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Running exercises for footballers: proven tips and tricks

07 Sep 2023

Running drills for soccer players: build a solid training foundation

Everything you need to know about running to get in peak condition. Learn how to run in and out of season, which surface is best and what to watch out for in terms of breathing. Learn from the experts and try proven exercises that will make you swagger like Ronaldo on the pitch.

Image of a runner

Do you know the basic principles of running training for soccer players?

The 3 most common mistakes that cause injuries when running are said to be: poor technique, insufficient warm-up and inappropriately chosen clothing and shoes . We will not advise you on what to wear today. After all, you can probably guess which brand of clothing we would recommend. But we will discuss the basics of running training a little.

Correct running technique is both alpha and omega

You can run as much as you want, but if you don't do it right, you won't achieve your desired goals. Correct technique is key both for efficiency, improving fitness and performance, as well as from the point of view of injury prevention. If you want to not only run, but above all to run correctly, pay attention to the following areas:

  • Body Position : As in wrestling, position is key. Keep your body upright and slightly leaning forward. The shoulders should be relaxed, the arms slightly bent and the hands close to the body. Keep your head straight and look ahead.
  • Rebound : Step under your hips and watch your ankles so they don't fall in front of your knees. You should pedal through the entire cradle of the foot.
  • Short, quick strides : Generally considered more efficient than long strides where the foot moves too far from the ground. Don't lean, don't stoop, don't slouch. On the contrary, don't be afraid to "wean it off" in a healthy way.
  • Breathing : Breathe into your belly (so-called diaphragmatic breathing) to get maximum oxygen into your body. It is ideal if you only run at a pace that allows you to breathe through your nose. For starters, try 2 steps on the inhale and 2 steps on the exhale. There are also breathing exercises for running with which you can develop your technique.

TIP: Not sure if you're running correctly? Ask someone to film you. This way you can easily detect many mistakes. You can also go for a running diagnosis or get a gait diagnosis.

It is not a surface like a surface. Along with "how" to run, also decide "where"

What you wear under your sole affects your performance, load level and risk of injury. Each surface has its own specifics, which you should take into account during training.

  • Natural grass : Absorbs impacts better than harder surfaces such as asphalt. It also has better traction and allows for better control over movement. On the other hand, the condition of the turf (e.g. uneven or wet) can affect your stability and increase the risk of injury.
  • Artificial grass : Usually has a uniform surface, so it guarantees consistent movement. Although it is usually a little less shock absorbing than natural grass, it allows for faster movement and is more resistant to weather conditions.
  • Road : Running on the road is often harder than running on grass. The road has little cushioning and may be too hard for repeated training. If you run mostly on the road, get a particularly high-quality running shoe that will provide you with sufficient shock absorption.
  • Forest paths : They offer a soft surface with undulations and bumps, so they strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the legs. But if you don't want to get hurt, you have to be very careful about tree roots, branches, various bumps and mud.
  • Sand : Running on sand is more challenging because sand is unstable and absorbs the energy developed on impact. This way, you engage more muscles when running. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, running on sand requires up to 1.6x more energy than running on a solid surface.
  • Tartan Track : A track made from polyurethane or rubber compounds provides a consistent surface with good shock absorption and excellent traction. It is thus often used for professional running training and competitions.
Detail of sports shoes on tartan.

Tartan is one of the most suitable surfaces for running training. Who would have said that to old tires, right? The rubber compound used for the production of these tracks is usually made up of recycled tires and other rubber products.

Treat yourself to warm-up and stretching before and after running

Before the actual run, give your body a good start. This will prepare your muscles and joints for running, reduce the risk of injury and improve your overall performance. The warm-up can include, for example, jumps, running in place, squats or various rotations. You should stretch each muscle for about 15 to 30 seconds . Focus mainly on the main muscle groups used in running, such as the hamstrings, calves and lower back muscles.

Running is not just one. There are styles to improve fitness, increase stamina and exercise to run faster

Because gloves are not just one either. Your grandmother can easily have three - warm ones for winter, rubber ones for cleaning and lace ones when grandfather takes her to the village dance. But they will hardly resemble your polished goalkeeper gloves . Likewise, running has many forms. Feel free to alternate the individual types, but it is important that you progress gradually and adapt the intensity and length of the training to your current condition and abilities.

