Success in soccer is like in basketball and tennis—develop your weak side and become more dynamic, balanced and threatening. The initial steps might feel awkward, but you'll improve quickly with the plan that follows from Scott Piri, director of soccer performance at Athletes’ Performance. He lays out drills for the gym and the pitch to become a symmetrical beast.
1 - Get comfortable.
Juggle the ball with your off-foot for 1 minute, avoiding excessive spin by concentrating on finding the center of the ball. Be subtle with your touches—let the ball do the work. Along with working your handling skills, you’ll warm up your muscles and core temperature. Progress to using your knee for 1 minute and then alternate between the two. Total time: 5 minutes.
2 - Dribble.
Use a designated area big enough that you can move and cut in all directions but also tight enough to replicate what you’d face in a game. Aim for the center of the ball for control and vary the patterns with all angles of your weak foot—think of it like shadow boxing. Keep the ball close to you, so you can touch it with each step. Total time: 5 minutes.
3 - Learn to drive.
Kick the center of the ball against a wall five yards away, using the inside of your foot and following it directly to your target. You want the ball to come straight back to you and only have to take one step with your plant foot before you repeat. Do this for 5 minutes to work on your timing and rhythm before moving back to 10 yards. Rather than your instep, use the top of your foot to drive the ball into the wall, keeping your toe pointed down, planting your off-foot next to the ball and pointed at your target and keeping your body over the ball to maintain a low shot. Then move back to 20 yards. Do 10 minutes total.
4 - Squat with one.
In order to harness power, you need a base of stability and strength. Single-leg squats will help provide that by working each leg individually, while challenging your pillar strength. Make this move part of your strength training. Another staple for your strength workout: split squats. They build strength and balance, and, by simulating soccer movement, condition the muscles for deceleration and change of direction.
5 - Train laterally.
While most leg exercises will work you forward and back, these two—abduction and adduction with cables—will train your body in a lateral direction, key for any sport, particularly soccer. Along with building stability, the motion will help coordinate your swing and plant legs and translate into stronger passing and striking.
© Core Performance
Abbott Nutrition strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program and perform exercises under the supervision of a certified fitness trainer or conditioning coach. The effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition should be determined by your health care professional. The suggestions here are in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.