I think you’ll agree when I say that:
Speed is an essential skill for any great soccer player…
… but NOT everyone can get faster for soccer.
What if I told you how to dramatically increase your speed for soccer?
I mean… who doesn’t aim to be a faster and quicker footballer?
You can accomplish that goal too, if you learn the basics and practice right.
In this article, I am going to show you everything you need to understand about general body health, physical structure and flexibility so you get the basics and become a faster runner for soccer.
Better yet, I’ll share lots of actionable training exercises and tips across the several different areas of speed including strength, sprinting, acceleration, coordination, endurance and mental quickness.
Let’s get started!
How to Get Faster In Soccer
Soccer matches are 90 minutes long (in most cases); meaning it’s a sport that demands a great deal of endurance from its players.
At the same time, since it is a game with a lot of sprinting and fast running, it also demands speed.
If you are looking to get better at soccer, aiming to reach the ball faster than your opponents and dribble past them at lightning speed…
Then you should try and improve your soccer speed in many (or all) of these key areas:
- Anticipation skills.
- Mental processing speed and reaction time.
- Explosive sprinting and faster running.
- Dribbling at high speed.
- Running and ball control agility.
- Being able to quickly change movements and techniques.
Understanding Your Body
I’m sure you would like to know how to run like Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo or other speedsters like them.
I mean, who wouldn’t, right?
First and foremost, however, if you want to learn how to get faster in soccer, you need to get the basics.
Such basics pertain to your body, body type and all those other aspects that influence your running speed.
Let’s quickly review what they are next.
General Body Health & Nutrition
Any person who intends to find out how to get faster and quicker for soccer needs to keep their health in check.
Besides physical fitness and regular practice, a good body health can be achieved by maintaining a balanced nutrition (which translates to keeping a healthy diet).
Some coaches say that an energy boost can be obtained if players eat a carbohydrate-rich snack before their training sessions.
Physical structure entails the body appearance and, in particular, muscle strength.
Muscles are the producers of the energy used to run faster hence they are needed in well-built form.
If you have a workout routine, make sure it maintains or adds to your muscle power.
Flexibility & Agility
Speed goes hand in hand with the flexibility and agility of the body.
If you pay attention to your body’s flexibility and look to maintain it, you’ll be able to better coordinate your body into achieving more efficient sprinting capabilities.
Flexibility will also help you maintain the required body postures where the upper body should be bent a little bit and your hands always on your sides.
When you balance on your toes and take longer steps while running with the ball, you’ll be apt to move very fast with it.
Factors that Make Up Speed
Since different genetics make up different kinds of athletes, not all soccer players are alike.
Some players are more inclined to some aspects of the game while others are more inclined to different aspects.
Some are natural speedsters and some aren’t; but that doesn’t mean that all players can’t work on improving all of the factors that make up speed.
Let’s see which here:
- Sprinting: being able to do several fast runs during the 90 minutes.
- Accelerating: having the capability to accelerate quickly when needed.
- Reaching a high speed: obtaining a good maximum speed.
- Reacting: being capable of quickly react to different situations.
- Anticipating: having the ability to read the game and anticipate your response.
- Being agile: having the capability to quickly turn, twist, change directions and movements.
- Possessing control: being capable to run fast while moving, controlling and using the ball.
After having covered our basics and understood the factors that influence and make up running speed, it’s time to consider the type of drills that will allow you become a faster soccer runner.
Before Getting Started
Before getting started with your speed training sessions, though, you need to prepare yourself and your body to avoid injuries and make the most of your training exercises.
Be sure to:
- Be well rested and healed from all injuries.
- Do a complete and full warm-up.
- Be in shape, relaxed and focused on your exercises.
- Only work on your speed routines when you’re fresh (i.e., at the start of a training session).
We’ve already talked about strength training, endurance and stamina in greater detail in our article titled How to Increase Stamina for Soccer; now is the right time to apply that knowledge into speed training.
Soccer speed is closely related to power.
Power is a combination of strength and the speed at which muscles contract.
To increase both components of power and, since you need a good overall physical conditioning, you should bet on doing weight training and plyometric exercises.
Both kinds of training will develop and have very positive effects on a player’s power and speed.
Strength will be increased with weight training and plyometrics will, in turn, transform that strength into speed.
If those weren’t enough reasons already, do know that strength training will also reduce your chances of encountering little injuries.
And, in case you do, you got higher chances of healing faster than a person who does not do strength training.
Improving Your Endurance and Your Ability to Sprint
During a soccer game, all the running around the field you do is equivalent to long distance running; all the quick bursts of speed you need be able to do are the same as short distance running at full speed (i.e., sprinting).
To improve your soccer speed you need two distinct kinds of training: aerobic conditioning and anaerobic power.
The former works your long distance running building upon your endurance.
The latter develops your ability to sprint at full speed for short distances.
TIP: Develop both your endurance and sprinting along with your muscles by sprinting up hills or by using a resistance band.
Since soccer games are played on flat fields, doing an exercise that demands more from you (like running up an incline) will contribute to develop your overall strength faster than training on a regular training surface.
