Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Exercise Spotlight: Soccer
The world’s most popular group sport, soccer is the number one sport in Latin America and Europe, as well as several other countries around the world. The first indication of a soccer-like game being played comes from China, during the 2nd and 3rd century, where the ancient Chinese that lived during the Han dynasty used to kick balls into nets. Sounds quite familiar doesn’t it? There are indications that soccer was played in ancient Rome and Greece, which probably comes as no surprise at all. The modern soccer game was born in England in 1815, when the Cambridge rules were applied to the game, forbidding kicking and other brutal behavior. This made the game popular in many school, made it internationally popular and lifted it to its current status.
Soccer should not be confused with American football, even though it is referred to as “football” in many countries. American football (also known as rugby football) has that elongated ball (known as rugby ball) and many strong guys pushing around. Soccer has skinnier guys running up and down the field, chasing a white and black spotted ball around and kicking it without any body contact with other players.
Besides being an excellent sport to watch on television, soccer offers many benefits as a team sport.
What’s so great about soccer training?
Actually quite a lot, because soccer is one of those sports that train both the body and mind, while improving your social life and character on the side. Here are some of the more obvious benefits soccer has as a sport and exercise:
- It is very fun and interactive, since no game will be the same and the chaotic factor of the balls movement and other player’s reactions make it a brain teasing past-time. Trying to guess another player’s move, secretly communicating with your mates and guessing the trajectory of a ball coming towards you all train your mind and improve your reflexes.
- It is a social game. You can’t really play soccer alone. This means you get to be the member of a team and spend some quality time with some mates who like the same sport as you do. Training side by side, winning and losing games together can create some amazing bonds that can stay with you for life. People who have very lonely jobs and calm lives benefit a lot from team sports mentally. The elderly and the teenagers benefit the most.
- It is very hard exercise. You might not realize because of the adrenaline, but a soccer match is a very hard task. You run a lot, kick a lot and change directions abruptly. All this makes for very good exercise, especially targeting the legs and it improves your coordination and reflexes. Soccer is one of the best sports to improve agility and reflexes.
Soccer needs very strong legs, so most of the exercises during training target the glutes and legs in general. Being a great soccer players means that you need balance and a steady core too. This is why some core and arm exercises should always be done on the side.
- Squats. Squats are one of those exercises everyone benefits from. You train your whole body with no impact at all, making your back and glutes stronger.
- Deadlifts. Deadlifts are like squats, with the difference that you are lifting quite a lot of weight at the same time. This strengthens your legs even more, with the added resistance and difficulty.
- Bench pressing and rowing machines can improve your torso, giving your body that extra exercise to balance your muscle growth. Having an all-round strong body make you last longer and improve your balance. Even the best player fall a lot while kicking, so you can imagine how important balance is to you.
- Plyometrics have their way of making your legs that much stronger without you noticing. Jumping from plyoboxes and doing jumping exercises can do miracles to your reflexes and your muscle growth. Soccer players might not jump as much as basketball players, but a soccer player who can jump well to receive a ball on the chest can win a game for his team.
- Bulgarian split squats. These are one legged squats, which can improve your individual leg strength. You will often balance on one leg during soccer games, so you need to train staying strong and balanced in that position beforehand.
Arguably, playing a game of soccer can be better exercise than jogging for an hour and a half. You use more muscles and shock your heart muscle with more abrupt reactions and sprints. All this makes soccer an excellent cardio exercise. Since you can play soccer at many difficulty levels it is a very fun sport for kids as well as the elderly. There isn’t any body contact, making it quite safe and there is no immediate hurry, strategy being more important than speed.