Playing Soccer Benefits:

  • Soccer players depend on their hip flexors for two very important aspects of the game -- speed and kicking movements. The hip flexors are also a high injury risk for soccer players due to their high level of use. A strong and mobile hip flexor, located just above the quadriceps muscle, is vital to a fast and healthy soccer player.
  • When it’s time to strengthen your legs for soccer, don’t just focus on kicking strength. You’ll spend much more time running up and down the field and making quick stops and starts, than you will firing 30-yard shots at the net. So focus on overall leg strength when you work out to improve your speed, quickness and stamina.
  • Your shoulder is a highly flexible ball-and-socket joint that is responsible for such major movements as flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation and adduction and abduction. While a weekly soccer training program tends to focus on the lower body, you also need to build strength and flexibility in your shoulders for such activities as throwing, blocking opponents and shielding the ball.
  • FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, developed the 11+ warm-up program. With soccer players at risk from serious knee injuries, such as tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament, the frequency of injury statistically diminishes when players undertake the 11+ warmup program.
  • How to Improve Your Sprint for Soccer

    Some people believe you are either born a sprinter or you are not. But through hard training, you will be able to increase your soccer sprinting speed, which is an important aspect of the sport, because soccer requires you to react quickly to a lobbed ball or to find open space for a ground pass. Train for speed at the beginning of your workout so you are fresh for the intense drills

Nutrition Plan for Soccer Players

When playing soccer it is always important to have a good nutrition plan in place. Learn about a nutrition plan for soccer players with help from an international athlete and a global soccer ambassador

What to Eat Before a Morning Soccer Game

  • What you eat before a morning soccer game will have a direct impact on your performance. Soccer games require the body to sprint, jog and walk consistently over an extended period of time, placing a high demand on the energy stores of the body. As well as the morning of the game, you should also aim to eat healthy for three to four days and in particular the night before the game. After all, healthy eating is a habit important to life as well as soccer.

Carbohydrates

  • Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for soccer performance. Glycogen will be your body’s primary energy source during the game, and a diet in high-carbohydrate, low-fat foods will enhance performance during a morning soccer game. Try to incorporate pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, chicken or white fish into your breakfast before a morning soccer game. While not traditional breakfast foods, they will ensure you have adequate energy stores. If you wish to eat a more traditional breakfast, a whole wheat bagel with chicken or white fish would be a good energy source.

Hydration

  • Hydration is just as important to your body as what you eat. Your body’s hydration level will be impacted by what you drink at least in the 16 hours prior to your morning soccer game. Many people enjoy fruit juice with their breakfast. This is fine, but only one is recommended because many fruit juices are high in sugar. Sugary foods cause quick energy, then a crash that hurts performance, especially in the second half of your morning soccer game as the body fatigues. Soda dehydrates the body and causes dehydration during sports.

    Hydration is best achieved by the consumption of water and sports drinks, which should be consumed up to, during and after your morning soccer game. Sports drinks have the added bonus of carbohydrates as well as helping the body restore supplies of electrolytes and minerals, such as sodium, potassium and chloride, that the body loses through perspiration.

Timing

  • The timing of when you eat before a game is important. You do not want to have used your stores by game time, but it is also important to give your body enough time to convert food into energy before your morning soccer game. While no exact timing is scientifically recognized in sports nutrition research, you should eat between two and three and a half hours before your soccer game to have an optimal energy store. This means you should wake up early; if you have a 9 a.m. game and wake up at 8 a.m., eating your breakfast in the car on the way to your game, you are not allowing your body to convert your breakfast food into energy and will lack energy, leading to you fatiguing quickly during the second half of your game. Waking up early and eating good foods will help your performance and will be worthwhile.

5 Surprising Facts About Stretching

As runners, we all know stretching is important, but do you know why? Have you ever wondered exactly what happens to your tendons and muscles when you stretch? And are you sure you’re stretching in the right places – at the right times?

It may seem like a simple process, but stretching in the right way at the right time can make a huge difference in your overall health and may actually cut seconds off your time. Here are five facts about stretching you may not have known:

Stretching is for more than just athletes. Runners and those who compete in athletic events are well aware of the benefits of stretching, but it may come as a surprise that it also helps patients with conditions such as diabetes and depression. In fact, recent studies by my colleagues at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center show that stretching during yoga classes can even benefit women who are battling breast cancer.

Stretching increases blood flow, boosts oxygen levels and helps deliver nutrients to your muscles. It also removes metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide, ammonia and uric acid. Sure, stretching helps athletes stay loose, limber and avoid injuries, but it can also benefit others in ways we might not have known.

You need to stretch more than just muscles and tendons. Before hitting the road or the treadmill, it’s imperative that you stretch your hamstrings, quads and calves – but don’t forget the IT band.

