If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you may have noticed that the best soccer players often go airborne. That’s been true for a number of years, as you can see in this video of the top World Cup headers.
But what goes up must come down, and how you land can determine how long you can continue playing. Too often soccer players hit the ground in a stiff, awkward position that damages their knees and other body parts.
You can prevent that with jumping exercises . Not only that, but these exercises can improve your performance on the soccer field. (They’re good for basketball, volleyball and other jumping and running sports as well.)
Jumping exercises (which exercise wonks like to call “plyometrics”) have two purposes. First, they give you an opportunity to practice your form. When you jump, make sure you land softly on the balls of your feet, with your knees and hips bent. Your knees should be over your feet, and your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Keep your head up and look forward.
Second, these exercises can improve your muscular power, vertical jump height, acceleration speed, and running speed. Plyometrics studies have shown that athletes who do these exercises can trim anywhere from .02 to .21 seconds off a 100-meter dash.
They work differently from slower movements such as squats because they require you to go immediately from bending to straightening motions, like the coils of a spring.
In these videos, former U.S. national team midfielder Cobi Jones demonstrates jumping exercises from FIFA’s injury prevention program:
More advanced exercises include jumping up and down from a raised surface. There are many other variations, so if you get bored with these, let me know.
So far in this series on preventing soccer injuries, we’ve covered running form, strength training and now jumping. Another key to improving your control and agility on the soccer field is balance training. I’ll talk about that in my next article.