6 Most Effective Plyometric Exercises for Goalkeepers
Goalkeeping training has some unique challenges that are effectively met by plyometrics.
Leaping laterally across the goal from a standing start needs an explosive speed and power unparalleled by outfield players. Goalkeepers often have to change direction on a dime and react instantly to a shot.
Plyometrics works by stretching a muscle before contraction, allowing it to then contract more rapidly and forcefully. This pre-stretch acts like a loading phase for the muscle to explosively contract. It allows great stoppers like Arsenal's Petr Cech and Bayern's Manuel Neuer to react with speed and power.
Keeping low to the ground in a crouch, the GK will lunge with the left foot forward, explode off the ground and land on the other foot, coiling and loading the body. The dip stretches the quadriceps and hip extensors – the same muscles that contract forcefully to produce the jump.
In the fitness world, this is known as “load to explode.”
The exercises stretch the muscles quickly, followed by an immediate powerful contraction.
No weights are required for goalkeeper plyometrics; the bodyweight is quite sufficient.
But trainers should be wary of putting too much pressure on the knees of younger players.
As a general rule with adults, if someone weights 170 pounds they should be able to squat 1.5 times their own bodyweight. Bear that in mind when working with younger keepers. They should have already reached a comfortable strength level before trying the exercises.
Before getting started, keep in mind that plyometric training should focus on form coupled with all-out effort. That's why explosive exercises like these are best placed at the start of a workout before muscles are fatigued and performance starts to slow down.
Also, plyometrics should be done at the start of a training session so the muscles are fresh and there’s no need to overdo it. During the offseason, two sessions a week will suffice with perhaps just one a week during the season.
Here are a few examples of plyometric exercises that will help the GK.
1. Box drill
This one focuses on the calves. Perform this by jumping around an imaginary box. Begin by balancing on the right foot with a slightly bent knee. Swing both arms forward and hop to the left being careful to land softly. Staying on the same leg, hop forward, then hop to the right, and finally in reverse back to the starting point. Switch legs and reverse the direction.
2. Standing Long Jump
For this explosive lower body move, stand with feet hip-width apart, and crouch into a squatting position with the arms back. Next, spring forward with both feet remaining together and land on the balls of the feet with the knees bent. If this becomes easy, then go right into the next jump (with no rest in between).
3. Lateral Lunge
A lateral lunge is required to open up the hips and ensure good lateral mobility. (Being flexible is super-important since muscles generate more power when they contract through a full range of motion). To complete the move, stand with feet together and then lunge to the right. Make sure the toes of both feet face forward and weight goes back into the heels. Reach the arms forward if you need extra help balancing. When this becomes easy, explode back the center from the bottom of the lateral lunge.
4. Lateral Triple Jump
This move teaches the body to change directions quickly and powerfully. Stand on the right foot, bend the knee slightly and hop sideways as far as possible, landing on the right foot again. Immediately leap forward to land on the left foot. Finish the move by jumping forward one more time to land on both feet.
5. Alternating Lunge Jumps
Begin in a lunge and jump up as high as possible while simultaneously switching the lunge stance in mid-air. Land with the opposite foot forward and then jump again. Think height, not speed. This one is all about generating vertical power.
6. Concentric Box Jump
This is one of the best exercises to build powerful legs and an amazing vertical leaping ability. Grab a seat on a step or bench and set another higher step or box (use something solid!) about a foot in front of the first bench. From a seated position, push through the heels, throw the arms forward, and jump up onto the box landing with two feet. Step down, grab a seat, and do it again.
Also, here is a great overiew of a plyometric training session.
About the Author:
Joseph M. Zappala D.C., DACBSP is the Clinic Director at South West Health Spine & Sport in Costa Mesa, CA. You can learn more about his experience in sports medicine at drzappala.com.