The IT band, or iliotibial band, runs from your hip to just below your knee on the outside of your leg. This thick, fibrous tissue stabilizes the knee joint during movement, and it’s important to keep it loose.

To stretch the IT band, put one hand on the wall, cross your feet and use the leg closest to the wall to push against the opposite knee. The hip nearest to the wall should be tilted slightly. Failing to stretch the IT band or persistent overuse can lead to pain, inflammation and something called IT band syndrome.

Stretching a tendon just 4 percent beyond its original length can cause permanent damage. Our muscle fibers are very pliable. It might surprise you to know that a muscle can stretch up to one and a half times its original length.

But tendons aren’t nearly as flexible. Stretching a tendon just 4 percent beyond its resting shape can cause permanent damage. Most of the time injuries occur when tendons are stretched too quickly or in unexpected directions; that’s why it’s important to stretch them slowly and consistently.

You should warm up first, then stretch. Many amateurs assume it’s best to stretch before you run or take part in any type of exercise. Actually, it’s better if you warm up first.

Jogging at a slow pace or spending a few minutes on an exercise bike will increase blood flow to the muscles and allow you to get more out of your stretch. Also, remember to build that extra time into your workout routine. If you plan to run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, set aside 35 to 40 minutes in all. Spend five minutes or so warming up, 5 to 10 minutes stretching and then begin your workout.

Stretching after you run is more important than before you run. How many times have you finished a rigorous workout, then plopped down on a chair to catch your breath before calling it a day? Most of us have done it, but it’s important to remember that just because your workout is over, doesn’t mean you’re finished.

Remember, it is just as important, if not more so, to stretch after you exercise. Stretching while the muscles are already loose from a workout will help you recover faster and prevent injuries.

Stretching is one of the most important actions runners – and all exercisers – can take to avoid injury, strengthen their muscles and increase their performance. The next time you hit the track, make sure you remember how a few minutes of stretching can immensely benefit your workout and your health.

Dr. Timothy Miller is an orthopedic surgeon and team physician in the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Department. He’s a published researcher whose interests include the treatment and prevention of stress fractures and overuse injuries of the upper and lower extremities, Achilles tendon tears, gait analysis, dance injuries, arthritis prevention, physical fitness beyond adolescence, biology of bone healing and repair, injuries of the shoulder and elbow in throwers, patellofemoral instability, ACL reconstruction techniques and endurance athlete physiology. In addition, Miller serves as the team physician for OSU’s men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams, and is the team physician for Capital University athletics.

The health benefits of soccer

The experts agree—if you want to stick to your fitness plan, you need to find something you love to do. For more and more people, that plan involves teammates, some wide-open space and a black and white ball. According to Sean Hayes, the official kinesiologist for the Canadian National Australian Rules Football team and the owner of Tuf Personal Fitness in Vancouver, B.C., soccer is a fantastic cross-training opportunity that has some mental benefits, too. 

Improve your cardio

If logging miles on the treadmill bores you to tears, hit the soccer field instead to work on your cardio. Hayes explains that soccer players can travel a distance of eight to 12 kilometres each game. “The aerobic fitness demands of soccer increase the ability of the heart to pump blood to the muscles and helps clear the build-up of plaque inside the arteries, which is a sign of cardiovascular disease,” he says. The benefits? You’ll enjoy a slower resting heart rate, a decrease in systolic blood pressure and a healthier working heart, Hayes says. Added bonus—you won’t get winded running up a couple flights of stairs.

Increase muscle tone and bone strength

Check out the gams on professional soccer players—not too shabby. And the rest of their bodies are pretty sculpted, too. “The very nature of soccer as a game of constant movement keeps the muscles engaged over long periods of time, which is great for overall muscle tone,” says Hayes. Another benefit might not be as easy to admire in the mirror, but is just as important. “As [people] get older, bone density becomes more of an issue. The repeated weight-bearing loads on the body during a soccer match are an excellent way to increase the strength of our skeletal frame.”

Increase endurance

As soccer increases your cardio capacity, it also improves your endurance. “An increase in aerobic capacity allows soccer players to run farther for a longer period of time,” explains Hayes. Because soccer requires you to execute a variety of motions, it’s more beneficial than just parking yourself on the cross-trainer at the gym. “Soccer involves running, walking, sprinting and jumping. These movements require a great deal of endurance for an athlete to be able to play a full 90 minutes.”

Improve coordination

Whether you want to be able to beat your kids at Wii Golf or just stop bumping into things, soccer can help. “Hand-eye coordination is improved when players either kick the ball or receive a pass from someone,” says Hayes. “Body coordination is improved because of complex movements like dribbling, turning and passing, which are performed at varying rates of speed and direction.” And better coordination means better results on the field. “A soccer player’s ability to react to her external environment is a valuable tool in the game.”

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