  1. Long slow run : Perfect for increasing endurance and burning fat. With it, runners maintain a low and stable running intensity for a longer period of time. This training strengthens the cardiovascular system, improves muscle endurance and helps the body burn fat efficiently.
  2. Interval training : A popular exercise for improving running speed is characterized by alternating fast and slow stretches. For example, you can run at a faster pace for a certain amount of time or distance and then switch to a slow jog. Or straight to rest. Interval training improves speed, endurance and the body's ability to effectively adapt to different running intensities.
  3. Climbing and descending : Running on hilly or sloping terrain strengthens leg muscles, increases strength and power, helps improve muscle control, coordination and speed. This training also increases resistance to fatigue and strengthens muscle groups that are not as stressed during flat running. Hill running is thus often referred to as the ideal exercise for running faster.

Exercise with aids : Training ladders, exercise rubbers, slalom poles, obstacles, cones and other aids offer a number of options to diversify your training. They develop dexterity, speed and thanks to them you can focus on individual body parts. You will then strengthen exactly the muscles you need.

Jogger in the park taking a break from strength training.

According to WHO recommendations, it is not better for your body if you combine running with strength training. As part of the training plan, you will achieve better performances.

Adapt your running training plan to the phases of the season

Now we're going to explore America a little: You should train differently before an important football game than right after it. Unexpected, right? But it doesn't hurt to remember that you should always adapt the training methods to your specific goals, individual abilities and the season.

Preparation period

Before the start of the competitive season, the primary goal is to improve the players' basic fitness and strengthen the muscles. During this period, you should focus on your aerobic fitness, strength, explosiveness and running technique . Do long slow runs and interval training.

Studies have shown that a combination of long slow runs and interval training improves the aerobic endurance of soccer players. Exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles, especially the lower limbs, are also an important part of the preparation period. Strength training improves performance during a football match. Last but not least, focus on training proper running technique, including body position and effective rebounding.

Competition period

By the time match time starts, your performance should be at its peak. The aim of the competition training plan is to maintain fitness and optimize your performance. The key is specific training in which you simulate movements on the pitch . Focus mainly on interval training with different intensities and speeds, but don't forget the necessary regeneration. Include rest days, recovery exercises and stretching in your training plan to help you rebuild muscle mass and reduce the risk of injury.

Regeneration period

After the competition season ends, lean even more into regeneration. Significantly reduce the training load . Long slow runs and light exercise will relax your muscles, and thorough stretching will release tension, improve flexibility and restore muscle balance. Treat yourself to active and passive rest, get enough sleep and don't strain your exhausted body unnecessarily.


Active rest is any physical activity of low intensity (approx. 50-60% of maximum heart rate). It can be a more comfortable bike ride, a light jog, swimming or perhaps a compensatory exercise to balance muscle imbalances.

Exercises for faster running and better coordination. Try proven running exercises for soccer players

Let's now analyze in more detail what we have bitten in the plan for the competition period. You will do well if you imitate the conditions typical of a football match during training. For example, you can train:

  • Running with the ball : Combine running with handling the soccer ball. You will work on your coordination and ability to maintain control over the ball during movement. You will strengthen your leg muscles and improve your technique, accuracy and speed when controlling the ball.
  • Running stairs : Getting in a good few floors will strengthen your legs, especially your calves and thighs, and build your explosiveness. Running up the stairs is intense and helps develop coordination of movement.
  • Changes of direction : Run out quickly, turn, take a few more turns and stop quickly. Exercises focused on changes of direction are important for improving reaction skills. Thanks to this training, you will better adapt to game situations and improve your ability to react quickly.

If you ever have knee pain, or you want to actively prevent it, you can include knee strengthening exercises in your training. To prepare your knees for running, focus on stretching. This will reduce the friction in the knee area and strengthen the load-bearing capacity of the hips and overall stability. For example, try the following exercise:

Stand with your right hip to the wall so that you are about 5 to 15 cm from the wall. Squat down and tilt your upper body to the left until your right hip touches the wall. After 15 to 20 seconds, do the exercise on the other side.

However, if you have any injuries or medical limitations, it is best to discuss everything with a doctor or physiotherapist.

Seven popular leg strengthening exercises

  1. Squats : Perfect for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and abs.
  2. Forward Lunges : Thanks to them, you will especially strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  3. Deadlift : This is an effective exercise for strengthening the hamstrings, lower back and gluteal muscles.
  4. Jumping rope or hoop : Increases the speed of your legs and improves your coordination.
  5. Stand on tiptoes . An ideal exercise to strengthen the calves.
  6. Bosu : Exercising on an unstable surface, such as a bosu or balance board, strengthens ankle and leg muscles and improves overall stability.
  7. Running in place with knees as high as possible : With this exercise, you improve your acceleration speed.

