How to get an edge: better recovery between soccer games in 2020

faster recovery between soccer games

Part of being a fit soccer player is being prepared to perform at 100 percent. Making sure you take care of recovery will ensure your hard work does not go to waste. For faster recovery between soccer games, you need a solid recovery plan. 

A recovery plan means you will be able to train harder, maintain peak performance longer and prevent injury. Don’t fall into a common trap, recovery is not only rest. Recovery is the work you do after you play to prepare yourself for your next challenge. When done right, it gives your body the edge to perform better, for longer. 

Great recovery equals optimal performance potential. That means you can be your best when you are ready to compete.  There are different types of recovery for athletes and here’s a checklist with some of the key strategies to use between games.

Soccer Recovery Checklist

  • REFUEL
  • FLUSH
  • RESET
  • MOBILIZE
  • SOAK
  • RELAX
  • SLEEP

Refuel:

Recovery begins as soon as your workout ends. Start with a recovery shake within 15-20 minutes to replenish your energy stores. A good shake will have carbohydrates and rebuild your damaged tissue with protein.

Don’t make a mistake and skip the carbs. Soccer players expend a lot of energy during a game covering the field. You need to refill your energy stores with carbs for the next game.

Flush:

If you just go and sit down on the field, or in the car on the way home you are hurting yourself. You haven’t given your muscles a chance to move fresh blood and pump out the waste products.

Spend 7 – 10 minutes with a light jog after the game or practice. By working at a low intensity you will clear metabolic waste accumulated in your muscles.  

Reset:

When you get home, spend 5-10 minutes focusing on resetting your muscle tissue. This can include foam rolling and trigger point work on target areas and massage. The front of the thighs and calf muscles, along with the bottom of your foot are good targets. 

Mobilize:

After you reset the muscle tissue, you have to mobilize it so it stays supple and recovers quickly. Techniques can include active isolated stretching, yoga or band stretching. Make sure to focus on the lower leg and hip flexors. They are areas that get stressed by the kicking and sprinting during a soccer game. 

Soak:

Sitting immersed in water can do some great things for recovery. The most common question for immersion is hot or cold? The answer depends on the timing of your next bout of training.  

If you’re not training again until the next day, go hot (hot tub, Epsom salt bath). If you’re training again within the same day, go cold (ice tub, 10-12 minutes).

Relax:

One of the most important parts of recovery is the ability to shut down. It’s easy to get fired up, but the best soccer athletes can power down just as quickly. Meditation, deep breathing and massage are all techniques to help bring you back down, and let your body do its work rebuilding.

RELATED: Meditation to optimize your life and performance 

In a tournament setting, with multiple games in a day, spending even 3-5 minutes to calm your mind can help your body recover faster.

Sleep:

Sleep is the most powerful recovery method for humans. It helps both your body and mind. Getting 8-10 hours of quality sleep improves sports performance. Make sure you turn off your phone and electronic devices early, shut out light, and get a good night’s sleep. RELATED: 4 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Better

Youth Speed Training Tips: Technical + Applied Drills

Tips for training speed in youth athletes
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  However, it’s much more than just drills.  How different drills are combined affects learning.  For youth speed training to carry over to the game you need to learn this tip in the video.

Velocity Speed Formula

Combining technical and applied drills is an important part of youth speed training.  It’s one way we make sure athletes can apply the speed in the game.  This is just one part of the Velocity Speed System.  It’s built on the science of biomechanics and motor learning.  Learn more about the Velocity Speed Formula

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Optimal Range of Motion

Speed training drills: optimal range of motion
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION

The range of motion your limbs and joints travel through while sprinting is a Goldilocks scenario; not too big, not too small, but just right.

If the limbs are traveling through too big a range of motion you may be wasting time and energy.

If the range is too small, you wont generate the power you need.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Optimal range of motion is developed by acquiring good motion through stretching and mobility work combined with dynamic mobility drills.  Below we have a few of the speed training drills that help athletes develop the optimal range of motion for sprinting.

Kneeling Arm Action Drill

This drill to reinforce arm action has been around for a long time.  The reason; it still helps athlete work on understanding the arm swing range of motion while running.  One of the keys is that you want athletes using this drill to feel good spinal alignment with relaxed shoulders and neck.

