Sport Specific Strength Training for Soccer Goalkeepers

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In a previous article I wrote about the need for individualized, specified training for soccer goalkeepers. Within that article, I suggested a number of changes that goalkeepers could make to their warm-up routines and on-field training sessions. However, I left out another important and often overlooked aspect of goalkeeping performance that has the potential to further increase performance and decrease the potential of injury. That aspect is strength and conditioning, and as many of you know- it is something that I am hugely passionate about.

Within this article, I’ll breakdown the typical movements of a  goalkeeper during games. As any casual observer of a game could conclude, a goalkeeper’s objective is to not concede goals/save the ball. However, I’d like to delve into how he/she achieves these objectives as well identify other common movements performed by goalkeepers within games.

Primary Goalkeeper actions

  1. Kicking
  2. Catching
  3. Jumping
  4. Saving

Kicking

In analyzing the video above it becomes apparent that taking a goalkeeper kick-out is a single leg action, but requires stabilization from the opposing or non-kicking leg. In the case of the example above, Hope Solo’s left leg is her primary base of support when she kicks the ball.

Assuming that the kick-out is a long distance kick it can be concluded that she puts a lot of force through the ground with her left leg. Stated another way (non-scientifically), she plants her left foot as hard as possible into the ground while striking the ball with her right foot.

So what exercises can help Hope Solo or any other goalkeeper kick a ball farther while minimizing the potential for injury?

SINGLE LEG WORK and sufficient ankle mobility. It’s not rocket science by any means, but simply analyzing movement patterns within sport will allow us to develop a unique exercise prescription.

Suggested Exercises:

Single Leg Squat

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift 

Band Terminal Knee Extension (TKE’s)

Single Leg Glute Bridge 

Catching

I’m not entirely convinced that we need a slow-motion video to analyze a goalkeeper catching a ball. In my perspective, the only meaningful action that takes place from a biomechanical standpoint is internal and external abduction of the shoulder. For a goalkeeper to successfully catch a ball overhead, they will be required to have sufficient shoulder range of motion/strength. Thankfully, maintaining range of motion/strength in a shoulder joint is not a difficult feat.

So what exercises can help a soccer goalkeeper with catching a ball?

Suggested Exercises:

Rope/Band Face Pulls

Band External Rotation

Band Internal Rotation

Shoulder Dislocations (not what it would seem)

Jumping

From analyzing goalkeeper movements, I’ve identified three distinct types of jumps that a soccer goalkeeper could typically accomplish during a game. These are

  1. Vertical Jumps (straight up, straight down). Think of it as jumping on the spot.
  2. Broad Jumps (out in front, or possibly behind). Think of it is as jumping out to save a 1 v 1.
  3. Lateral Jumps (side to side). Think of it as most goalkeeper saves.

For many coaches, jumping seems to be a make or break for team selection. Most coaches will stick with a goalkeeper who takes command of his area by jumping up and catching balls from corners, free-kicks or any other set-piece as as throw-ins, etc.

Programming jumping exercises can get a little tricky as jumping in a game is situational (i.e. you first identify the ball, decide to catch/punch the ball, adjust your body position and only then do you jump). If jumping is “new” to a goalkeeper, I recommend starting without the ball and slowly progressing over time.

So what exercises can help a goalkeeper jump higher?

Suggested Exercises:

Back Squat

Front Squat

Deadlift

Counter-movement Jump

Squat Jump 

Tuck Jump

Single Leg Squat Jump

Developing lower body strength, particularly among inexperienced weightlifters, will absolutely increase how high you can jump. Furthermore, adding fast plyometric type exercises such as squat jumps, tuck jumps and single leg jumps will also help you not just jump higher, but also jump faster at the same time.

So what exercises can help a goalkeeper move better side to side?

Surprise, surprise: Again, strength is key. Obtaining increased strength in the adductor and abductor muscle groups is key. These muscles are the groins, hips and glutes. Because of this, below are some suggested exercises.

Suggested Exercises:

 Lateral Lunge 

Lunge 

Fire Hydrant

Hip Extension

Side Skaters

As with all exercises, a continual level of progression should be present. Start these exercises with just bodyweight for a number of sessions and when executed safely and effortlessly over time, progress by adding external resistance (bands, weights, weight vest, etc).

Saving

See all of the above. A goalkeeping coach is much more suited than I am to teach you about saving, body positioning, etc. However, I do know that strength, power and co-ordination will put you in a better position to have an opportunity to save the ball if that helps!

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