Soccer Sprints Training: How to Get Faster Sprinting for Soccer
Football (soccer) is a sport that highly relies on your ability to stay alert while, at the same time, possessing flexibility in quick leg turnover.
In order for you to get faster sprinting for soccer you’ll need to master proper acceleration lean.
The forward lean angle is one of the most crucial aspects of speed acceleration.
Start drills contribute to promote the forward lean that a player needs in order to accumulate acceleration power.
Sprint drills are very useful in helping you achieve that.
These exercises should be done every day alongside the other exercises meant to help you get faster for soccer.
Drill 1: Increasing Your Top Speed
To help you increase your maximum speed you need to work on your sprint drills.
The goal here is to do your best in trying to reach the highest speed in short distances.
Here are the sprinting exercise’s steps:
- First of all, mind your body posture by making sure that: your head remains relaxed in a normal position, your arm action is smooth and relaxed by placing your arms always on your sides.
- With your knees high, concentrate on making smooth and even strides.
- Now run at maximum speed for about 20 to 30 yards (or meters).
- Return to the starting point walking or slowly jogging after your sprint is finished.
- Do 2 to 4 iterations of this exercise.
TIP: Due to providing greater traction and preventing you from slipping compared to other kinds of shoes, cleats will allow you to run faster and make sudden direction changes more easily and effectively.
When doing sprinting drills or any other kind of soccer speed exercises always wear your soccer cleats.
Acceleration Training: How to Improve Acceleration in Soccer
The most important aspect of football speed is the player’s ability to pick up speed, decelerate and then accelerate again while, at the same time, maintaining the capacity to change direction with the ball.
This ability can often be more important than possessing a high top speed.
When practicing your acceleration drills, you’ll need to combine them with some deceleration exercises so you can more efficiently go up and come down from high speeds.
And, also, be able to change direction with the ball while still maintaining the right body posture and speed.
To develop your acceleration skills you need to move your feet very fast while increasing stride length as you go.
Drills that force you to do quick feet movements, like those with speed ladders, will improve both your acceleration and coordination.
Sprints are also one of the best acceleration drills for soccer but, when combined with low intensity plyometrics, you’ll also increase your body strength.
The average sprint distance covered by a footballer during a soccer match is approximately 15 to 30 yards (meters).
With that said:
It is productive for anyone trying to get faster for soccer to practice his/her acceleration/deceleration exercises in a training ground of similar dimensions.
Drill 2: Accelerating
Here’s how to tackle an acceleration drill:
- Run at steady and slow pace for 10 yards (meters).
- Now sprint for 10 yards (meters).
- Go back to jogging mode and do it for another 10 yards.
- Return to sprinting and do it for another 10 yards.
- Decelerate in 5 yards.
- Relax and return walking to your starting point.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you feel fit and fresh (or 2 to 4 times).
TIP: To boost your speed and acceleration you will need to increase your stride length and muscle output. You can do so by extending and using your knees, ankles and hip.
Concentrate on making stretched-out long and even strides while running, sprinting or doing other exercises.
TIP: Spur up your competitiveness by challenging friends or teammates to do running drills with you.
Try executing 10 or 15-yard (meters) sprints together to build up your explosive sprinting skills and increase your acceleration ability over shorter distances by sprinting 25 or 30 yards (meters).
Agility, Flexibility, Coordination & Direction Change Training
To work on your agility, flexibility, coordination and direction change abilities you will need to come up with a few sprinting exercises where you are not just running in a straight line.
Understand that in a game there are no restrictions on where you can or need to run to.
So incorporate multi-direction sprinting drills and randomize your running path by going side to side, diagonally, doing Zs, Ss and 8s, going back then forward and so on.
Drill 3: Speed Ladder
You can also make use of a speed ladder to develop your speed, balance, coordination and lower-body agility.
A speed ladder forces you to place each of your feet, one at a time, across every rung as you sprint.
Good drills with this flat speed tool are:
- Try and beat your best time by using a stopwatch while training with the speed ladder.
- Get a friend or teammate and compete for the fastest time with the speed ladder.
Drill 4: Quick Direction Changes
So you can better fool and speed past opponents, you need to work on your direction changes and get faster at it.
To practice quick direction changes:
- On the training ground, place two tall cones several yards (meters) apart from each other.
- Run back and forth between them while focusing on running as fast as possible from one cone to the other without bumping into them.
- Repeat the same exercise but this time with a ball.
How to Get Faster for Football
This video here exemplifies this very same drill:
To take it up a notch, use a stopwatch and try to beat your best time or ask a friend or a teammate to compete against you.
Another good drill you can do is by placing several cones througout the field and try to go around each of them while controlling the football.
The more times you repeat this exercise the faster you’ll become and the quicker your direction changing will be.
Drill 5: Better Your Coordination
To force your nervous system to learn how to better coordinate leg movements at high speeds you need to make it experience situations that go beyond what it is normally used to (without compromising your safety, obviously).
To accomplish this, try sprinting down inclines and then immediately sprint on a level surface.
Training downhill sprints will force your body to send quick signals to the muscles in your legs in order to keep your balance.