Use this drill through various speeds, push faster until form, coordination or body position start to suffer.  Then back the speed down and regain the form.  Make sure the motion is from the shoulder.  No “karate-chop” actions at the elbows.

Fast Leg Drill

There are many useful variations of the Fast Leg speed drill and multiple benefits.  The one we are focusing on here is the range of motion.  Specifically the range of motion when the leg recovers from behind the body and the thigh lifts in front.  The higher the thigh lift, the more power the drive down and back can be.

This drill breaks up the sprinting motion so athletes can focus on the technical aspects.  As always, great core posture is important.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Proper Direction

Speed Training Drill for Proper Direction
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right amount of force, but applied in the right direction.

Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way.  When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your PROPER DIRECTION qualities.  These drills are designed to reinforce and help the athlete self-regulate the direction they apply force to the ground.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Harness Resisted Sprints for Acceleration

To accelerate an athlete need to apply more force horizontally.  Thats how they increase their movement velocity. This drill reinforces horizontal force application.

The harness allows additional horizontal force to be applied to the athlete. Using a belt, it’s applied near the center of mass to be more biomechanically correct.  As the athlete feels that added force, they will tend to automatically apply force in a more horizontal direction

 

Wall Drills

This is a classic speed training drill that has survived the test of time.

Trying to drive the legs backward and push into the wall reinforces the horizontal force direction for acceleration.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

It’s very effective but has a problem; it get boring quickly.  So make sure you use it as a prep or reinforcement drill.  Don’t do it for a long time.  It’s also bets used in quick contrast with a drill where the athlete gets to apply that force moving and reinforce the proper direction.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

3 Biggest Myths about Soccer Speed

soccer speed

When comes to developing soccer speed in players, we all know why it’s important. Speed wins games.

Coaches want it, players respect it, and spectators cheer for it. Unfortunately, speed training for soccer is often misunderstood.  In years of working with everything from AYSO to National teams, here are the 3 biggest myths we hear about soccer specific speed.

1. Only speed with the ball matters

Of course being quick with the ball in your possession is going to be a huge part of soccer.  That’s skill.  That’s the point.  However, if you don’t recognize what happens without the ball, you’re missing most of the game.

First of, most of the time players don’t have the ball.  Just do the math; 90 minute game, 20 field players, if they had it equal time (which of course they don’t) that’s 4.4 minutes or 5% of the time. So even if you’re a player who gets a lot more possession, you’re going to spend the majority of time without the ball.

Then you have to think about how you get the ball.  Beating an opponent to it and creating an open space with a run both can require speed.

Finally, while moves in small tight spaces, may require more quickness form you, if you’re moving in open space, you cant moving any faster with the ball than your body can go.  Your sprinting speed is your limit.

Bottom line, if you want to be a fast player, develop your speed. Period.

2. Fast players are born that way

Decades ago many coaches would say “you cant teach speed” like there was a simple genetic lottery to have it or not.  Not true.

Not it is true you need some genetic qualities to have world class, 100m gold medal speed.  If you didn’t have the right grandparents, all the training in the world might not get you there.

However speed is a complex motor skill that involves both motor control and force production capabilities.  Both of those can be taught and improved through good coaching and training.  Sped is a skill and can be taught.

If you want to get an advantage over the competition at every level, than you need to maximize your speed.  That means training the movement skills and the force production abilities.

3. Running sprints will make players fast

Too often coaches, players and parents think they are doing speed training.  After all, the players are running as fast as they can doing those sprints at practice.

While running at full effort is an important part of developing speed, its not a winning formula.

The formula to improve speed is The Big 4.  The four factors you can train and teach to improve.  They are;

  1. Generating a big force to propel the body
  2. Applying that force in a very small ground contact time
  3. Applying the force in the Proper Direction
  4. Moving the body through an Optimal Range of Motion

These can all be taught using advanced motor control and neuro-developmental techniques along with proper functional strength training and mobility development

RELATED: See How Velocity Simplifies the Biomechanics of Speed

Do You Want To Be Faster?

