Fitness, Matches

2014 FIFA World Cup Soccer Fitness Preview: Cameroon – Speed Kills

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Because this is a World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 32 participating nations. In this installment, I will look at Cameroon, an African side with a German coach, who have a history of pulling off upsets in the World Cup and have drawn a tough group that includes hosts Brazil, Croatia, and Mexico.

Cameroon’s best player is 32 year old striker Samuel Eto’o, who is widely considered one of the fastest soccer players in the world. In my business, we spend a lot of time working with athletes to develop speed using a variety of training techniques, including high speed/high incline treadmill running, plyometrics, strength training, and running mechanics training. Without getting into all the details, what I can tell you is that Samuel Eto’o exhibits all of the athletic qualities that good speed training seeks to develop. Among these are:

– Powerful legs and a low starting position that elicit explosive starting speed
– Foot contact on the balls of the feet to maximize propulsive forces
– Strong hamstrings that produce a very long running stride
– Quick and strong hip flexors that snap the knees up quickly for a fast stride frequency
– A strong and stable core that keeps the hips square and neutral during upright running
– A relaxed arm swing to maximize total body range of motion

Of course, developing these skills and abilities takes years of hard training, however, soccer players aspiring to get faster should watch this video of Eto’o in action and try to copy the way he runs. At the World Cup Brazilian, Croatian, and Mexican defenders will certainly have their hands (and feet) full trying to stop him. We will have to wait and see what happens in 3 months’ time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness

1-Leg Bosu-Ball Alternate Arm Dumbbell Bicep Curl/Shoulder Press

A great exercise that combines single-leg balance and stability with upper body strengthening.
To perform this exercise, stand on the middle of the Bosu Ball with your knee and toe pointing forwards. Hold dumbbells with arms at sides. Maintaining balance on the ball, slowly curl the dumbbells upwards by bending at the elbows. Position the dumbbells for a shoulder press by facing the palms outwards and fists towards the ceiling. Slowly press one arm upwards by straightening the elbow and bringing the dumbbell up and inwards towards the mid-line of the body. Keep balanced and slowly lower the arm back down, then repeat with the other arm.
Perform 2 sets of 5-10 repetitions with each arm. Do the first set on the right leg, and the 2nd set on the left leg.

Fitness

Single-Leg Side Plank Dips

Another great single-leg strength exercise. This one is very useful because it strengthens the core muscles as well as the muscles on the outside of the thigh.
To perform the single-leg side plank dip, start by going into a side plank position. Lay on one side, with hips square, and one leg on top of the other. Contract the core muscles and move the hips off the ground, forming a straight line from the feet to the shoulders. Slowly lift one leg off the ground, while at the same time pushing into the ground with the outside of the bottom foot. Holding this position, slowly lower the hips towards the floor (“dipping” them down) until they almost touch the floor. Slowly raise the hips to the starting position before repeating the movement for the next repetition.
This exercise can be done on the field, and may be more effective if done prior to the start of training because it helps to engage some of the core muscles that are involved in running, jumping and kicking. Perform 2 sets of 5-10 repetitions on each side.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness

Medicine Ball Alternate Side Squat

Another in our series of single-leg strengthening exercises. This one is very useful to strengthen the quads, hamstrings, adductors/groin muscles, and glutes, while at the same time improving hip mobility and flexibility.
To perform this exercise, stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes pointing forwards, holding a medicine ball (or soccer ball) with both hands. Slowly lower the body to one side by bending one leg at the hip and knee, keeping the foot planted on the floor and toe pointing forwards, while at the same time moving the weight of the other foot onto the heel, pointing the toe upwards and straightening the knee. Stop when the thigh of the bent leg is parallel to the ground, before slowly raising the body to the starting position, and repeating to the other side with the other leg.
Perform 2 sets of 10 side squats to each side, with 1 minute of rest between sets.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness

Bulgarian Lunge

Another great single-leg strengthening exercise that can be done anywhere, including on the pitch – all you need is a bench. The Bulgarian lunge helps to stabilize the hip and knee, while at the same time strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, one leg at a time. To perform the Bulgarian lunge, stand on one leg, a few feet in front of a bench or step. Place the other leg behind the standing leg, with the toes contacting the bench. Make sure to stand far enough forward that the foot and knee of the standing leg are in front of the hip, keeping both toes pointing forwards. Maintaining an upright posture and flat back, slowly lower the body towards the floor by bending the front hip and knee, keeping the knee in line with, or slightly behind, the toes. Lower the body until the knee is bent to a 90-degree angle, then push through the heel of the foot to straighten the hip and knee and return to the starting position.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions with each leg for optimal results.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness

Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift – Holding Stick

This is another example of an excellent single-leg strengthening exercise. This one is focused on the hamstring muscles. Hold a stick (broom sticks work best) behind your back, with one arm held over the head and the other arm behind the back. Stand on the leg opposite to the hand that is over the head (for example, left hand over the head – stand on the right leg). Keeping the back held straight, slowly lower the torso towards the floor by bending at the hip, maintaining only a slight bend in the knee. Once the torso is lowered to a horizontal position (parallel to the floor), slowly raise it back up by pushing through the heel of the standing leg, using the hamstring muscles to extend the hip and get back to the starting position.

Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions per leg, with 1 minute of rest between sets.

I’d love to hear what you think. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness

Dumbbell Touch-Downs

As promised, here is one great example of a single-leg strength training exercise that works very well for soccer players. It targets the knee and hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings, quads) and also the external rotators of the hip, which play a role in stabilizing the hip and knee while running, cutting, jumping and kicking.

To perform this exercise, stand in front of a step 12-24 inches high, holding a dumbbell in one hand, with the other hand held behind the back, then shift the weight of the body onto one foot (use the opposite leg of the hand holding the dumbbell (for example, if the dumbbell is held in the left hand, stand on the right leg). Slowly lower the dumbbell towards the step in front by bending the hip and knee of the standing leg, and leaning the trunk slightly forwards. Keeping the head up and chest out, continue to lower the dumbbell until it touches the step (“touch-down”). The knee of the standing leg may rotate slightly inwards; limit this movement by contracting the external rotators on the outside of the hip. Push through the heel of the standing foot, straightening the hip and knee, and returning to the starting position, before repeating the movement again. Use a weight that is comfortable for 10 repetitions, and perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions with each leg.

I hope you enjoyed learning abut this exercise, and that you find it helpful as part of your single-leg strength routine. I’d love to hear your thoughts – drop me a line here to get the conversation started.