For footballers (soccer players), leg training is vital for performance. Strong leg muscles benefit players in specific skills in so many ways. Footballers train legs for several purposes which we will be discussing in-depth today.
You can see the advantages. When you think of Messi’s ability to dribble and sprint with pace throughout the 90 minutes of football, demonstrating extreme balance, agility, and strength in his lower body to swerve past defenders and dodge attempted tackles.
Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, uses his time in the gym effectively to be as strong as possible. Especially building his leg muscles to be able to outjump almost any defender and score bags of headed goals.
What’s the secret behind their heavenly leg strengths? To know that, we must leaen about key leg muscles first! Keep up with us!
The Key Leg Muscles
The key muscles in the legs are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Each of these muscles benefits footballers in different ways.
A quadriceps are a four-muscle group located on the front of the thigh. Linking directly to the knee joints and muscles. Quads are crucial in running, jumping, and kicking, and they are the main contributors to generating power in the shooting. Players often have large and defined quadriceps.
Hamstrings are a set of three posterior thigh muscles located at the back of the thigh. Football player’s hamstrings undergo a lot of stress. As they are the main component in thrusting players forward when making short, sudden sprints. They are subject to a lot of force which is why so many injuries are related to the hamstrings. Around 40% of all injuries in football.
THE CALF MUSCLES
The calf muscles are located on the back of the lower part of the leg. They are constantly engaged in a match or training session, from running, jumping, and particularly sprinting. Again, footballers generally have large, well-developed, and defined calves.
The gluteal muscles are stabilizers, providing strength and balance for the pelvis and hips. They help increase lower-body strength, but also play a huge part in preventing injury.
Do Footballers (Soccer Players) Train Legs or does it come Naturally?
Most footballers start playing football as soon as they are able to walk. You often hear players saying this, and they usually started out with foam balls in the house to play outside with members of their family on the streets, to join their first proper team at the age of 5 or 6.
Most players at the top would have played pretty much constantly from this age every single week. Only stopping if they became injured. This means hours and hours of running, learning to balance with the ball at their feet, kicking, dribbling, sprinting, and jumping.
So that naturally, their legs would build fitness, strength, and endurance. This means any footballer who has made it in the game has strong leg muscles just through practice and building up endurance naturally, and hasn’t necessarily spent hours in the gym to make it to the top.
However, once they are at the top, it’s unlikely that they would get away with skipping leg day! It isn’t everyone’s favorite day at the gym, but for footballers, it is pretty important.
During pre-season is probably the peak time for footballers’ leg training routine. During the season, the legs are being worked on during matches and playing football generally in training.
Leg training in gym sessions isn’t done more than once a week, as this can cause injuries. It is vitally important for footballers to find the balance between recovery for the legs while always maintaining and strengthening the muscles.
How Footballers(Soccer players) Train Legs (at home & Gym):
Footballers use many variations of the squat during leg training. The usual barbell squat with the weight on the individual’s back as they squat helps develop the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and it is a great general exercise for lower body strength.
More specifically suited to the skills needed for football are the single-leg dumbbell squats. When players push off into a sprint, they are putting all their power into one leg at a time.
While regular squats are great for activating key muscle groups in your legs — quads, hamstrings, and glutes — single-leg squats help train each leg to take the full weight of the body as they would do in a sprint.
So, power is improved and it is more helpful for in-game situations like chasing a fast through-ball and out-pacing defenders.
Dumbbell Lunges/Barbell Lunges
The lunge is a compound exercise, which means it hits multiple joints and muscle groups in one fell swoop. By taking one big step forwards you work the muscles in your hips, glutes, and legs in particular.
Making them stronger and improving your balance and flexibility in general. It translates well to football by helping to increase speed and resilience to injury.
You may have seen footballers using resistance bands in the warm-up just before a game kicks off. Players sometimes perform lateral squat walks in warm-ups, which are stepping sideward against the resistance of the band around their legs.
This is great for working the glutes in what is often referred to as ‘glute activation’, which warms up and loosens the glutes which can become tight throughout the day.
This takes the pressure off the muscles around the glutes so injury risk is reduced. Footballers train legs with resistance bands in training too.
