Soccer players need all-around fitness to be successful on the field—and all of that starts in the gym.

Any good soccer workout focuses on core and leg strength, power, and speed—but it’s no easy task to accomplish all those at once, especially if, like most guys, you don't have 24/7 access to a soccer field.

The solution? Hone these aspects of your game when you go to the gym.

"The stronger you are, the faster you'll be—core strength is a big part of that," says Paul Caffrey, fitness coach and director of sports performance for Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo. Caffrey sees the core as a major component when looking to improve balance, posture, power, and overall functionality, along with agility, endurance, and speed. “I think sometimes it’s an area that's overlooked because it almost seems quite mundane and boring in today's day and age,” Caffrey says. “Everyone's looking for fancy new exercises, but the core is extremely important. If you don't have a solid core to begin with, then trying to build something on a bed of straw is not going to work.”

Another essential: leg strength. "We spend a lot of time on single leg balance, because essentially for our sport, as much as you need to build bilateral strength, we do spend the entire game on one leg or the other," he says.

Ready to step up your game? Try these four workouts at the gym:

1. Core

Front and Side Pillars: Do this workout three times per week.

What to do:
Front Pillar - Lay down on the floor, stomach facing down. Prop yourself up into a plank position—elbows on the ground, forearms ahead of you. Your head and torso should be aligned, meaning your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle should all be in a straight line. Your glutes should be squeezed tight for maximum effect.

Side Pillar - Lay on your side with your right/or left elbow down on the ground. Keep body in straight line from head to feet while resting on the forearm with the elbow directly under your shoulder.

Workout:
Front Pillar - 3 sets x 30 seconds
Set 1: Hold position for 30 seconds.
Set 2: Lift one leg up for 2 seconds, lower down, and alternate each leg for the duration of the set.
Set 3: Hold position for 30 seconds.
Rest: 30 seconds-1 minute in between each set.

Side Pillar - 3 sets x 20 seconds per side
Set 1: Hold position for 20 seconds on right side. Repeat with left side.
Set 2: From starting position, raise right leg for 20 seconds and hold. Repeat with left leg.
Set 3: Hold position for 20 seconds on right side. Repeat with left side.
Rest: 30 seconds-1 minute in between each set.

Tip: If 30/20 seconds is too much on the first day, start with 20/10 seconds for the front and side, then increase to 30/20 on the second or third day of the workout.

 

Power

Single-Leg Hurdle Hops: Do single leg linear and lateral hops at least one time per week. Can be split with linear hops one day, lateral hops on another day.

What you’ll need: Four 6" hurdles, or your imagination: “Just imagine there's a hurdle there and perform the hops," Caffrey says.

What to do:

Linear Hops - Start by standing on one leg. Hop forward over a hurdle, making sure to extend your hip. Land softly, with your hip down and back, making sure your knee is stabilized over your ankle when you land. The hops will not be continuous—stick the landing and stabilize yourself before making the next hop.

Lateral Hops - Start with feet together, knees and hips slightly bent. Hop sideways over the hurdle, land softly and stabilize. While doing this drill, hop over the hurdles in both directions. You will work a different set of muscles hopping in one direction than you will when you hop back laterally to where you started from.

Workout:

Linear: 2 sets x 4 hops for each leg - Rest 30 seconds between sets
Lateral: 2 sets x 4 reps - Rest 30 seconds between sets

Tip: Make sure to work both legs equally. "We spend a lot of time on single leg balance, because essentially for our sport, as much as you need to build bilateral strength, we do spend the entire game on one leg or the other," Caffrey says.

 

Speed and Agility

3-Way Lunges: Do this two times per week.

What to do:

1. Start with your upper body straight, shoulders back and chin upwards. Step forward with your hands on your hips into lunge with right or left leg. Make sure your front knee stays over your laces and back knee doesn't touch ground. Then return to the start position.
2. Step laterally to the side, keeping your chest up and eyes forward. Then return to starting position.
3. Step backward into a reverse lunge, keep straight posture posture, and return to starting position.
4. After doing all 3 steps with one leg, repeat the same steps with the opposite leg.

Workout:
2 sets x 6 reps - Repeat for each leg

Tip: Caffrey sees strength as a major component to improving speed: “In the gym, lunges will help build the strength—the stronger men typically are the faster guys, the more powerful guys.”

 

Legs

Nordic Hamstring Falls: Do this 2x per week.

What you’ll need: A bar/pole/or gym equipment that can secure feet/ankles, or a partner to secure/hold ankles. Make sure it's sturdy—the last thing you need is to come crashing down on your face as the equipment flips over.

What to do: Start with knees down, back straight up, with arms at sides. Make sure ankles are secure. Fall forward using the hamstring to control the descent for as long as possible, then catch yourself by putting your hands out. Forcefully push with the hands to return to the starting position to decrease concentric load to the hamstrings.

Workout:
2 sets x 4 reps
Rest 45–60 seconds between sets

You can add a progression each week: Increase to 2 sets x 5 reps two times per week, then continue to 2 sets x 6-8 reps in the following weeks.

Tip: By adding progression to the workout over time, it will help strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and core muscles.