Just weeks ago, Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the second time, marking his return to being recognized as the top player in the world. That’s a tough feat at any time in football history but even more so when you’re beating out the likes of Messi and Ribery. So what did it take for him to be recognized as THE best player in the world? As I frequently point out to my athletes in other sports where being the best is far more objective (weightlifting, track & field, winter slide sports) if you want to be the best you can’t leave anything to chance and need to maximize gift you have. It’s clear that Ronaldo has done a fantastic job at this as his dribbling, passing and finishing abilities is legendary. But he is equally known for his physical dominance, especially being one of the fastest and most powerful players in the world. You can see more on this in two posts on Ronaldo’s physical capacity here and here. While ridiculous talent is obviously at play he has also used training methods that are in line with what I consider best practices for strength, speed and power development for soccer players. During his time with Mick Clegg at Manchester United, Ronaldo focused on traditional strength training methods like squatting, pullups and presses. But Mick also credits the use of Olympic lifts for his explosive strength and power. I’ve written about using Olympic lifts for soccer players in the past and have had great success incorporating them for many of the players I’ve worked with over the years. I recognize I am biased as a USA Weightlifting coach, USAW curriculum instructor and coach of Olympic lifters but almost every other sport has adopted their use in some fashion and I think it’s time more soccer players get on board. While not all players will be able to learn the actual lifts safely the basic principles and training stimuli of the lifts should still be applied when possible.
While many soccer fitness coaches shy away from traditional (i.e. ‘basic’) strength training methods in favor of so-called ‘functional’ training, low-intensity circuits, exclusive use of unilateral exercises, or single joint machine exercises, I think these methods are largely uninformed and far from best practices for developing the type of physical capacity that carries over for true performance in soccer. To read more about Mick’s training of Ronaldo, check out this great article.
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