Soccer Players: To Squat or Not To Squat?

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Whenever people think of Cressey Performance, there are probably two things that immediately pop into their heads:

1.  Deadlifts.  And….

2.  Baseball.

And neither of the two should come as a surprise.  For starters, we kinda have an affinity for deadlifts.  Walk into the facility at any given moment throughout the day and you’re bound to find someone pulling something heavy off the ground.

Likewise, and with respects to the latter, roughly 85% of our clientele are Victoria Secret models baseball players.

And while many people are under the impression that we solely train baseball players, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I mean come on:  I literally just said that 85% of our clientele are baseball players.  You weren’t listening were you?  WERE YOU!?!?!??!

Sometimes it’s like I’m talking to a brick wall.

In fact, we’ve had every sport imaginable train underneath our roof.  You name the sport, and it’s likely we’ve worked with them:  softball, tennis, volleyball, football, ultimate frisbee, hockey, basketball, wrestling, boxing, field hockey, swimming, lacrosse, and you can even add fencing into that pile.  Totally not kidding.

About the only sport(s) that haven’t made an appearance are ice curling, synchronized swimming, and competitive eating (if that can even be considered a “sport”).

But lets dial  in the conversation to soccer.  We’ve trained our fair share of soccer players at CP ranging from high school players to recreational players to even having a cameo appearance by the likes of USA Women’s team member Lori Lindsey on occasion.  What what!

Given that soccer is the most popular and widely played sport in the world, I thought I’d share a guest post by both Eric and Chris Martinez (AKA: the Dynamic Duo).

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I enjoy reading research about as much as I enjoy getting dropped kicked in the face.  Which is to say:  I freakin hate it.

This isn’t to say that I don’t do it:  I just don’t like it.  At all.

But thankfully Eric and Chris were kind enough to review a recent squat study as it relates to soccer players, and I felt I’d share here on my blog.

Enjoy!

Soccer Players:  To Squat or Not to Squat?

GOOOOAAAALLL! We’ve got one question for all of you soccer players…Do you SQUAT? Although we are not expecting any answers back at the moment, we do hope you are saying yes to your computer screen while reading this.

It’s not a coincidence if you are reading this and questioning, “Well, why should I squat if I do indeed play soccer?”

In all honesty, we could sit here and explain all the great benefits of squats, but that could take a whole other article itself to school everyone on. Instead, we would like to breakdown a study that the great Chris Beardsley and Bret Contreras discovered and dissected on their fantastic Strength and Conditioning Research.  

The aforementioned study revolves around how strength training can lead to increases in power and speed for elite soccer players.

So, if you’re a soccer player or coach soccer players we highly recommend you sit back, relax, turn off the FC Barcelona game on the flat screen for a bit and take some notes.

If you are a current soccer player or former soccer player, you should know that the sport involves movements that involve speed and power. Ask any Strength and Conditioning coach how important those two elements are for athletic performance. We promise they will tell you it is very damn important for sports performance. If you want to be the best, you have to train like the best!

Back to our original question:  If you play soccer do you squat?

We asked this question because the study we are about to break down by Keiner et al. shows strong correlations that sprint performance and leg strength can improve by doing both back squats and front squats. Man, if only we knew this back in our days when playing futbol, aka soccer. We probably would have been bending it like Beckham 😉

 So What Did the Researchers Do?

The researchers wanted to track the development of 30m sprint performance in youth soccer players over a 2-year strength training intervention. So, they recruited 134 elite soccer players, not world cup stars ladies and gents.

The players were subdivided into three age-groups (A, B and C cohorts) and the average ages of each group were 17, 15 and 13, respectively.

To be very clear here, the participants in each cohort were divided into two groups. One group (Strength training group [STG]) was subjected to regular soccer training in addition to strength training twice a week for 2 years. The other group (Control group [CG]) completed only the regular soccer training.

The strength training group performed their workouts on non-consecutive days and the exercises varied between the parallel front and back squats during the week and also performed bench presses, deadlifts, neck presses, and exercises for the trunk muscles as well as the standing row.

