Many goalkeepers limit their chance to reach the next level because of ineffective training programs. It is common to meet keepers who spend a majority of their training time taking recreational-style shots from a field player. Although somewhat useful, this type of training does not fully condition a keeper’s body to meet the physical demands of the position. In order to be successful, a goalkeeper must develop a combination of quickness, strength, agility, and raw explosiveness. Incorporating the three essential conditioning drills discussed below into a well-rounded training regimen will help a goalkeeper acquire the physical tools needed to get to difficult shots and cover more ground in front of goal.
The development of powerful lateral movement is key to the success of any goalkeeper. Keepers use side-to-side movement to position their bodies in front of shots, track the run of play, and initiate dives to the sides of goal. It is, therefore, important to condition the muscles that govern lateral movement–hip muscles, groin, and obliques–while working in the gym and on the field during practice.
One of the most effective drills for building powerful side-to-side ability is the basic lateral shuffle. Place cones five to eight yards apart and shuffle laterally back and forth as fast as possible between these cones while keeping a low athletic center of gravity. Your shoulders should be parallel to the imaginary line between the cones. Shuffle to each cone with long and powerful lateral strides, using the least amount of steps possible.
Begin by performing three sets of 4-6 repetitions. One full shuffle left and right is one repetition. As you progress, you can add a lateral resistor band or widen the cones and have a partner yell “change” at random times to prompt you to abruptly switch shuffling direction.
Many goalkeepers make the mistake of neglecting to train for explosiveness. It is common to see keepers spending a majority of their time in the gym attempting to lift mountains of weight in exercises like leg and bench press. These exercises are valuable, but do not fully condition the muscles’ ability to extend and contract in the shortest time possible. In other words, being able to squat 350 lbs. won’t help you much if you can’t spring quickly from your stance to meet a shot whizzing toward the corner of goal at 70 m.p.h. This is where plyometrics come in handy. Plyos utilize movements like jumping and bounding to instill a powerful spring into your muscles.
Leapfrogs are one group of jump drills that will help improve a keeper’s ability to explode in all directions. Start with your feet in line with your hips and crouch down into a squat position. Your legs should be at about a 90 degrees angle with your hamstrings parallel to the ground. Swing your arms and jump forward as far as possible. Land on your feet in the same squat position as you began. Quickly execute 7-10 of these leaps without stopping.
Once you become comfortable with this move, reverse the exercise by leaping backward using the same mechanics as the forward leapfrog. Then, round out your session by jumping laterally in the leapfrog position 5-7 times in each direction. Perform 2-3 sets of each leapfrog variation.
One frequent misconception about goalkeepers is that they are stationary players. Contrary to this belief, goalkeepers cover a distance of up to 3.2 miles (5.3 km) a game through a combination of high intensity movement, running, and walking, according to Physicfootball.com. Skilled keepers, therefore, must be accustomed to dynamic athletic motion since they are always on the go. A good goalkeeper should not only be fast, but also possess the ability to change speed and direction of motion using quick and agile steps as they follow the ball and the run of play.
One way to gain nimble feet is by incorporating an agility ladder into your training. Agility ladders can be purchased at any sporting goods store or made by simply taping the outline of one on the ground with masking tape. If utilized correctly, agility ladders can help improve balance, coordination, quickness, and reactive ability. There are many different types of drills that can be done with the ladder. Choose as many different types as possible with a concentration on the ones that mimic the movements of a goalkeeper.
One of these ladder moves useful to a keeper is the two-foot lateral shuffle. Approach the first rung of the ladder and turn so one of your sides face it. Laterally step your lead foot into the first box with the outside of your foot square to the rung of the ladder and then bring the trail foot in behind it. Repeat this motion down the ladder using quick steps. Your footfalls should be light, landing on the balls of the feet, never on the heels. Your hips and shoulders should be parallel to the outside of the ladder while your arms pump as you go along. Perform 3-5 sets going in each direction.
Added to your training program, these three exercises will help develop the physical skill set required for keepers to become a more dynamic and athletic presence in front of the nets. Those who put in the time to condition their bodies to meet the physical requirements of the game differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Continue to push your body in the gym and on the practice field and you will soon find yourself rising to the occasion on match day.