These downhill sprints combined with flat surface sprints immediately after will allow your organism to better accommodate the faster nervous system signaling into regular running situations.
Reaction Speed Training
In in-game situations, you are often visually stimulated while you are running around the pitch and need to react accordingly in the fastest way possible.
The thing is:
Being fast is not always related to how quick you can run or sprint.
It’s also about being able to react to unexpected events and change what you were doing almost instantly and as many times as it is required.
The less amount of time it takes for you to react, the better soccer player you will be.
Therefore, to improve your reaction speed, you need to come up with drills that try to replicate such in-game situations.
The best way to achieve this is having a friend, teammate or your coach give you a visual or audio command while you are moving around the playing field (as opposed to being stationary).
When you receive that command, you’ll need to quickly react and sprint to wherever you were told to.
This kind of reaction speed exercise will keep you concentrated on the command (or visual/audio stimuli) which will allow you to develop a more natural and relaxed running reaction.
Drill 6: Improve Your Reaction Speed
To train your reaction speed there are a ton of fun drills you can experiment.
Like for everything else, you are only limited by your own imagination.
Try this quick exercise:
- Run at a normal pace around the pitch.
- Have someone shout out a random command (or using a visual command) like “run backwards”, “jump three times”, “sprint 5 yards and then turn right”, “head towards the touch line”, “stop”, “full speed to your left”.
Another variation could be having another player alongside you react to same commands to see which of you reacts faster.
Taking this exercise to a higher level would require you to do it while controlling a soccer ball and including commands like shooting, dribbling, chipping, changing directions, etc.
Becoming faster in soccer would be useless if you couldn’t control the football while you were running or sprinting.
Logically then, you cannot neglect your ball control technique.
Practicing your ball control skills will enable you to stop, change direction, receive the ball and do all sorts of movements at high speed while still maintaining a consistent game focus.
Technique drills will allow you to become faster for soccer by increasing your foot speed and ankle elasticity, as well as strength.
Drill 7: Technique Drills
Soccer mostly implies lower body movements in contact with the ball and the pitch.
With that said, there’s no other way to put it:
It is all about being fast while controlling the soccer ball.
Taking the above into account, a player needs to develop his/her agility.
We’ve discussed how to develop your dribbling skills before; let’s just summarize some drills here:
- Dribble using all the available parts of your foot (top, bottom, inside, outside).
- Have someone who’s yards (meters) away from you drop or throw a ball up in the air and try to control it before it bounces more than just once.
- Kick the ball slightly ahead of you and run after it.
- While you’re dribbling or doing the above exercise (previous bullet point), change direction quickly.
- Use quick dribbling and direction changing to evade your opponents.
TIP: Only a few of the World’s best soccer players are able to run really fast while keeping the soccer ball close to their feet (it almost feels like it’s glued to their cleats, at times), so it is not an easy skill.
If you can’t do it (or, not yet), try to sprint and dribble focused on controlling the football instead of trying to keep it close to your foot.
The more you develop these skills — running and controlling the ball — the more effective of a player you will turn out to be.
The ability to sustain close to top speed for as long as possible is the definition of speed endurance. (Examples of athletes with good speed endurance are 400, 200 and 100-meter runners.)
Soccer players also need to possess good speed endurance (a perfect example would be Cristiano Ronaldo); but, simultaneously, they are also required to do many shorter sprints at very high speed during game play.
To train for these short bursts of effort or explosive sprints, a player should consider high intensity interval type training.
This type of training demands reasonable recovery periods and some initial endurance already developed. On top of which more specific speed endurance will be built.
Drill 8: Interval Training
Interval training is all about getting used to interspersing different kinds of movements with short bursts of speed.
For 25 minutes, alternate running at a slow pace (from 5 to 10 minutes) with short bursts of effort-explosion exercises like some of the following:
- Speed ladder drills.
- Sprinting up hills.
- Sprinting down inclines.
- Running up stairs.
- Running down stairs.
Make it even tougher for you:
Try adding (and controlling) a soccer ball to the mix.
Mental Processing Speed: Becoming Faster Mentally
I bet you have already asked yourself before:
«How do I get faster mentally?»
The only way to do it is by playing more and more games.
The higher the level of the players you play against and with, the better and the faster you’ll make decisions.
Drill 9: Overcome Your Limitations
As with everything else, try and find your in-game mental constraints by asking yourself, “What do I need to improve?”, “Where am I taking more time to decide on what to do?”, “In what situations do I usually make the worst decisions?”.
Note your answers down, come up with a plan (be it some kind of exercise, watching the pros in similar situations, asking your teammates or coach) and work on trying to overcome those limitations.
In this article, we have thoroughly discussed how to get faster for soccer.
We started by understanding the basics that pertain to body health, nutrition, physical structure and overall agility.
We also reviewed the factors that make up and influence speed, how everything fits together and is important in making you a faster runner and sprinter.
Finally, we learned the several different types of training — from strength and acceleration to speed endurance, mental processing and decision making exercises.
Now, my friend, it is up to you to take what you read it and put it into action!
So put on your soccer cleats, pick up a good soccer ball, get out there onto the pitch and start running at full speed!
Your Speed Coach,