woman soccer training with cones on field

Soccer training for men and women shares more similarities than differences. However, there are a few key differences in how women should train for soccer. As women, we must consider things like menstrual cycles and hormonal changes and how they can affect training. We must also be extra diligent about keeping our ACLs safe since we are more prone to injuring them, particularly while playing soccer.

Adults Play Sports has put together all the essentials for women like you to get in optimal soccer shape, whether you play in a women’s soccer league or an adult co-ed soccer league.

From the physical to the nutritional to the mental, here’s what we’ll cover:

  • cardiovascular endurance through interval training and distance running
  • muscular strength and power through resistance exercises like squats and pushing movements
  • agility and coordination through specific drills
  • periodization that accounts for hormonal changes and menstrual cycle
  • injury prevention with a focus on ACL injuries in women
  • balanced nutrition tailored to training demands
  • mental skills training for resilience and focus

Developing these areas in a structured manner can help unlock performance potential.

Endurance Soccer Training Drills For Women

Endurance training drills are integral to developing the stamina required for full 90-minute outdoor soccer matches or shorter but faster indoor games. High-intensity intervals like sprinting followed by jogging recovery periods challenge your cardiovascular system and mirror the game’s stop-and-go nature.

Tempo running, where you maintain a challenging pace for an extended duration, helps develop soccer-specific endurance. On the flip side, distance running, involving long, steady-state efforts, builds your aerobic base.

A training method you might have yet to hear of but one you won’t forget because of its odd name is Fartlek training. Fartlek involves varying your running pace between short and fast, testing your body both aerobically and anaerobically.

We all know soccer running is anything but a singular pace or a straight line. Instead, it involves short, long, and fast sprints, followed by jogging or walking. It also entails cutting and twisting as you move down and across the field–and back again.

That makes Fartlek training your perfect companion for getting yourself in tip-top soccer running shape. The video below shows one brief example of using it to train for soccer (and yes, the video features a man instead of a woman, but YouTube didn’t have any with women Fartlek training for soccer).

Ultimately, training consistency and dedication will enable you to perform better on the pitch and outlast opponents through endurance.

YouTube video

Fartlek training for soccer (football)

Key Strength Exercises For Women Soccer Players

Strength training plays a contributing role in enhancing women’s soccer performance. How you develop different muscle groups can benefit various aspects of your game.

Soccer is a huge core sport. Focusing on strengthening exercises like planks can improve your core stability and minimize injuries.

Besides the core, the other star of the show in soccer is your lower body. Use free weights or resistance bands to build lower body strength. Adding weight while pumping out squats and lunges will build optimal muscle mass to perform explosive movements. You know, like stealing the ball from your opponent and sprinting down the pitch.

Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and step-ups develop upper body strength, balance, and the ability to pivot quickly. Balance challenges help improve proprioception or kinesthesia, which are fancy ways of saying awareness of your body in space and movement. Balance training will give you better control during aerial challenges and sharp cuts.

Incorporating various strength training exercises can significantly enhance your overall soccer performance.

ExerciseMuscles TargetedBenefits
PlanksCoreStability, Injury Prevention
SquatsQuads, Hamstrings, GlutesExplosive Power, Agility
Push-upsChest, Shoulders, TricepsUpper Body Strength
Step-upsLegs, CoreBalance, Change of Direction

Agility Techniques For Women Who Play Soccer

Agility drills are an integral part of soccer training. They enhance your ability to change direction, accelerate, and decelerate, which can help you outmaneuver opponents on the soccer field. Being agile in tight situations will benefit your game, whether you play offense or defense.

Some of the popular agility drills include ladder drills, cone drills, reaction drills, box drills, and weave drills. Here’s how each works.

Ladder drills develop footwork and coordination by weaving through a ladder pattern. Cone drills test agility by maneuvering around cones in various patterns, simulating game situations. You can find inexpensive cones and ladders on Amazon or even complete agility kits. Practice in a park or your backyard, and you’ll see what it does to up your game.

woman soccer training using agility ladder

Reaction drills improve reflexes by requiring you to change direction quickly in response to visual or auditory cues. Incorporating something like the A-Champs light kit into your training can give you the extra edge you need in a soccer game.

Box drills involve sprinting, backpedaling, and shuffling around a square, enhancing multidirectional movement, which is very common in soccer.

Weave drills demand body control as you move through a series of cones or markers, replicating the need to evade defenders.

Adding these drills into your training regimen can improve agility and allow you to exploit gaps in the defense or offense. Being more agile than your opponent will enable you to quickly outsmart them. However, consistent practice and dedication are required to see significant results.

How Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle Can Improve Your Soccer Performance

Strategic periodization and recovery practices benefit female soccer players by accounting for physiological demands and hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle. Understanding these fluctuations and their impact on performance can help optimize training.

Hormonal Fluctuations and Soccer Training

The menstrual cycle typically lasts around 28 days and is divided into four phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Each phase affects the body differently, and you can leverage each one to maximize soccer performance:

IDA soccer cleats Scheels ad
  1. Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5): This phase begins with menstruation. Energy levels may be lower, and some women may experience discomfort or pain. Keep your soccer workouts a lower intensity and focus on things like technical drills and flexibility exercises. Your focus should be to maintain fitness without overexertion.
  2. Follicular Phase (Days 6-14): Estrogen levels rise, leading to increased energy and strength. This is an ideal time for high-intensity training, strength-building exercises, and intensive soccer drills–like sprinting and heavy weights. The feeling of more muscle strength and energy is attributed to the anabolic effects of estrogen.
  3. Ovulation (Around Day 14): Estrogen peaks just before ovulation, which can boost performance and endurance. This is an ideal time for competitive scrimmages and endurance training. However, the increased laxity in ligaments can raise the risk of injury. Ensure thorough warm-ups and focus on proper technique during drills.
  4. Luteal Phase (Days 15-28): Progesterone levels rise, which can zap endurance and increase body temperature. Training should focus on moderate intensity, with an emphasis on recovery and injury prevention. Incorporate technical skills practice, moderate cardio, and active recovery techniques like foam rolling and light aerobic activities to maintain fitness while supporting the body’s increased need for recovery.

The Research Backs It Up

Don’t just take our word for it when touting the benefits of soccer training based on your hormonal cycle. Check out the research that indicates aligning soccer training with menstrual cycles can improve performance and reduce injury risk. One such study from 2021 found that female athletes who tailored their training to their menstrual cycle phases reported significant performance improvements and reduced injury rates. Additionally, a systematic review noted that the ovulatory phase, with its peak in estrogen, is associated with increased ligament laxity and a higher risk of ACL injuries.

If you haven’t ever tailored your training regimen around your menstrual cycle, give it a shot and see if the suggestions above impact your performance.

Injury Prevention Protocols For Women

Proper warm-up routines gradually increase blood flow and flexibility, prepare muscles for intense activity, and reduce strain risk. Addressing muscle imbalances through specific exercises can lower injury risk by equalizing strength across muscle groups. Joint protection aids like braces or taping for vulnerable areas such as knees and ankles can help prevent sprains.

Edge Spray ad 300x250

One of the biggest injury concerns among women soccer players is tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). It’s our worst nightmare and one we see play out on the field more often than we’d like.

ACL Injury Prevention In Women Soccer Players

Did you know women are 2 to 8 times more likely to suffer an ACL soccer injury compared to men? Much of this increased risk is attributed to our different biomechanics, hormonal fluctuations, lower muscle mass, and wider hip placement than men.

Some other “fun” facts about ACL tears in women soccer players. If you’re defending the ball, your risk for ACL injury is higher by 75%. And if you’re making some sweet solo moves, you’re 70% more likely to tear your ACL than if you are in a multi-player play. Think about the times you pivot quickly to break away from your opponent. That planted leg doesn’t always go with you the way you want it to. The same goes for going up for a header. You might land differently than you intended.

All these risk factors make ACL injury prevention a top priority for women soccer players.

Fortunately, statistics show a proper prevention program can reduce the risk of ACL tears in soccer by 70 percent.

We already highlighted some soccer strength and agility training, but we’ll drill down even further here.

  1. Strengthening and Neuromuscular Exercises: Build strength in the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles. Focus on single-leg squats, lunges, and hamstring curls, as well as single-leg balance exercises. A stronger leg means a stronger knee, and better balance means fewer chances of landing awkwardly.
  2. Proper Technique: Emphasize proper landing techniques and knee alignment during training to avoid excessive knee valgus (inward collapsing of the knee). This can significantly decrease knee injury incidence.
  3. Women’s-Specific Footwear: More and more emphasis is now on soccer cleats designed specifically for women. From different stud types and layouts than men’s cleats to higher arches and narrower heels, all these design differences intend to minimize pain and injury in women. IDA Sports has been at the forefront of this revolution. You’ll find plenty of data on their website regarding this. You can also check out our full review of their women’s soccer cleats.
  4. Regular Screening: If you feel like you might be at risk, schedule a routine assessment by a doctor or physiotherapist who can recognize if you’re at higher risk for ACL injuries. They can advise you on tailoring your training and gameplay to reduce your risk of knee injuries.

