once a week and join an informal game or play in three or more leagues. Cross-train for variety with bicycling, basketball, swimming, racquetball, squash, Zumba or aerobics gym classes in the studio or aquatics pools.
Attend high-intensity interval training or HIIT classes at a gym, or design an individual program with the help of your coach to put a fine edge on your conditioning. HIIT intersperses high-intensity work such as sprinting with brief respites of recovery. On days when you don’t have a game, attempt to work up to 20 to 30 repetitions of sprints lasting five to 15 seconds, with 30 seconds of recovery between each. This pattern mimics real-world sprinting in a soccer game.
Add strength-training circuits at least twice a week to complement your cardio fitness. Begin with body weight exercises to develop your core and leg strength and graduate to resistance machines or free weights, University of North Carolina fitness coach Greg Gatz advises. Add upper-body strength work, arms included. Work with free weights if you want to emulate the programs of the U.S. women’s national teams, or machines if those are easier for you.
Improve your agility with foot patterns through a speed ladder or marked hopscotch squares on a playground, or by dribbling a ball through cones spaced approximately 3 feet apart. You can also set up mini hurdles in a row and run slalom patterns through them, forward, backward and in a side shuffle, Gatz recommends.
Eat a nutritious low-fat, high carbohydrate diet to attain the lean physique so desired for soccer speed and agility, dietitian Nancy Clark recommends in “Food Guide for Soccer.” Cut back just a little bit at the end of the day to lose extra weight, limiting for example soda and butter quantities. Maintain adequate food intake in the daytime to fuel your practices and games. Focus any weight loss efforts in the off-season, when it is easier to cut back because you are less active, she advises.
- Complete Conditioning for Soccer; Greg Gatz; 2009
- International Journal of Exercise Science: Short Duration High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Aerobic Conditioning of Female College Soccer Players
- Food Guide for Soccer: Tips & Recipes from the Pros; Nancy Clark, et al.; 2010
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.