If you’ve fallen into one of these traps, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can get an edge on the competition by breaking free and  taking control of how fast you will be out on the soccer field. To learn more about speed training check out The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Small Time

plyometric drills for speed
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force Faster for Speed

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your SMALL TIME qualities.  In essence, these are plyometric drills.  Drills where you have a ground contact that stretched your muscles, followed quickly by a contraction of those same muscles.

One of the benefits of this type of plyometric action is that parts of your muscles act like springs.  When you land they compress.  When you push they spring back and help you.

This is what we term Reactive Strength and is key for any athlete that wants to be fast.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Hurdle Hop Speed Training Drills

Hurdle hops are a very popular drill for speed training with good reason; they are effective.  The key is to do them well.

When your goal is to develop your reactive abilities, you need to focus on getting off the ground quick.  At the same time, you need to apply force.  Make sure you try to really project your body high into the air on each.  The speed is on the ground contact, not the movement forward.

Jump Rope Double-Unders

This is a time tested classic for foot speed.  It’s hardly new, but it works.  It should be a fundamental piece of every youth speed training program.  It’s basically a plyometric drill for speed.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

If you don’t want to get smacked with the rope, you need to apply that force quickly.

Double-unders are what we call a “self-limiting drill’.  This means that you really can’t perform it with bad technique.  Maybe you can get a few in without doing it well, but to string them together you need good form.  You will be in the proper body position, have the right range of motion and have a small time on the ground.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop an athletes ability to apply force quickly. They are great plyometric drills that work.   Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll see the results transfer to game speed.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Big Force

speed training drills
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Getting Stronger for Speed

These 2 important drills help you to develop BIG FORCE qualities.  Although these are not weight room drills, strength training for speed development is important.  To be fast, athletes need to train in the weight room and do it properly.

You need to develop some of the specific strength qualities in these drills to improve your speed.  They are very specific to building strength for speed.  They are proven speed training drills that build specific strength and have a high carryover from training to application.

MORE FOR YOU:  The Science of Strength For Speed

Box Blast Exercise

The Box Blast is a speed training drill that lets you focus on maximum power.  The basic alignment of the limbs and torso is similar to the acceleration phase of sprinting.  Most importantly, the muscle motion is a piston-like action which we observe the acceleration phase.

Heavy Sled Runs

This is another greater drill that is highly specific to strength for speed.  Speed training drills like this need to be executed with great form and body alignment.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop the force production capabilities of athletes.  Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll the results transfer to game speed.

WANT TO GET FASTER: The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Formula: Big Force

Strength training for speed

Velocity Big 4 Speed Formula
The Speed Formula is the science of speed biomechanics simplified.

Understanding strength training for speed is important for coaches and athletes.  Previously I’ve covered why the Big 4 is such an effective “formula” for speed (read it here). It’s how we analyze movement, teach and come up with drills and programs. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary. The formula is:

  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
Let’s delve deeper and take a look at the first element; Big Force. It has driven why and how we incorporate certain drills and resistance exercises. It is basic Newtonian physics; you push the ground one way and it pushes you the opposite direction.

How Much Strength Do You Need?

It’s a good question. How much strength do you really need?
 
Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue. Sprinter’s have way more muscle mass. This doesn’t mean you need to just be bigger or become a powerlifter. But biomechanics research does tell us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
You need to produce a Big Force. The strength you need is developed by:
  • sprinting fast,
  • using specific sprint and plyometric drills,
  • and getting in the weight room.

What Is Strength?

For an athlete, strength means a lot more than just how much weight you can lift. There are 6 different strength qualities we train. Focusing on specific strength qualities is how we improve speed.
 
Strength is how much you can lift, right?
 
Nope.
 
How much you can lift is a great expression of some strength or power qualities. As an Olympic weightlifting coach, I’ve helped athletes go from starting the sport to be on the US National team. I love the strength and power (Strength x Speed) expressed through weightlifting.
 
Then there’s powerlifting. Squat, deadlift, bench. Many of the coaches on our staff have been competitive powerlifters as well as my friends. These feats of strength are really impressive and it’s a great expression of Max Strength.
 
