Soccer is one of the world’s most demanding sports—that’s why you should be playing it! Soccer requires minimal equipment, but challenges the body to perform at an extremely high level. Similar to a pick-up game of basketball in the gym, soccer requires few people and one ball. But in this case, you don’t need an official goal—anything will do to create boundaries. Think of the gladiators that trained for battle—they used what they had. Sometimes their weapons were their bare hands. They didn’t have luxuries like gymnasiums, they had the earth and whatever was in front of them. They made themselves stronger with limited means.
Soccer requires endurance, agility, speed, and strength. Yes, most sports require these traits in order to be successful, but let’s break down why this international sport creates some of the top athletes in the world.
They run….a lot.
A soccer midfielder is required to follow the ball wherever it may go. The length of the field of play can be as great as 130 yards. Run that back and forth for 90 minutes and you’ll rack up the miles like American midfielder Michael Bradley, who has averaged 7.9 miles per match during the World Cup—that’s 23.61 miles after group play. According to SportVU, some matches have resulted with players running as much as 9.5 miles per game during the season. Running builds muscles, burns fat, tones, and trims and tightens areas on your body you didn’t know you had.
Take the running one step further—it’s not a constant run. Sometimes you’re sprinting, jogging, you stop-pivot and advance again—you’re constantly challenging your body to different impacts and speeds, forcing your muscles to work harder. Add the complexity of controlling a ball with only your feet and you’ve got your agility and serious abdominal workout covered. Your core helps with balance and stability—things you fight to keep when maintaining control and fighting off an opponent.
The lower body is doing most of the work during play, but a whole lot of good that will do if one’s upper body is constantly being forced to the ground. Soccer is a physical sport with full contact and plenty of body shoving. The teams may look lean but they are solid. An athlete must be able to use their upper half for protection, be it blocking a kick or a defender. There are also times of throw-ins to in-bound the ball. Core and upper body strength is necessary to make the pass. The goalie, who gets to use his hands, needs to be able to keep the ball out of the goal by any means necessary.
The lower body is doing most of the work during play…
American goalie Tim Howard had 16 saves in the match against Belgium. His arms were his main source of defense, but his ability to dive, jump, stretch, and contort his body to prevent the ball from hitting the net can be attributed to the training he does in practice. In an interview with independent news website Voxxi, Howard said his fitness routine involves “exercises called super-sets, repetitions intended to fatigue muscles and thus encourage them to grow more.” His training reflects a style of plyometric strength training that enhances the muscles necessary to defend against the shot.
Next time you want to give your body a new challenge, go play.
Next time you want to give your body a new challenge, go play. The gladiators made use of what they had to become the strongest competitors. The focus was on developing strength, speed, and skill. Soccer offers the same opportunity with a side of competitive entertainment. There’s a reason people around the world play the game: it’s fun. Think like a gladiator, play like a kid.