Squat training for the strength-training group was periodized such that following initial technique training, the subjects started with a hypertrophy training block, which comprised 5 sets of 10 repetitions with 3-minutes rest between each set.

The next training block comprised a strength period of 5 sets of 6 repetitions with 3-minutes rest between each set followed by an additional training block of 5 sets of 4 repetitions with 5-minutes rest between each set.

The researchers measured 30m sprint times, including splits every 5m, and maximum 1RM front and back squat strength after two years of training.

So What Happened After All of This?

For Maximum Strength, the researchers reported that the strength-training subgroups of all three age-groups displayed greater improvements in the front and back squat 1RMs than the control sub-groups.

For 30m Sprinting Performance, the researchers found that in the A and C groups, the strength-training sub-group displayed significantly better reductions in sprint time than the control sub-group at each 5m split time between 5m and 30m. They found that in the B group, there was a significant difference between the strength-training and control sub-groups at the 5m, 20m and 25m splits.

Correlations; the researchers performed a correlation analysis and found that there was a significantly positive but moderate relationship between strength gains in 1RM expressed relative to body weight and improvement in sprint performance in all age groups.

The correlations were highest for the first 15m of sprinting, indicating the greater importance of squat strength for accelerating rather than maximal speed sprinting.

What Did the Researchers Conclude?

The researchers concluded that a strength training program involving front and back squats led to a positive improvement in the sprinting performances of young soccer players. Pretty cool. Right?

Wrapping It All Up

As you can see the research doesn’t lie. Of course there were limitations, but all studies have limitations. And, at the end of the day if those do not agree with these findings, that’s ok too because science is always open to debate.

We can definitely tell you from anecdotal experience that squats and front squats will 99.9% of the time increase speed, power, hypertrophy, strength, and overall athletic performance. In other words, we highly agree and approve of this study by Keiner et al.

So, just too briefly recap, if you are a soccer player, coach, or just an overall jock, we highly recommend you implement some sort of squat variations into your training regimen to maximize your full potential.

Don’t get us wrong here ladies and gents, we are not asking you to go load up a squat bar and max out for 500 lbs. We are simply saying whether its conventional back squats or front squats that you chose to do, do them with proper precautions, make sure you squat deep, and don’t be afraid to progressively overload.

And hey, if you squat more often, maybe you will score more GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLSSSS than the famous “Pele” did.

“No Excuses, Only Solutions”

 References:

 1). Influence of a 2-year strength training programme on power performance in elite youth soccer players, by Sander Keiner, Wirth and Schmidtbleicher, in European Journal of Sport Science, 2012.

2.) Chris Beardsley and Bret Contreras, 2012.

About the Authors

Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class personal training and online training business “Dynamic Duo Training.” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, fitness models, and coaches that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”

Visit them at:

Dynamic Duo Training

Blogsite

YouTube Channel

 

 

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  • Josh

    Nice piece, I’m surprised there was no mention of screening for FAI in the soccer population.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I’m sure there are some studies out there which address FAI Josh.

  • Kyle Schuant

    It would have been interesting, and actually a trivially greater amount of work for the researchers, to compare injury rates in the lifting and non-lifting groups. In many respects this is the most important statistic, since it doesn’t matter how good you are if you can’t play.

  • kylee

    You may be surprised but synchronized swimmer (possibly singular) (me) reads your blog which I think I have mentioned. I just wanted to inform you not in a hateful way but it is wayyy harder and more strength related that most people think. We need to keep strong, flexible and perform high intensity three minute routines. Can a professional eater say that after their season without performing a single chinup they can bust out sets of +5? This is what happens to me, which is about how many I can do when I am training chinups on my off season once or twice per week. Maybe they can :p we are judged on how high out of the water we can hurl or sustain our bodies out of the water. I have had a few oly and strength trainers and no one knows how to train me so I use my own knowledge and instincts to train during my season. Too bad I can’t get you to train me so you can say you have trained a synchronized swimmer 🙂 Interesting post though, will show my soccer player husband!

  • Well now there’s a surprise…
    My players squat from just about day one, as a matter of course.

    Always good to hear from others though who got it figured…

    Mark

  • Paula DeMarkey

    Squats ROCK!!!

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