At times, goalkeepers must step outside their goal mouth in order to improve their play inside of it. With a great amount of time focused on skill specific training, most keepers have physical deficiencies that prevent them from reaching their peak performance level. Goalkeepers need a strength and conditioning program with challenging total body balance, explosive movements, and measurable goals. Strength and conditioning cannot however, be done sporadically and unsystematically. The goalkeeper must be committed to a program and follow it precisely to reap the highest rewards.
The demands of a goalkeeper are much different than that of a field player. This means the goalkeeper must train differently. Focus must be on improving the areas that are most important and are utilized during the game; power.
In order to increase power one must consider how the muscles and tendons work. There are three phases that occur during an explosive movement such as jumping: first, the muscle lengthens (eccentric phase), followed by a slight delay of time (transition phase), and finally, the muscle shortens or contracts (concentric phase). During the eccentric phase the muscle begins to store energy; during the transition phase a message is sent to the spinal cord then a message is sent back to the muscle; and lastly during the concentric phase the stored energy is released and the desired movement is performed.
To think of the action more practically, one should visualize a simple squat jump. The eccentric phase is the initial downward squat, the athlete hitting the bottom is the transition phase, and when he or she pushes up to jump, the concentric phase takes place.
Plyometrics are not primarily for the lower body, but they can also be used for abdominals and upper body. Goalkeepers must be the quickest player on the field to twist their core or drive their hand out to make a save; therefore we must train these muscle groups in an explosive manner. Often times, coaches make the mistake of training only the lower body, missing these other vital areas.
It is important for the athletes to have a solid strength base prior to starting a plyometric program. Although there is no defined age to start a program, the goalkeeper should be emotionally mature enough to listen to instructions and perform the exercises. I have trained goalkeepers as young as 10 years old with low intensity plyo’s, such as jumping rope, agility ladders and line footwork.
The athlete should be careful not to over train with plyometrics - frequency, recovery time, volume, progression, and the population must be considered. The following are general plyometric protocols for the post-pubescent high school keeper:
The intensity of the workout is greatly dependent upon training status. A well-trained athlete with an extensive strength and conditioning background will be able to perform higher intensity workouts than a less-trained athlete. For example, a goalkeeper who has completed a twelve week strength and conditioning program will be able to perform plyometric exercises using one arm or leg as opposed to two. They will also be able to perform jumping movements over a specified distance, as opposed to jumps in place. Obviously the younger the goalkeeper, the lower the volume, intensity, and number of sessions.
In order to see improvements, the athletes must increase the demands of the plyometrics they are performing. This is called progressive overload. The intensity of the plyo’s should go from less, to moderate, to high. However, the volume should not increase at the same rate. An example of this could be performing 10 clap push ups with two knees on the ground, and increasing the intensity to doing 10 clap push ups with toes on the ground. The intensity of the exercise increases because it is more difficult by not having the knees on the ground, however, the volume does not increase.
Below is an example of a low-moderate plyometric workout. Similar workouts with visual diagrams can be found in my “Goalkeeping Strength and Conditioning Manual” found on Keeperstop.com.
Exercise Sets/ Reps Rest
1.) Skipping for height 4 x 25 yds walk return
2.) Squat Jumps 2 x 10 1:30
3.) Lateral Hurdle Hops w/ pause 1 x 10 1:30
4.) Ankle Poppers 1 x 30 sec
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Too often coaches do not have a plan that extends beyond the present goalkeeper training session. It is imperative that we move away from this style of coaching and add some science to what we are doing.
If I was to go and view most GK sessions what do you think I would see? In my experience the session will concentrate predominately on the technical aspects of the position and little time is given to specific physiological, psychological or tactical requirements. Thus, our GK’s never improve their physiological status to the standard that is required. The natural athlete will survive but the non-athletic GK never maximizes their potential. Firstly, let’s look at the major physiological requirements again:
• Co ordination
Do you know how to train these components and are you presently training them? Too often coaches try to improve speed, power and agility by doing speed, power and agility drills. You may be thinking “yes isn’t this correct” but I want you to think about what is the foundation of these components? Obviously the foundation is strength and in my experience strength is one of the most misunderstood and wrongly trained components of fitness. When coaches think strength it’s about weights with little functional component or the GK is doing so much technical training that there is no time to incorporate a strength program.
