Event Participants at Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five National Final
© Marcelo Maragni
Soccer (Football)

How to get in shape for soccer

Some of the most efficient ways to get in shape for soccer include cardio training, strength training, a healthy diet and improving your agility.
By Sean Wright
5 min readPublished on
If you ask Manfred Pamminger, the head of the Red Bull Academy, about fitness for soccer players, he will tell you speed is just one of the basic requirements.
“Our lads have to be extremely fast.. in modern football, 90 percent of all sprints are no longer than 20 meters.”
Neymar at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's five World Final 2022 in Doha, Qatar

Neymar at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's five World Final 2022 in Doha, Qatar

© Phil Pham

In addition to speed, professional soccer players must master certain skills that a player like Neymar makes look easy. Those skills include good footwork, discipline, agility, foot-eye coordination, and stamina. But as players go up to higher levels of soccer, strength and muscle development become just as important.
Below, we get into what a soccer player needs to do, and how they should drill to get in shape for the physicality of a full season.

How to Get in Shape For Soccer

Take a look below at the five steps you can take to get in shape for soccer.

Cardio Training

On average, soccer players run more than five miles per game, including sprinting, jogging, and some sporadic walking. In order to keep up with that pace of play, players MUST do cardio!
While there are many options to maximize cardio training, including running, biking, jogging, and swimming, soccer players can greatly benefit from sprinting.
Participants at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five 2022 qualifier in Dubai

Participants at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five 2022 qualifier in Dubai

© Najib Zouein

We recommend performing 15-20 sprints of 20-30 meters each, with 30-60 second breaks in between. The sprint sequence correlates to match play because soccer is usually played in quick 10-30 yard bursts.
Throughout the game, there are also stretches where players jog at a consistent pace for 30 to 60 seconds. To prepare for that type of running, 30/60s are the perfect cardio exercise. 30/60s involve a player running as hard as they can for 30 seconds straight, then walking for 60 seconds, then running for 30, and repeat.

Strength Training

While cardio training is the most important thing in soccer, strength training is not too far behind. Lifting weights, performing HIIT workouts, and weighted plyometrics are all necessary for players to take their games to the next level.
Squats and deadlifts are the two most dynamic lower body exercises and would contribute greatly to a soccer player's performance.
Gianluigi Donnarumma training

Gianluigi Donnarumma training

© Gabriele Seghizzi

Other great exercises include single-legged squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, weighted squat jumps, and dumbbell press. Exercises like a shoulder press, and dumbbell press can help build muscles in the arms and shoulders to prepare players for contact and physicality.
A good lower body circuit is 3 sets of 6 barbell squats, 3 sets of 12 single-legged squats, and 3 sets of 30-second squat jumps.

Healthy Diet

A majority of soccer players have fit builds, meaning chiseled cores and cut calf muscles. A portion of that is built in the gym, while the majority is built in the kitchen.
A balanced diet includes fruit, vegetables, and multiple sources of protein. Fruits and vegetables provide energy for all of the cardio, and the protein helps build the muscles needed to withstand the physicality of the game.
A good sample menu begins with carbs and protein, like fruit and oatmeal. The remainder of the day should include healthy fiber and protein-dense options like chicken stir fry, salmon, grilled chicken salad, nuts, whole grains, avocado, and vegetables.
In addition to a balanced diet, players drink three liters of water or more per day. They stay hydrated even on days they don’t have games.

Improving Agility

Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily. If you watch any soccer match, you’ll notice that players need the ability to start and stop at the drop of a dime. They are also constantly changing directions.
There are a lot of drills players can perform to maximize their agility, including an agility ladder. While there are a lot of different ladder drills, we recommend the lateral in and out.
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

© Greg Coleman

To perform a lateral in and out, the player will start on the side of the ladder instead of in front of it. Next, the player will quickly tap each foot in each square on the ladder while advancing. The goal is to move quickly through the ladder without forfeiting form.
Another way to improve agility is with cone drills. There are a variety of cone drills players may use like the W drill, the short shuttle, and the square drill. Soccer players can make these drills more dynamic and more game realistic by using a soccer ball while performing the drills.

Mobility Training

Mobility training is often forgotten, but completely necessary to be successful in soccer. Mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. It keeps muscles healthy.
Soccer players make many movements throughout a game, and that’s where their mobility comes into play. They are kicking, sprinting, defending, dribbling and goalkeeping the entire game!
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

© Greg Coleman

While injuries are a part of the game, mobility training helps limit them. Hip flexors are among the most important muscles for soccer players.
To target your hips, try lying hip rotations as they are among the top mobility exercises. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Then place one ankle on the opposite knee. Push that knee back and forth ten to twelve times or for thirty seconds.


While playing soccer is one of the most efficient ways to get in shape for soccer, cardio training, strength training, a healthy diet, improving your agility and mobility training are the details that separate great players like Trent Alexander-Arnold from the rest.
Despite all his success, he says, “Hopefully there is a lot more to come. The motivation is to win them all again and keep winning and keep adding to the trophy cabinet."