Strength Training for Girls in Youth Soccer
junior girl soccer - going for a goal image by Robert Young from Fotolia.com
You may believe that adding strength training to your daughter's soccer practices is too much for her body to handle. But girls consistently increase muscle strength until about age 15, according to y-coach.com. Strength training can effectively improve muscle strength and endurance for girls. Talk to your daughter's doctor about an exercise program. Exercises should always be performed after warming up, with a knowledgeable spotter to prevent injury, and followed by appropriate stretching techniques.
Weight-bearing exercise causes muscles to pull at the bones to which they attach. This action allows bones to become more dense, and thus stronger. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, girls and women should participate in muscle-building exercise to promote healthy bone growth, decreasing their risk for osteoporosis later in life. Kidshealth.org states that strength training can improve focus, helping your kids to perform better in school and on the field. It may also reduce the risk of short-term injuries by protecting joints and tendons. Exercise can also help kids lose weight. Adult soccer players can run approximately seven miles in a game. Although at the youth level the distance is much less, they are still usually performing cardio activity for at least 30 minutes. Sports like soccer can help to keep your daughters healthy, developing beneficial life habits.
According to kidshealth.org, it may be beneficial to begin with body weight exercises before adding in machine or free weights. Squat exercises will focus on key muscles for soccer; they work quadriceps, gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles simultaneously. Building these muscles will improve speed, agility and strength for striking the ball. Beginners can perform squats against a wall. You can have the girl stand about a foot away from a wall, with her back to the wall. She should assume what looks like a sitting position, with her back against the wall. Her knees should not bend over the toes during this exercise, and her back should not go lower than her knees, states orthoinfo.aaos.org. She should hold this position for 10 seconds or more, and repeat a few times, increasing repetitions as she becomes stronger. This exercise should not be performed more than three times per week, and never two days in a row.
Similar to the squat, lunges also work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. The girl should stand with one foot in front of the other, and bend the front and back legs at 90 degree angles; you may have to help her adjust the width between her feet accordingly to achieve proper alignment. She can place her hands on her hips or keep them outstretched for balance. She should begin the exercise slowly, bending the knees to lower the body and coming back up to the starting position. At first, just a few repetitions on each side may be sufficient, allowing time for her strength to grow.
Knee injuries in female soccer players are quite common. The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a study in November 1995 that found women athletes had a higher incidence of anterior cruciate ligament, ACL, tears than did their male counterparts. According to orthoinfo.aaos.org, knee stabilization exercises can strengthen the ligaments around the knee. To perform such an exercise, your daughter should stand next to a chair or next to a buddy on her team for support. She should place one hand on the support while she shifts all her weight to one leg. Keeping that leg straight, she should swing her other straightened leg in front of the standing leg so they are crossed. She should hold that position for five seconds and then slowly return to the starting position. She can switch legs and repeat the exercise of a few times.
Pushups and Situps
Although soccer focuses on the legs, core muscles and arm strength are still needed. Core muscles, like the abdominals and lower back, are important in speed, balance, dribbling fakes and shooting. Arm strength is needed for maintaining your space, throw-ins, and for goalkeeping. Situps and pushups are easy exercises that can be a part of weekly training sessions. As with all exercises, begin slowly and be sure to allow the muscles adequate time to rest.
- Youth Coaching Information Website: Strength Training and the Young Athlete
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Weight Bearing Exercise for Women and Girls
- Kidshealth.org: Strength Training
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Exercises
- "American Journal of Sports Medicine"; Knee injury patterns among men and women in collegiate basketball and soccer. NCAA data and review of literature; E. Arendt and R. Dick; November 1995
Christy Callahan has been researching and writing in the integrative health care field for over five years, focusing on neuro-endocrinology. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, earned credits toward a licensure in traditional Chinese medicine and is a certified Pilates and sport yoga instructor.