Neither is the definition of strength though. They are just great examples of 2 of our 6 specific qualities. Going in-depth is beyond the scope of this writing but here are our 6 types of strength:
  1. Maximum Strength: think powerlifting and even sub max weights. It’s about force and speed is not important.
  2. Eccentric Strength: Think shock absorbers and brakes. When you land, stop, cut, etc… your muscles contract while lengthening. This is an eccentric strength action.
  3. Power (Strength-Speed): Moving fast against a larger load. Think weightlifting or football lineman pushing each other.
  4. Power (Speed- Strength): Moving fast against a light load. Throwing a baseball, jumping, throwing a punch. Moving it fast matters.
  5. Rate of Force Development: How fast you can turn on the muscles. Think of a drag racer analogy. It’s how fast they can go from 0 to speed that matters.
  6. Reactive Strength: Combine a fast & short eccentric stretch, immediately followed by RFD and you have reactive. This is the springy quick step you see in fast footwork.

What Type of Strength Do You Need?

If there are different types of strength, which help you apply a BIG FORCE into the ground? Which will help you get faster?
 
The answer lies in part on what you are trying to improve. The answer may be different if we are talking about acceleration compared to maximum velocity sprinting. And those may be different than a change of direction.

Acceleration

This is the phase where you are starting and gaining speed. During this phase, the mechanics lead to slightly longer ground contact times. This added time in contact with the ground lets you build up force to push harder. You still have only between 200 – 400 milliseconds, so Max Strength will help, but Speed-Strength is key.
 
This phase is also characterized by large horizontal and vertical forces. This means that when training strength, you need strength exercises for both pushing backward and down. A good dose of weight room basics like lunges, power cleans help. Combined with vertical and horizontal plyometrics, along with sled work, the results get better.

Maximum Velocity Mechanics

During this phase, you are upright and moving fast. Your foot needs to hit the ground with high forces but it’s not there for long. Elite sprinters are in contact less than 100 milliseconds. You need Max Strength enough to handle the high loads 1.5 – 2.5 times body weight on each leg. You also need to be able to absorb the impact and reapply force quickly. That’s Reactive Strength.
 
Since you’ve already accelerated, in this phase the forces are mostly vertical. They keep you from falling into the ground. Therefore, weight and plyometric exercises like squats, reactive hurdle jumps, and even jump rope double-unders all contribute.

Change of Direction

When changing direction, the type of strength can depend on how sharp of a cut you make. One situation is a major change of direction where you slow down and re-accelerate. This requires a lot of Eccentric Strength and Strength-Speed. On the other hand, if it’s a quick cut without slowing down or a big range of motion, then it’s more about Reactive Strength and Speed-Strength.
 
Both these are going to benefit from a mix of weight room and plyometrics. The weight room will include strength exercises and Olympic lifts for power. The plyometrics are going to need to focus on developing horizontal and lateral forces.

Technical Sprint Drills for Strength Development

There is a big misunderstanding of technical speed drills. Most people see a technical drill and naturally believe it’s to develop technique. It makes sense after all, but there is so much more.
 
Many “technique” drills in speed training are just as important to developing Big Force as the weight room. By refining an athlete’s technique, they become more efficient with the strength they have. They learn to apply it better.
 
Often many speed drills are really a plyometric exercise themselves. They require putting a lot of force into the ground, in the proper direction. They are in fact the most speed specific form of strength training there is.

Strength Training for Speed

Having good technique and good power output is key to being fast. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s an AND sitution. You need technique AND strength. In every athlete’s development, they go through stages. Sometimes their technique gets ahead of their strength, and vice versa. Make sure you stay on track by developing both and working with a knowledgeable coach who can determine if you need one or the other more.

Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

strength training helps prevent injury

Stay In The Game

In elite sports there is a lot of emphasis put on injury prevention.  It doesn’t matter how good you are if you are sitting on the bench, hurt.

Teams and athletes look to us to reduce their risk of injury.  We know there are many parts to injury prevention, but the foundation is often strength.

For the last 20 years, Velocity Sports Performance has known that good strength training is injury prevention.

  • Our experience with athletes in 11 Olympic Games backs it up.
  • Our experience with thousands of professional athletes backs it up.
  • A growing body of scientific research is starting to catch up.

is Youth strength training safe

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