The sport of soccer is traditionally thought of as a predominantly aerobic-endurance sport. This is because matches can last in excess of 1.5 hours in addition to involving a considerable amount of jogging and walking between short bursts. For these reasons, many soccer coaches are concerned primarily with developing cardiorespiratory fitness among their players and are less concerned with developing lower-body muscular power. However, neglecting explosive training in favor of long, slow-distance steady state running can be counterproductive. Many critical moments in a soccer matches come down to explosive actions such as sprinting for an open ball or jumping to make a header off of a cross. These types of actions are not uncommon during soccer matches and players must possess a sufficient amount of lower body maximal strength and power to be effective during those situations.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sought to determine if lower-body explosive power could discriminate starters from non-starters in a team of Division-1 women’s soccer players. Eight-teen college-aged players were categorized as starters or non-starters based on total minutes played and number of games started from the previous competitive season. Prior to the start of the off-season strength and conditioning program, all players underwent maximal squat-jump testing to assess lower-body muscular power. Each athlete was given 3 squat-jump attempts with one minute of rest between attempts. A linear position transducer was used to measure squat-jump height, mean velocity, peak velocity, mean power, peak power from each squat-jump attempt. All values were then compared between starters and non-starters.
The results showed that mean power and peak power values between starters and non-starters were not statistically different (p = 0.093 and 0.097, respectively), however the effect sizes indicated that these values were moderately higher for the starters (ES = 90 and 0.94, respectively). Squat-jump height, mean velocity and peak velocity were all significantly higher in the starters compared with the non-starters and the effect sizes were all large. Additionally, squat-jump height was significantly correlated with mean velocity (r = 0.63) and peak velocity (r = 0.65). Thus, these results demonstrate that markers of lower-body muscular power discriminate starters from non-starters in high-level female collegiate soccer players. Coaches should therefore consider emphasizing developing lower-body strength and power in their athletes.
Magrini, M.A., et al. Distinguishing Playing Status Through a Functionally Relevant Performance Measure in Female Division I Collegiate Soccer Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, In press.