Become faster in soccer – 3 ways you’re sabotaging your speed

Become faster in soccer – 3 ways you’re sabotaging your speed

Speed is king in soccer. You need it to blow by defenders, to track back to make the game saving tackle, and to get to the ball first. If you're

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Speed is king in soccer.

You need it to blow by defenders, to track back to make the game saving tackle, and to get to the ball first.

If you’re too slow, it doesn’t matter how good your skills are, you will not be able to cut it on the field. You just can’t be effective, no matter how good your vision is, or your touch, or your ideas. If you can’t execute those ideas well, there is no point in knowing the right thing to do.

Put simply, there is no substitute for speed. You won’t be able to get playing time, get scouted, or impress anyone if you’re not fast enough.

So, if you’re not training to get faster, you are falling behind.

Lots of players think that speed is genetic – it’s either something they have or they don’t. This is 100% false. Top athletes in all sports train tirelessly to become faster, to maximize the genetics they have. You need to be doing the same.

So, How Do I Train Speed?

First of all, you get stronger. Stronger muscles = more force applied = moving your body faster through space. So, if you’re not weight training already, you should be.

However, while it’s true that you need strong legs and a strong core, what is often overlooked by soccer players is the upper body.

In fact, there is one muscle in particular that can instantly make you faster, that most people never bother to train. That is the muscle in the back called the latissimus dorsi AKA lats.

By Anatomography – en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp,

#1 Way Athletes Sabotage their Speed: Not training the Lats

Your body moves like a toy car. You need to push it from behind.

In other words, the back of your body (posterior) is where the force is applied to get you to move forward. Your butt, hamstrings, calves, and back muscles all work together to get you to move forward. This is called the posterior (back of the body) chain.

The lats are a crucial muscle in the “posterior chain” that enables the opposite shoulder and glute (butt muscle) to work together to run. If these are weak, you wont be able to move your butt muscles or your shoulder muscles efficiently, causing you to be slow.

Training your lats will also increase your core stability, allowing you to change directions quickly, and be stronger on the ball.

There are a whole bunch of other benefits to training your lats, including better ability to breathe (which will enhance your endurance), better ability to do movements like squats or deadlifts, and generally better athleticism.

What to do about it:

Start training your lats! Pull ups and chin ups should become your new best friends. Get pulling!PullupExtremistpullup at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If you can’t do those, find a way to get up (jump or climb), hold yourself up there as long as you can, and slowly come down. Repeat until you can’t anymore. These are called negatives.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t do negatives either, at least you should be doing lat pull downs.

By Everkinetic ( [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Having a strong body is only the first step in building speed. You also need to be training your body to move quickly.

#2 Way Athletes Sabotage their Speed: Not Training Explosive

By: wikimedia Commons

When you need to get somewhere on the pitch, you want to resemble that explosion. You’re muscles should burst into action, giving you power to cover lots of ground in a small amount of time. 

Many athletes will lift weights, but will do it slowly. This is training their bodies to become strong and slow, not strong and fast. 

In order to be strong and fast, you need to train strong and fast. You need to train using explosive, powerful movements. These types of movements train your nervous system and your muscles to move with very quick bursts of energy. You can check out the science behind this here.

Plyometrics is a type of training that makes you stretch out your muscles and then contract them as quickly and forcefully as possible. If you’re not doing any kind of plyometric training, you are missing out on a whole untapped reservoir of speed.

What to do about it:

To get you started,  check out these exercises.  

Plyometric training is especially important for soccer. Being fast in soccer is all about changing directions quickly, and getting to your maximum speed as fast as possible. 

That is why on top of weight training and plyometric training, you should also include some kind of agility training into your routine. 

#3 Way Athletes Sabotage their Speed: Not Training Agility

Every player has done agility ladders. Some of us like them, some of us hate them. 

Almost none of us take them seriously enough. 

When you do agility work, over time your body learns how to do sport specific skills as efficiently as possible. This means you are literally practicing moving in the exact way you should be moving in a match. 

When a player is “in form” it means that their nervous system and muscles seem to be moving effortlessly, exactly the way they are supposed to. Being in form is the result of repetition of movement. The more you repeat the movement, the faster you’ll get at it.  This is the essence of agility training. 

Dr. John F. Graham points to the three biggest benefits of agility training as:

  1. Neuromuscular Adaptation – taking gains made in the gym and applying it to the field
  2. Improved athleticism – become a master at controlling your own body
  3. Injury prevention and Decreased Rehab time – when you’re a master of your body, its easier for you to fix it

If you’re not doing agility training, you can only hope that the strength and conditioning work you’ve been doing is going to pay off. Why not make the most of all those grueling hours of strength and conditioning by doing the extra bit of work to translate those gains into performance on the pitch?

What to do about it:

Agility work is all about quick changes of direction, acceleration, and deceleration. Ideally, these would be as sport specific as possible. Use your imagination, and get creative.

If you need some ideas of how to get started, check out these drills.


To summarize, if you want to be faster…

  1. Include your Lats when you strength train
  2. Include some plyometrics
  3. Include agility training

Please leave a comment if you’ve found this training advice useful. Now get training!


  • comment-avatar
    Oliver 10 months

    Hey this is a great article – very helpful. I had always assumed that speed was something that was genetic I am quite tall, so speed was never something I felt I had. From reading your article, however, it seems that by working out I would have stood a better chance of making selection. My nephew is currently doing soccer training so I will make sure to tell him this. At what point do you think that it would be safe for him to start using weights? He is 10 at the minute…

    • comment-avatar

      Hi Oliver,

      If he is 10, he would be ok to start weight training now, although it likely isn’t necessary yet. If you want more information on what age kids should start weight training, check out this article:…. 

      If he is serious about football, he may want to start weight training around 13-14. Until then, I would recommend focusing on developing skill, coordination, and overall fitness. He can definitely do any bodyweight workout without issue, so all of the exercises recommended in this article are safe for him (you might want to supervise him if he is using a lat-pull down machine though). 

      Speed can definitely be improved with hard work!

  • comment-avatar
    Nik 10 months

    Hi! Really great post! I agree on everything you wrote, especially for agility drills and explosiveness! I see the same problem on basketball. People often focus on doing squats and lunges adding weights never understanding that the key is on quickness and agility!
    Great posto, very useful! I will come back to see other things about that!!

    • comment-avatar

      Hey Nik,

      Thanks for the compliment 🙂 Squats and lunges are important, don’t get me wrong. But then you have to take that extra step of doing plyo’s and agility work to translate that strength into quickness. 

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