At first, focus mainly on the technique to perform the exercises correctly, and increase the load only gradually. Regular leg training will strengthen muscles, improve stability, endurance and contribute to an overall improvement in your performance.

2 areas related to running: nutrition and recovery

It sounds a bit strange, but to be in good football shape you also need to walk . Not only is an adequate energy intake important, but also a suitable composition of the menu and sufficient hydration. We have written down everything important for you in the article The best diet for football players: put together a diet that will support your performance.

In order to support the effect of running training, you should pay attention not only to a balanced diet, but also to the necessary regeneration techniques. For example, massages release tension in muscle tissue, improve blood flow and speed up regeneration. And it doesn't have to be professional massages right away. Even self-massage using a roller or ball can be an effective method for relaxing muscles after a hard workout.

Don't forget to stretch regularly before and after training. This will keep your muscles flexible, improve your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury. Commonly used techniques include dynamic stretching before training and static stretching after training. In addition to soccer and running, incorporate light, low-intensity activities such as swimming or cycling into your training program. And don't forget that sufficient rest and sleep are necessary for body regeneration.

Running training is a long-term process and requires a considerable amount of patience. But in return, it will provide you with long-term benefits in the form of better endurance, strength, speed and overall performance on the field. Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually to minimize the risk of injury, and whenever you have doubts about your progress or health, don't be afraid to consult your doctor.

Image of a soccer player reading a book on the pitch.

You can find lots of other advice and inspiration in books. And you'll effectively relieve tension at the same time. According to a study from the University of Sussex, just 6 minutes of reading eases muscle tension and reduces stress levels by 68%.

10 + 3 books with which you can further your education

If you want to get into running and football even more, we have some book tips for you:

  • Running on anatomical foundations (Joe Puleo Milroy Patrick) - In this book you will find, among other things, 48 ​​detailed, effective exercises including color illustrations.
  • Soccer Training - Developing Strength, Speed ​​and Agility Based on Anatomy (Donald T. Kirkendall) - Do you want to develop strength, speed, agility and have a more confident shot? This is your title.
  • Endurance (Alex Hutchinson) - You can also read an elite long-distance runner's summary of the scientific knowledge. It solves, for example, what determines our limits and how they can be shifted.
  • Victory is in the head (Matt Fitzgerald) - How to overcome physical limitations through the power of the spirit, this book also discusses. Both in sport and in life.
  • Football exercises and games (Petra Špottová, Jaromír Votík) – 150 exercises and games, thanks to which you can improve defense and attack. In addition, the latest edition is expanded with concrete examples of exercises in the field of motor-functional training.
  • Explosive Strength Training (Derek Hansen, Steve Kenelly) – If that wasn't enough for you, you can try 170 dynamic exercises focused on speed, agility, reflexes and explosive strength.
  • How to become a football star (Jan-Andrew Henderson) - Sometimes it's useful to get tips directly from practice, for example from the master of freestyle football, who worked with Cristiano Ronaldo and impressed David Beckham and Neymar.
  • Miloš Škorpil's Running Bible (Miloš Škorpil) – A well-read book that discusses everything from proper running style to nutrition to relaxation. The book also includes training plans for both beginners and experienced runners.
  • Strength Training - Practice and Science (WJ Kraemer, V. Zatsiorski) - In the recognized guide to strength training, you will find the theoretical foundations and practical advice for performance training.
  • Periodization of sports training (Tudor O. Bompa, Carlo Buzzichelli) - Periodization of training will help you with effective planning and organization of training cycles.

Are you having trouble reading in English? Then the following titles might interest you:

  • 102 Passing, Counter-pressing Possession Games, Speed ​​& Warm-ups Direct from Klopp's Training Sessions (Jurgen Klopp) - 102 training sessions with Liverpool FC focused on speed, agility, strength, quick passing combinations or high intensity pressing.
  • The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper (Timothy Mulqueen) - A valuable source of information for goalkeepers and goalkeeper coaches. You will learn information about the technique, tactics and psychology of goalkeeping.
  • High-Performance Training for Sports (David Joyce, Daniel Lewindon) - Provides expert knowledge and practical strategies for improving performance in sport.
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