From goal to goal, a professional soccer field runs between 100 and 130 yards, with a width of 50 to 100 yards. Running that distance a few dozen times in a game while kicking a soccer ball can create some seriously muscular legs. Off the field, soccer players regularly complete a series of intensive exercises to keep their legs toned and ready for games. The best way to get big soccer legs is to train like the players themselves. Some of these exercises will require some weight based on your strength level, but others require nothing more than your own body weight and a pair of strong legs.
Things You'll Need
- Soccer ball
- 20 plastic cones
- Soccer field or other flat running surface
- Leg press equipment
- Leg extension/curling equipment
- 2 dumbbells
Exercises Without Weights
Sprint uphill to build strong legs and cardiovascular stamina. Sprint up a hill and jog back down, with a minute or less of rest time at the bottom. The size of the hill will determine the number of repetitions you can perform, but look for a hill where five to 10 repetitions is a challenge, but not impossible.
Build strength with double jumps, a classic soccer drill. Stand with your feet together, toes forward. Jump as high as you can as you bring your knees to your chest. As soon as your feet hit the ground, jump off a second time, bringing your knees to your chest again. Land and return to your starting position. Repeat 10 to 30 times.
Use your soccer ball to perform leaps. Set your ball on the ground and stand beside it. Leap over your ball to the other side, then back again. Continue without rest for as many jumps as you can. The higher the jump, the better the workout for your thighs and calves.
Set up your plastic cones in two lines of 10 cones each. The cones in each line should be about 10 feet away from each other, and the two lines should be about 5 feet apart. Weave in and out of one line as you dribble your soccer ball. Weave through the second line as you return to your starting position, maintaining control over your ball through the entire course. You can also dribble through the course by alternating between lines, or by making figure eights around cones that are side by side. This exercise works your legs while teaching you to control the ball.
Sprint using the boundaries of a soccer field. Start at the goal line and sprint as fast as you can to the center line. Sprint back, then sprint to the penalty box and back. Then sprint to the penalty shot line and back. These exercises are also known as suicide sprints, and you can do them on any field or flat surface. If you don't have a soccer field to practice on, divide any running surface into thirds. Sprint the full length of the surface and back, then sprint to approximately the two-thirds line and back, then the one-third line and back.
Exercises with Weights
Squat with the additional weight of a barbell. Use a heavy enough barbell that you can do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, but you couldn't do many more. This number of reps and sets is ideal for building muscle mass. To perform a squat, hold the barbell behind your head and across your shoulders, feet pointed forward and hip-width apart. Bend your knees and stick out your tailbone, as though you're trying to sit in a chair behind you. Keep your back straight. This exercise tones the legs and glutes, or the muscles of the buttocks.
Lunge with a barbell across your shoulders. Begin in a standing position, feet forward. Step forward with your right leg and bend your knees. Return to start, then step out with your left knee. Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions on each leg. This exercise works your glutes and quads. You can modify this exercise by stepping to the side with your leg instead of stepping forward. This is called a side lunge and also works the glutes and quads, or the muscle group along the front of your thigh.
Work out your glutes, quads, adductors and hamstrings on a leg press machine. The typical leg press requires you to sit while you push a platform up at a 45-degree angle with your feet. Perform three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Work out your quadriceps on a leg extension machine. Adjust the machine so you are sitting upright and the padded lever is just above your feet. Straighten your knees and lift the lever. This equipment can usually be converted into a leg curling machine by adjusting the seat so you can lie on your stomach. If not, use a separate leg curling machine to work your hamstrings. Adjust the machine so the padded lever is against the back of your ankle, then bend your knee to lift the weight. Use enough weight that you can do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, but little more.
Exercise your calves with calf raises. For this exercise, stand up straight, feet flat on the floor. Press with the balls of your feet to lift your heel into the air. For resistance, hold a barbell behind your head and across your shoulders, or hold two dumbbells in your hands and resting on your shoulders. You should use enough weight to just do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Tips & Warnings
- A longer lunge will focus on the glutes, while a shorter lunge will emphasize the quads.
- Perform leg exercise two to three times a week to build muscle. Alternate between training days and rest days throughout the week.
- Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
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