Olympic Lifts for Soccer Players?

I would guess that most fitness coaches who work with soccer players don’t use Olympic Lifts. This might occur for a variety of reasons (not competent in teaching, don’t see the need, difficulty of players coming in and out with varying degrees of gym experience, etc). Some of these reasons are real and legitimate. Others not as much. Right now, I’m 3 months in to working with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and I haven’t done any Olympic lifting. The main reason is because I took over 2 games in to the season and I felt it would be inappropriate to teach almost 30 athletes a complex, new movement in-season. That said, I’m a HUGE fan of the Olympic lifts and I’ve used them in the past with my soccer athletes from elite age group players all the way to professionals. A handful of our current players have used Olympic lifts with me in the past while on other clubs.

Instead, I’ve taught the players to squat with depth safely and to maintain appropriate postures in exercises like RDLs, medicine ball multi-throws, and Kettlebell swings…all of which tend to transfer well when we do eventually teach the Olympic lifts. We’re using weighted and unweighted plyometric activities and kettlebell swings as a replacement for the training stimulus I’d normally use Olympic lifts for.

That said, I’ll be waiting until next year’s pre-season period before going through teaching progressions for the Olympic lifts because we simply don’t have the time now to gain enough competency to be safe and beneficial. The players ages, training and injury histories and experience in the gym all vary greatly. We likewise don’t have the facilities (we’re in a temporary training facility while a new space is being built) to be logistically feasible and safe.

When training professional players and teams (or high level for that matter), you have to treat them like a friend’s Ferrari. You recognize that they’re designed to go fast and push to the limit but also understand that scratches and dents wouldn’t go over too well. Hard training isn’t good enough. Smart hard training is better.

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.