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  • Writer's pictureLionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Essential Strength Training for Soccer Players - Part 1 - Introduction. Deadlifts and Squa

Playing soccer requires specific physical capacities to enable success and minimise injury risk.

For instance, a soccer player requires two important capacities :

1. Adequate muscular force production to counter ground reaction forces for cutting, sprinting and kicking the ball (local tissue capacity), and

2. the adequate muscular and cardiovascular endurance to tolerate the accumulation of steps for the time and distance of the event (sport-specific capacity).

Failing to adequately develop these two physical qualities may result in underperformance and/or increased injury risk.

The must-do exercises for Soccer Players

Hinge ( Hip Thrust and Deadlifts)

Squat ( Half and Full Squats

Lunge ( Front - Reverse - Side )

Pull / Push / Carry


Hinge > Hip Thrust

The first step into Hinging with your hips is mastering the Hip Thrust

Probably my favorite exercise from all, because of the simplicity and the great benefits

It was associated with improving horizontal force development like in sprinting


To be effective players must reach full extension of the hips therefore we need to cues our athletes to get there . But equally important it is not lift with your back


Push on the ground till your hips are parallel to the ground


Heavier and Heavier

Unilateral in a staggering set up of your feet

Unilateral with opposite foot in the air

Hinge > Deadlift > Romanian Deadlift or RDL

Dumbbell Deadlift

If you are not familiar with the Deadlift movement, an entry-level variation is using a dumbbell to Deadlift . 15-20 lbs usually is a good point to start

Bar Deadlift

Once you managed the Dumbbell Deadlift it's time to increase the load and for that you'll need a barbell or Trap Bar

In the following video we demonstrate two ways to do the RDL

  • From the Blocks : not everyone can lift from the floor due to the lack of mobility in the lower body joints and / or lack of length in the posterior chain especially hamstrings. Lifting from the blocks allows the athlete to do the lift from a higher position better situated for the problems listed above and it's also a good starting point for novice lifters

  • From the Floor: regular technique showed in the 2nd video

Here are some key cues for athletes doing the Romanian deadlift:

  1. Set bar high in the rack just below lock out.

  2. Set hips before you pull bar out of the rack to avoid overextension.

  3. Take a minimum number of steps backward—aim for 2-3.

  4. Contract lats and belly breathe.

  5. Unlock the knees.

  6. Lead with the hips backward.

  7. Keep the bar in contact with the legs. Keep the lats active throughout.

  8. Descend using feel in the hamstrings to dictate depth.

  9. If you feel the need to unlock the spine to go lower, that is low enough.

  10. Squeeze the glutes and press the big toe into the floor to reverse the movement.

  11. At the top, breathing and lat reset may be necessary on very heavy RDLs.

Squat > Half Squat > Full Squat

The 3rd essential movement in this series is the Squat

Same as with the Deadlift, Squatting heavy weights ( at least your body weight ) is necessary to perform well in soccer

Tips for a good Squat technique

  • Stand tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider and your toes facing forward or slightly angled out.

  • A wider stance with angled feet might work better if you lack ankle mobility.

  • The important thing here is to feel stable and comfortable.

  • Stand with your toes on a line to ensure one foot is not in front of the other. Keep your hips level and square.

  • Hold your chest and head high. Look directly forward, not up or down, to keep your neck in a neutral position.

  • Pull your shoulders back and down, and engage your core muscles.

  • Keep your spine stacked in a neutral position throughout the movement, without leaning forward or rounding your back (maintaining the natural curve in your lower back is ok).

  • Shift your weight over your heels. (You should be able to wiggle your toes.)

  • Bend your knees and hinge forward at the hips at the same rate to lower into the squat.

  • Keep your hips square, your torso upright, and your spine neutral throughout the movement. Engage your glutes, and push through your heels to stand up.

  • When you lower into a squat, your knees should track over your toes, and they should not collapse inwards at any time.

  • Squat depth is achieved through hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion, not the rounding of the spine. You’ll only be able to go as far as your mobility allows with good form.

  • If you cannot maintain adequate knee control work on a half Squat

Half Squat - Transformer Bar

Full Squat - Transformer Bar


  • The ability to hinge at the hip is a super important component of a Healthy and Powerful Soccer player.

  • Players should be able at least to squat and deadlift their own body weight

  • Not everyone can Squat and Deadlift like the professional weightlifter but that's ok, there are variations you can use to adapt this movement to your own capacities and limitations.

Lionel Pannunzio is a Physical Therapist Certified in Sports Injuries.

With more than 20 years of experience helping athletes return to their sports after an injury.

He is the Owner of White Bay Sports Physical Therapy and Fitness, conveniently located  in the beautiful City of Weston,  where he treats Soccer Player, Runners and Athletes of all ages

Finally we would like to invite you to follow us  at our:

where you will receive information about your condition and other services we offer, always with the idea of keeping you healthy and fit to enjoy your favorite sport.

Lionel Pannunzio

Physical Therapist

Board-Certified Sports Specialist

Owner of White Bay Physical Therapy

“Keeping Athletes in the game”

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