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A Soccer-Inspired Workout to Do While You Watch the World Cup

June 23, 2014

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For soccer fans, yesterday’s USA vs. Portugal game was an adrenaline-boosting, high-intensity 90 minutes—and I’m just talking about watching it! Even for non-soccer fans, it’s hard to not be impressed by the physical feats the players perform on the field. Not only do they kick the ball impossibly far, execute eye-boggling fancy footwork, and make goals with their heads, they also run an average of seven miles in a game. Now that’s some serious fitness.

While most of us can’t devote our time and energy to getting a soccer player’s physique, their training regimens do provide a workout model that can be beneficial to all of us. Their training focuses on both cardiovascular workouts and strength training, a mix that promotes physical balance in all bodies.

What’s even better, you can get started on soccer player fitness while you watch this year’s World Cup matches! Check out this soccer-inspired workout, specifically designed to fit into your World Cup viewing experience.

Pregame: Warm Up

Before any workout, it’s important to get the blood flowing and joints loosened up. Do this while the players take the field, the national anthems are sung, and the coin is flipped for kickoff. Soccer players choose warmup activities that get their hip, ankle, and knee joints loosened up, like a high knee march, pelvic bridges, and a light jog focusing on bringing your heels to touch your backside. For your upper body, torso twists and arm circles are good choices to get you loosened up. 

First Half: Strength Training

Strength training helps soccer players make those powerful kicks, and also reduces risk of a season-threatening injury. For the rest of us, strength training helps strengthen bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, as well as increase muscle-to-fat ratio, which boosts metabolism. Perform this sequence of exercises straight through, take a 5-minute rest while walking in place, then repeat. You should be able to complete this sequence three to four times in the first 45-minute half.


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Lunges improve core strength, increase hip flexibility, and tone all your major leg muscles. To perform a lunge, stand upright with both feet together, then take a long step forward on your right leg, bending it deeply but being sure not to let your knee go past your ankle. Push through your heel to bring your right leg back to your left, and repeat on the opposite side. Perform 15 repetitions on each leg.


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Squats help build muscle through your entire body, and provide functional training that make basic activities, like standing up from a chair, easier, and important skill to maintain as you age. To do a squat,  stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width, then lower yourself as if you were sitting back into a chair, engaging your core so as not to overly arch your lower back. Try to get your hips to knee level, then push through the heel to stand back up. Perform 15 repetitions.


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Step-ups help improve your balance and increase leg strength while giving your lower back a break. Find a bench, low coffee table, or stable chair, and stand directly in front of it. Step up on top with your right foot first, then back town. Perform 15 repetitions leading with the right leg, then 15 leading with the left leg.


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Dips are a near-perfect upper body exercise, as they work opposing muscle groups with the lifting and lowering action. To perform a dip, sit on the edge of whatever object you used for your step-ups, and place your hands on either side of your thighs. Bending your elbows to 90 degrees, slowly lower yourself toward the floor, then straighten your arms to lift yourself back up. Do 12-15 repetitions.

Halftime: Cardiovascular Training

Soccer players need both aerobic training, which they use when they’re jogging or walking on the field, and anaerobic training, which they use when all-out sprinting to shoot a goal or take possession of the ball. For us non-players, aerobic exercise helps strengthen your heart, reduce risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and boost your mood, while anaerobic exercise helps build overall strength and muscle, as well as respiratory fitness.

When play stops during halftime, use this opportunity to get outside without fear of missing a GOOOOOOAAAL! Jog around your house, and when you reach the backyard, sprint to the other side, then continue jogging. Continue this pattern of jogging ¾ of the distance and sprinting ¼ until the 15 minute half is up.

Second Half: Stretch…and Relax!

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Though the soccer players may still be hard at work on the field, you deserve to reward yourself a bit for your hard work during the first half. Stretching helps protect players against injury, and increases performance on field by improving flexibility. For everyone else, it helps reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and increase your range of movement. Hold each of the static stretches below for 15-30 seconds:

Standing Quadricep Stretch

Standing, bend one leg and hold on to your ankle to get a stretch through your quadriceps. Repeat on the other leg.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Stretch out one leg in front of you, with your other leg bent and the foot close to your groin. Bend forward over your outstretched leg, reaching for your toes. Repeat on the other leg.

Hip Flexor Stretch

From a kneeling position, step forward with one leg and lean gently onto the thigh of that leg so that you feel a stretch along your hip flexor and lower abdomen. Repeat no the other leg.

When you’re done, relax on the couch and help yourself to some healthy World Cup snacks!

Who are you rooting for in this year’s World Cup? Tell us in the comments below!