Strength training should be completed 2-3 times/week (48hrs between workouts) and should involve a full body program that involves functional exercises. I am a strong believer in bodyweight exercises and am adamant correct technique is followed. Bodyweight routines can be incorporated into the GK session and can be performed at the start of the session and may include:
• Walking Lunges
• Bodyweight Squats
• Push ups
• Chin ups (assisted if necessary)
• Core exercises (Russian twist/cycle crunches etc)
No equipment is required and can be completed in a circuit format (3 rotations of 8-12 reps). Progression is an integral part of any program so manipulations can be made by using medicine balls, bands or slowing down the speed of contraction. As time progresses other strength training methods can be incorporated but it is most important that the movements are functional and you do not make this mistake of prescribing a strength training program that has its foundations in bodybuilding rather than sports conditioning. Strength training must be part of every GK’s overall program.
Dr. Craig Duncan an international expert in goalkeeper development writes for Keeper Skool.com. Keeper Skool is a leading provider of online goalkeeper training information.
Keeper Skool is the home of Keeper Skool Certified, an online goalkeeper membership community that includes interactive forums, expert interviews and The G-Code, one of the leading training resources for goalkeeper specific performance enhancement on the internet today. Access all of the above information by clicking visiting: www.keeper-skool.com .
One of the many outdated theories in American soccer culture is to place the tallest player on the team in the goal. This thinking pervaded soccer fields in decades past, but as soccer exploded in this country and more and more athletes joined the game the tallest athlete is no longer the only goalie traversing the eighteen-yard box. Today’s keepers come in all shapes and sizes, but what elite level keepers have in common is a tremendous athletic ability. No matter how tall an individual may be what will set them apart in the goal are their agility, explosiveness, and strength. Any goalie will tell you that it is not the high shot that is the hardest to save but the knee high blast to a corner, where quickness and explosiveness really come into play. It is these qualities, quickness, explosiveness and strength that coaches are looking for out in their keepers.
To reach this top level, training and conditioning must be stressed. While keepers do not do a large amount of running on the field, they are the player that has to be the most conditioned and focused. When fitness is lacking, physical and mental mistakes occur. During a game keepers have to be constantly involved, positioning themselves and their defense and instantly ready to make a save when the opposition is in their end of the field. This requires a goalie to be in top shape and as explosive as possible. In the 90th minute of a game a keeper must have enough endurance to stay mentally focused to come up with the game winning save.
The time to condition and make gains in speed, power, and strength is during the off-season and pre-season. For many soccer players this is a hard time to distinguish due to the year round schedules many play. Usually the off season falls over the winter when there are fewer games and practices, and the preseason comes a couple months before a main competitive season begins. Taking steps to condition during these times will help prepare a goalie for the rigors of an upcoming season and help to prevent injuries. Strength, agility, and plyometric (Jump) training should take place two to three times a week during these periods. Throughout a player’s main competitive season, depending on the demands of their schedule, it is a good idea to condition one day a week to maintain strength and power. It is always recommended to work with a trainer or at a strength and conditioning facility to make sure that exercises are done with proper technique, especially strength and plyometric training. If you can’t find any way to get to a trainer, don’t be put off if. There are ways to effectively train on your own. Below is a sample work out that focuses on agility, power, and strength that can be done on your own and will help any goalkeeper increase their conditioning and explosiveness. Alternate between the two days to keep workouts fresh and to cover all areas of fitness.
(This article and the training techniques are suggestions. Always consult a doctor to find out whether this type of physical activity is appropriate for you. )
x x x x x x x x
x = cones or any kind of marker about 2ft apart (Don’t have cones use pieces of tape. Nothing that you can land on and roll an ankle)
*Go through each exercise twice before moving to the next in the sequence
Plyometrics (Control yourself in the landing by being light on your feet)
Same Sequence 1 Foot Right and Left
Warm – Up 20 yards with jog back
High Knee Run
x x x x x
x x x x
Backpedal to Sprint
Sprint to Backpedal
Body Weight Squat x 20
Vertical Jump x 12
Push – Ups x 15
Burpees x 12
Lung Walk x 20 yards
Sit-ups x 25
Single Leg Lateral Bounds 20 yards x 3
Russian Twists x 20 each side
*Increase Sets and Reps to progress through the work out and make it more challenging.
Meredith Stewart, MS, CSCS
Competitive Athlete Training Zone Performance Coach
Northeastern Women’s Soccer Asst Coach
NSCAA Advanced Regional License