In soccer today players are looking to get, or their parents are looking for them to get that edge on speed on the field. Regardless if it is national, state/provincial or regional level, speed is a highly desired quality by many coaches for their players to have. It does not matter if you are from England, Canada, France, Germany, Italy or Australia, speed with the ball, speed with out the ball and speed of thought will win more soccer games.
Unfortunately in the mix of this is the desire for a quick fix to improve the function of “fast twitch” muscle. In other words there is a hunt to find that 4 week “speed training” program.
First it is important to understand the role of fast twitch muscle. The simplest example is to look at sprinters. Most sprinters have well developed glute (buttocks) muscles and quadriceps (thigh muscles.) Sprinters have highly developed fast twitch muscles. They sprint for distances of 40 -100 metres and rest.
These athletes focus on purely building strength and power in the weight room and sprints and jumps on the track.
However, developing speed in soccer is different for a couple of reasons:
1. Soccer is a multi-directional sport.
2. Soccer is played for 45 to 90 minutes depending on the age of the player.
3. Soccer players need to learn how to stop – start and change direction at speed.
If players just focus on developing speed with out learning how to decelerate ( slow down) and change direction or build stamina they will end up with a hamstring pull, quad pull or worse case scenario blow out there knee. Unfortunately I have had to deal with this more times than I’ve wanted to in a clinical setting because of unbalanced speed training programs.
Soccer players need to focus on a well balanced program. This includes speed development and recovery. If a player solely focuses on speed they will not have the stamina or strength to last an entire game, stop suddenly and change direction and prevent injury.
For example, take two 14 year old male soccer players who compete at a provincial or state level. Player A just focuses on building speed and player B focuses on athletic development.
Player A only does “speed” exercises and player B does a balanced program. Here is what happens after 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 16 weeks.
After 4 weeks player A is faster than player B because he focused on getting faster as compared to player B who is building base strength and single leg stability (important for deceleration).
After 8 weeks player A is just a bit faster than player B.
After 16 weeks player B is just as fast as or faster than player A and is able to stop, start and change direction more efficiently than player A.
A 14 year old male soccer player is going through puberty and there are many changes to his body. Just by building base strength he will improve his speed and lay the foundation for fast twitch muscle growth.
This same example could be for a female soccer player as well.
The key here is to build a solid strength base first with proper technique. Any player can increase speed in two to three weeks, the key is maintain and improve on it over time.
I have witnessed many players when they were 14, slow as molasses, improve their speed over time to become stronger, faster and bigger than many of their teammates who relied just on “speed”, three to four years down line, move on to provincial, national and scholarship opportunities.
As previously mentioned any player can improve speed in four to six weeks. This is natural in any strength and conditioning or “speed” program. This occurs because there are more nerves firing to get the muscle to contract. After that point the increase will be minimal unless there has been development of muscle size and base strength.
Perhaps the best way to look at improving speed is to look at steps we take as humans. We crawl before we walk and we walk before we jog and we jog before we run.
Any player that is looking to increase speed and build fast twitch muscle fiber needs to first develop a solid strength base, then power. Deceleration, core strength and single leg strength need to part of this program as well. If you focus too much on the increase of forward running speed, deceleration and change of direction suffer.
Going back to our example of our young 14 year old male soccer players, you must remember they are 14 and have to think of their long term development. You must have the foundation first otherwise injury may occur and development will be poor.
It is important to keep in mind that soccer players must develop base strength first to increase speed. This happens naturally. Sure there are many drills and techniques to increase speed; however if the strength is not there speed will not increase. Many times just by having your son or daughter doing basic strength exercises like the squat and lunge, will increase their peed on the soccer field naturally.
In summary when you go to look for a soccer speed training program it should have some the following components in it:
-progressive base strength development
-squats or deadlifts
-single leg squats
-rear elevated split squats
-progressive explosive exercises
-integrated plyometric (jump training program)
-interval conditioning runs/sprints
Hope this helps in your search for fast twitch muscle development and increase speed on the soccer field