Impact of Different Soccer Surfaces on Injuries

The type of playing surface can significantly affect injury risk and performance for women soccer players. Here’s a comparison between artificial turf and natural grass:

  1. Artificial Turf:
    • Injury Risk: Circling back to ACL tears, studies have shown that playing on artificial turf can increase their risk. Synthetic turf’s increased friction and grip can lead to more stress on the joints, particularly during sudden stops, starts, and directional changes. However, turf’s overall even playing surface can help prevent ankle sprains and other injuries caused by uneven surfaces.
    • Training Tips: When training on artificial turf, focus on strengthening exercises for the lower body to withstand the additional stress. Incorporate drills that emphasize proper cutting and pivoting techniques to reduce joint strain. Wear appropriate footwear with adequate grip to minimize slippage and injury risk.
  2. Natural Grass:
    • Injury Risk: While natural grass is generally softer and more forgiving, it can be uneven and lead to a higher risk of sprains and falls. You must also be aware of holes that the grass blades can camouflage. However, natural grass is less stressful on the joints than artificial turf.
    • Training Tips: When training on natural grass, include exercises that improve balance and proprioception to handle uneven surfaces. Perform regular checks of the training field for holes or divots that could pose injury risks. Practice agility drills that mimic game conditions to enhance adaptability to varying surfaces.

A meta-analysis comparing injuries on artificial turf and natural grass found that the overall injury rate was similar, but the types of injuries varied. Non-contact injuries like ACL tears were more common on artificial turf, while muscle strains were more frequent on natural grass, as an example.

Nutrition Guidance Essentials For Women

Appropriate nutrition supports female soccer players’ performance and recovery. Proper portion sizes are essential to meet calorie needs. Planning meals simplifies grocery shopping and cooking.

Consume carbohydrates for energy from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Lean protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, and eggs aid 

muscle repair. For balanced meals, include healthy fats from nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Drink water to stay hydrated.

After workouts:

  1. Consider yogurt, fruit, or protein bars as snacks.
  2. Aim for three balanced meals and two snacks daily.
  3. Portion plates with 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbohydrates.

During games, replenish with sports drinks or other electrolyte options and energy bars if you’re feeling low on fuel. Consume pre-game meals that combine complex carbohydrates and lean protein 2-3 hours before kickoff. Consistency in meal patterns is beneficial as the body adapts to routines.

With diligent meal preparation, you’ll have adequate fuel to maintain energy levels throughout a match.

Mental Toughness Strategies For Women

A resilient perspective helps female soccer players navigate the physical and mental rigors of the sport. Mindset coaching that promotes a positive, growth-focused approach to challenges can be beneficial.

Visualization exercises allow players to mentally prepare for success by vividly imagining desired outcomes. Build confidence through affirmations and recalling past achievements, as self-belief fuels peak performance. Manage anxiety by incorporating deep breathing techniques and reframing stressors as opportunities.

Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goal setting provides a structured approach to skill development and tactical mastery.

Visualize yourself scoring the winning penalty with composure. Then, reinforce it through mental rehearsal. Positive self-talk fosters a determined mindset. If feeling nervous before an important match, reframe it as ‘I am energized to give my best effort.’

With a focused yet adaptable mindset, players can outperform opponents through superior mental toughness. As the saying goes, ‘Whether you believe you can or believe you cannot, you’re correct.’ Adopt a mindset that aligns with your goals and aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Motivate Myself for Consistent Soccer Training?

Establish realistic objectives and monitor your development. Partner with someone who can hold you accountable and keep you motivated, like one of your teammates. Celebrate your accomplishments.

How Can I Balance Soccer Training With Work/Family Life?

Balancing soccer training with work and family requires disciplined time allocation, prioritization skills, and understanding from loved ones. Establish reasonable expectations by planning, communicating openly, and adjusting schedules when necessary. Also remind yourself this is both a mental and physical benefit to yourself.

Are There Any Age-Specific Modifications Needed for Older Women Soccer Players?

For older women soccer players, prioritize injury prevention through appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs. Incorporate flexibility exercises to maintain mobility. Adjust aerobic training based on individual fitness levels. Implement recovery protocols like active rest and massage. Tailor training volume and intensity according to your specific capabilities and needs. You’ll probably want to avoid things like slide tackling as you get older.

What Are the Best Pre-Game Warm-Up Routines for Women Soccer Players?

An effective warm-up routine should incorporate dynamic stretches and exercises targeting hip flexibility, muscle activation, and overall body preparation.