5 Essential Physical Training Exercises for Center Backs
A solid back four is a must if your soccer team is going to be successful and work to keep the sheets clean. Keeping the opposition from scoring a goal requires a rock-solid center back pairing through the spine of your squad.
Consider these 5 training exercises and methods for central defenders.
1. Developing a Strong Core is Critical
Developing a strong core is a must for any soccer player, but especially important for center backs.
A strong core helps defenders climb for headers, hang in the air, and win the ball. Developing the abdominal muscle grouping is also important for defenders so that they can keep up athletically with speedy and tricky wingers who are looking to make fast changes of direction.
Consider and incorporate planking, leg lifts, or opposite-elbow to opposite-knee sit-ups into your training regimen.
2. Improve Ankle Flexibility
It might sound like a bizarre need for a hulking center back, but training and developing ankle flexibility is very important for defenders. Teach the players to use all parts of their feet to play and receive the ball: laces, instep, toe, ankle, studs, and outside of the foot.
In order to gain a decent first-touch, and be able to play the ball in small spaces, all soccer players have to be comfortable playing the ball with all parts of their feet. Try incorporating 'walking' on your ankles into your dynamic warmup to increase range of motion. Coach to small-sided, technical development, where the first touch any player gets to take is with the outside of the foot.
Improving ankle flexibility is an absolute must for any soccer player.
3. Incorporate Push-Ups Into Training
Center Backs need to be physical: whether it's going shoulder-to-shoulder in the channel, fighting to win a header, or keeping opposing target strikers at bay, developing upper-body strength is important for your central defenders.
Incorporate competition into your training where the losing team/player is required to do push-ups. This will increase the focus during the drill/small-sided game, and helps build strength in your defenders.
4. Build Your Quads
Increase your leap and explosiveness by building up your quadriceps muscles. It's critical that your central defenders can make quick, short, decisive movements on the pitch.
Incorporate some jump training into your physical training routines so that your players can burst into action and make telling interceptions, invaluable tackles, and can eat up the ground with expansive strides and purpose.
Have your players build up their quads by doing bunny hops over an end line for a timed period, leaping cone-to-cone in a zig-zag, then a sprint for the last ten yards, and start to see the difference within a few short weeks of training.
5. Play Small-Sided-Games to Build Cardio
Your big central defenders need to be quality players that can keep the ball and build possession out of the back. These players also need to be very fit, tough, and skilled.
To build a stronger engine in your players, and develop a two-half team that can ping it around on the deck, put your players in small-sided games of 3v3 or 4v4, add neutrals or not, but keep smaller numbers and break your group up so that you will get your players more touches on the ball and put them in game-like conditions.