Even if the only soccer player’s name you know is David Beckham, you can still enjoy the spectacle and international competition for the world’s most coveted trophy. However, there’s a lot more you can take from this tournament: the players’ training secrets.
Here’s your all-you-need-to-know guide on how to use soccer to improve your diet, sports performance, muscle building and fat loss, no matter what your sport is.
Having a kick-about might actually be as good as comprehensive health insurance.
Five scientific articles were published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and they found that regular participation in soccer increases both bone mass and bone density. This caused a significant improvement in standing postural balance and improved muscle strength. Together, these effects reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures. The people in the study were aged 20 to 47 years old, had never played soccer before and achieved these results after just 14 weeks.
“During soccer training and games, the players perform many sprints, turns, kicks and tackles,” explains project leader Peter Krustrup. “This combination of actions help achieve a variable bone impact that appears to provide a better stimulus to bone mineralization than running.”
Soccer also appears to have fountain of youth-like qualities if you can be bothered to keep scoring goals well into your golden years. The researchers also kept track of the muscle function and postural balance in a group of men aged 65 to 75 who have played recreational soccer most of their lives and compared the values with a group of men at the same age without specific training and a group of 30-year-old untrained men.
So if you’re looking for a team sport that will keep you young and fit then soccer might be the perfect match and the ideal way to earn your post-game beers.
Scoring with the head
Soccer highlights the best qualities that make a good athlete in any sport. Research conducted at the Society for Experimental Biology found that soccer players with superior abilities in areas such as passing, accuracy or sprint speed did not necessarily receive the man of the match award with consistency.
“The more skillful players, who achieve greater success on the pitch, are not necessarily the most athletic players,” says Ms David, the study author. “Interestingly, if a player is weaker at some aspects of the game, they can make up for this by attempting match ‘tasks,’ such as tackling and passing, more often. This suggests that the old saying, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ can be a winning strategy.” Fortunately, this attitude isn’t specific to soccer.
How to use it
This is a sports psychology strategy that you can apply to your own sport. So if you have a weakness in a particular area then make sure all other areas of your game are fine-tuned for performance.
Just look at a soccer player such as former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane who desperately lacked pace, yet led the team to many outstanding victories in England’s Premier League and Europe’s Champions League thanks to his tireless stamina and passing skills.
Scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have dubbed this skill: game intelligence, which is your ability to read the play so you’re always in the right place at the right time. This is not some sort of magical quality. Rather it’s the ability to see new solutions to problems and change your tactics rapidly then revise your old behaviors when they’ve been proven not to work.
But how can you do this if your pace is perhaps a step behind the rest of the team? Well, instead of tirelessly trying to boost your speed, rather, focus on what you’re good at, such as passing, and work to be the best in your team at those endeavors.
You don’t need to be genetically gifted to be your team’s MVP – you just have to play it smart.
Find fitness advice and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.