Having worked in the fitness industry for my entire adult life, I have been exposed to hundreds of different fitness trainers, with equally as many different types of fitness training methods. It seems that every few months, a new fad (be it a new piece of equipment, exercise video, training theory/methodology, etc..) gets hailed as the next “big thing” that will revolutionize the way people train.
While I do believe there is scientific merit to several of the new and popular types of exercise equipment out there (for example, the TRX trainer, or vibration plates, to name a few), I also think it is imperative for athletes to be wary and skeptical of new methods of training or equipment. A lot of time, effort, and money can easily be wasted on training that does not follow the one principle of training which is the cornerstone of sport-specific strength and conditioning: the principle of specificity. The principle of specificity dictates that the human body will undergo specific adaptations to training, that are specific to the imposed load placed on it by the training stimulus. Simply put, you will become good at what your are training.
Soccer players should interpret the principle of specificity to mean that, if they want to become better at playing soccer, they should play a lot of soccer. As much soccer as they can, in fact. Their fitness training, although focused on improving their physical ability, should also involve playing a lot of soccer. Their fitness training that does not involve playing a lot of soccer, should be centred around improving the specific physical abilities that the sport requires, namely, running and jumping. Other types of training that do not involve playing soccer, running, or jumping, are not really the most effective and productive use of a soccer player’s limited time. This is especially true for elite youth soccer players between the ages of 12-18, who are in their mid-to-late stages of physiological and neuromuscular development. Players in this age category will require a strong focus on developing the key areas of soccer-specific fitness (aerobic endurance, running speed, and jumping power) in order to achieve peak physical ability in time for opportunities to participate in higher level soccer after high-school (university, professional, and international).
To become physically better at soccer, the best thing any soccer player can do is to play more soccer. Running training, especially high intensity aerobic interval training, is the next best kind of training, because it will help soccer players meet the high aerobic demands of the sport. Finally, a combination of speed training (fast running and sprinting), and plyometrics (fancy word for “jumping”) are the most effective ways for soccer players to meet the other physical demands of soccer.
I encourage all soccer players – and all other athletes – who are looking into any new type of training method or equipment to always consider the training principle of specificity. If you want to become better at flipping tires, then flip tires. If you want to become better at lifting heavy weights, then lift heavy weights. And if you want to become better at soccer, then run, jump, and play soccer.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.