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How to Improve Soccer Power

Mark Kislich provides some advice on how you can improve your soccer strength and speed (power).

Improving power, or explosive strength and speed is a big deal in soccer. Ask a player what he feels he needs to work on and 9 out of 10 the answer will be: "get faster and more explosive".

And they are right. These qualities are essential for a dominating performance in soccer and many other sports. Note: I am not a scientist, and I do not know much about research, so I would like to give you my take on this based on experience and logic.

This advice comes straight from the trenches. The theory is good, but it has to be backed by practice, in my opinion. I do a lot of work with association football (soccer), and my approach has proven effective over and over again: for myself like many others, applying the same strategies.

The Problem

Speedwork (sprinting) and power training (plyometrics) are important, effective, and have their rightful place in modern training periodization for soccer. But on its own, this type of training is not enough. Let me explain. Since power and speed are important, many players and coaches train for these qualities, and that is all they do as far as physical development goes.

Here is why that does not work

To become faster and more explosive, it is imperative first to lay the foundation for both. That foundation is the strength. It is a simple equation: to become faster, you must first get stronger. If you sprint, you become faster. If you train for power, you become faster. But only up to a point, and then progress stalls. That is because power is a function of strength and speed. So, to continue improving, you first must get stronger. Once that is achieved, you can then get back to speed and power work, converting that strength into soccer-specific, usable speed and agility.

The Solution

When a player comes to me, I begin by making them stronger and more stable as well as injury-proof. Only once they have a sound, stable basis of strength do we start working on power and speed. That way, soccer performance will continue to improve consistently. To quote legendary strength coach Al Vermeil: "It is all about who gets there first, and under control."

Let us reverse engineer this for a bit:

  • No Speed-Endurance without Speed
  • No Speed without Power
  • No Power without Strength
  • No Strength-Endurance without Strength
  • Strength is the Basis to Everything

Strength will enable you to build power, power begets speed, and speed has to be built before you can build speed endurance. Now it is all fine and well to say get stronger, but that needs to be done right, too. You could, for instance, do powerlifting and that would undoubtedly increase strength levels, but would that be right for your sport?

The Strength Qualities important for Soccer

Let us take a look at exactly what is needed in football:

  1. Power/Speed-Strength, with its three sub-categories: starting, explosive and reactive strength
  2. Power Endurance (Speed-Strength Endurance): the ability to be powerful repeatedly and/or with incomplete rest
  3. Functional Hypertrophy: muscle-mass in the right places that delivers

But how to go about this, and how should you periodize it?

We break up the training into different phases. Please forgive me if I oversimplify this here but I want a complete beginner to being able to understand and use it out-of-the-box. In this example, we use three phases:

  • General Preparatory Phase (GPP)
  • General Intensification Phase (GIP)
  • Specific Preparation Phase (SPP)

Schedule this depending on the length of your offseason, the SPP should be finished about a week before a training camp or just before the season begins in earnest. That is to allow for super-compensation and complete recovery.

General Preparatory Phase

This is the primary phase, where we build a foundation of functional hypertrophy and concentrate on structural balance. So single leg work is emphasized, and the repetition range should be between 6 and 12 on average. I usually use a 9-12 repetition window, but it depends on many other factors like age, gender, training experience, position played, etc. But for a beginner start with 9-12 repetitions. I would allow for a minimum of 2 weeks and not much more than four weeks for this phase.

General Intensification Phase

In this phase, we begin to lift a little heavier, building up more strength. A beginner should not go too heavy right away, that could be damaging. If this is your first year, and following a 9-12 repetition window in GPP, I would recommend eight repetitions here. It is not pure strength work, but for someone who never did professional resistance training before this is just the ticket to building up muscle that is strong and delivers on the pitch.

Specific Preparation Phase

In this phase, you are finally allowed to do your speed and power training, because now, at last, you are ready for it and there is a sound basis of strength to convert into explosive action, both in the weights room and in a match.

You could try for repetitions of five in the power clean, some explosive medicine ball work, and mainly focus on sprinting and cutting drills. Careful with the sprinting distances though: above and beyond 40 meters (absolute speed) the injury risk, especially for hamstring pulls, increases significantly. It is imperative to work into it slowly, meaning periodize the speed work as well. That, or do not go for greater distances than 30 meters in all-out sprinting - cutting drills can be your answer here.

So, there you have it: a very much simplified, yet handy, template on how to structure your offseason build-up work. If you apply these guidelines, you can rest assured that optimal results will follow.

Season Maintenance

Another major mistake I see in international soccer nowadays is this: once the season begins, all strength work is completely dropped. Now, it is clear that football has to come first, and I am well aware of the fact that modern players have an extremely high workload to deal with during the season. Nonetheless, you must maintain your strength and hypertrophy (muscle mass) levels, which is crucial for several reasons:

  1. It is the only way to improve your physical potential from season to season. The way it works is that you get better (stronger and faster) during the offseason, then keep all you got during in season, and build on that higher level come next offseason. So you never look back.
  2. If you get weaker, you get slower, and as explained above, strength is the engine behind power and speed.
  3. Weaker muscles cannot stabilize the joints properly: the injury risk sky-rockets.

The good news is that to maintain your gains, one short session every 7-10 days on average is enough. What we do is two sets of 6-8 repetitions for two exercises for each muscle group.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • KISLICH, M. (2012) How To Improve Soccer Power [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Mark Kislich is from Iceland and works with Olympic and other elite athletes as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. He keeps fit with weight training and judo.