Experts suggest that footballers do dumbbell bench step-ups. They help footballers with their jumping ability as this exercise develops the same muscle group used when going from a sprint to a jump, helpful for powering over the defender to score a header or to rise and defend a set-piece with a big header clear.
Weighted Sled Drags
This exercise involves attaching a harness to the torso to a weighted sled and sprinting while dragging the weight behind.
The sled drag puts heavy resistance on all the muscles used to propel forward including the calves and glutes in the legs. Working these muscles hard has a big payoff when it comes to acceleration because it increases a player’s power output.
How Footballers Train Legs After Injuries
During long-term injuries, muscles in the legs can deteriorate extremely quickly without regular training. Knee ligament injuries are fairly common in football due to the particular sharp movements, twists and turns, and tackles, particularly ACL injuries which is the anterior cruciate ligament.
This injury requires surgery and is particularly difficult to recover from due to the muscular atrophy (weakening) of the quadriceps, and other parts of the body and leg compensating for this. Not to mention the risk of a repeat of the injury which is a higher risk after ACL surgery.
The treatment & recovery process:
To make a full recovery, intensive rehabilitation is needed. The muscles around the knee need to be rebuilt again after the atrophy of the muscles during the long period of non-use, as well as to protect the ligament, which can’t be fully repaired.
The ligament is usually rebuilt using a graft from the hamstring, making it easier to snap again, so it requires careful attention and protection so that the injury does not reoccur.
After gradually strengthening the muscles of the injured leg, starting with swimming and cycling before focusing, on single leg exercises, players can bounce back better than ever.
Players who have managed to do and be even better than before are Alan Shearer, Xavi, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane, and more recently, Danny Ings.
Big Legs in Football (soccer)
Although most footballers have muscular legs, there are some players with particularly large and noticeable lower body strength. An example is Xherdan Shaqiri. His calves and thighs are huge and his short frame even enhances the appearance of his stocky lower body
Adama Traore, Ronaldo, and Hulk are known for their strong thighs which look like it helps them generate incredible power in their shots
Ex-players Roberto Carlos, and Clarence Seedorf had noticeably large legs, and Sol Campbell’s were so big he reportedly had his shorts custom made throughout his career.
soccer players with skinny legs:
However, it is evident that not all footballers train legs. In fact, having big legs isn’t always important, as shown by the skinniest stars in the game. Peter Crouch, Angel Di Maria, and Sergio Busquests are some of the skinniest players in the game and probably have skinnier legs than the average person.
However, the nature of being a footballer means that they would have built up a huge level of endurance in the muscles, and despite not being big, were certainly still toned and muscular.
Why Do Footballers(Soccer Players) Have Big Leg Muscles?
To sum up, soccer players with large leg muscles did not get there by chance. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve those results. That is the result of years of training and practice.
There are a few reasons why soccer players have such big leg muscles. First, they need the strength to kick the ball with force.
Second, they need the agility to run up and down the field quickly. Third, they need the endurance to play an entire game without getting tired. All of these factors require soccer players to have strong leg muscles.
Overall, soccer players naturally build a strong lower body from playing, which is also enhanced during training and gym sessions for various advantages in the game, such as having more power, balance, and jumping ability.
However, Xherdan Shaqiri and Peter Crouch show that footballers’ bodies are certainly not all the same and that footballers can bring different skills to the game without having to constantly be in the gym.
But, it is now clearly established after reading this detailed article; that strong and healthy legs with strength and endurance are key along with the talent itself! Want to keep reading? Head over to our soccer section here for hundreds of such quality pieces!
Here are Some of our Favourite Football (Soccer) Cleats
Here we will be giving more of an opinion, rather than facts. Are the cleats worth the price that they are being sold at? Should you upgrade from your current cleats, depending on what boots you own? What features stand out in these cleats? If any. Does it do the job? Speed, control, stability etc. Depending on your needs/preferences. We can also mention its durability, if we have collected enough data on the specific cleats.
What did we expect vs. what we got. Is it maybe overrated/underrated?
Here’s our pick from the very best of the bunch.
On your way to the pro leagues? Here’s our pick.
Want something to start with? Have a look at our pick.