Goalkeeper S&C: Five Physical Qualities Goalkeepers Need To Be Ready For The New Season

By Goalkeeper.com Performance Panel, Chris Coll

News • Jul 24, 2023

Goalkeeper S&C: Five Physical Qualities Goalkeepers Need To Be Ready For The New Season

Goalkeeper athletic performance coach Chris Coll gives an insight into preparing your body for the new season.

As the new season approaches, and the physical demands of pre-season intensify, it's important to be supplementing training on the pitch with athletic conditioning exercises to maximise your physiological readiness.

Chris Coll is a goalkeeper-specific athletic performance coach. In partnership with Goalkeeper.com, Coach Chris has put together a short programme of exercises that goalkeepers of all abilities and physical standards can aim to complete in the remaining weeks of pre-season. 

The programme targets five physical qualities that all goalkeepers need to be in top shape to start the new season. Each day, from Monday 24th July to Friday 28th July, this article will be updated with a insight into a new physical quality and subsequent exercises to help condition it. 

Friday 28th July - Work Capacity

For athletes, work capacity can be defined as the ability to tolerate a workload and recover from that workload. Athletes must expose themselves to and be able to endure enough stress on the body (fatigue etc.) to encourage an optimum adaptive response (the reaction of the body to this fatigue and the resultant increased capacity). 

Unlike stamina, which is (in simple terms), the ability to endure a workload for a period of time, work capacity specifically refers to how our muscles adapt and then grow from enduring that stress. Stamina is step ‘A’. Work capacity is steps ‘A, B, and C’.  

Exercises to help improve your work capacity:

1. Cardiac Output: Cardiac output can help lower your resting heart rate, as well as increasing your capillary density. Increasing the ‘density’ of your capillaries (blood vessels where oxygen and nutrients are exchanged for carbon dioxide and waste) creates a larger muscle-to-blood exchange surface area. In turn, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles enhances as well as allowing you to clear waste products faster.

Equipment needed: dependent on what type of cardiac output you want to do. You can run, swim, cycle, row, and more. 

2. Cyclical Tempo Intervals: Changing the tempo at which you train cardio helps increase the endurance of moderate threshold fibres. It also promotes blood flow, which aids recovery. 

Equipment needed: dependent on what type of cardiac output you want to do. You can run, swim, cycle, row, and more. 

3. Aerobic Plyometrics/Specific Intervals: To define some terms here, aerobic means exercise involving continuous movement fuelled by oxygen from the air you breathe. Plyometrics is a type of exercise training that uses speed and force of different movements to build muscle power. It is a type of training concentrated around stretching muscle fibres. 

Equipment needed: none. 

Watch the three exercises being demonstrated here:

Thursday 27th July - Power

In a sports context, power is defined as strength applied at speed, or the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible. 

Power and explosiveness are not related to muscle size, but rather how well the central nervous system is able to recruit motor units (a motor neuron and the muscle fibres it innervates) to create a muscle contraction. 

Power is important in virtually all parts of goalkeeping. Any form of jump requires an ‘explosiveness’, but also moving around the goal. If power is defined as the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible, then being able to move around the goal with short sharp movements is another vital power-related component of goalkeeping.

Exercises to help improve your power:

1. Trap Bar Deadstart Jump: The ‘deadstart’ jump is named as it is because you start from a ‘dead’ i.e. motionless position. The weight adds resistance and forces your muscles to work against this, forcing the muscles to exert more power. 

A key study from 2017 showed that loaded jumps improved vertical jump performance over the course of ten weeks, both by an average of around four centimetres. 

Equipment needed: trap bar/weighted bar/weighted bag. 

2. Trap Bar Oscillatory Jumps: The key progression in the second exercise of this group is the introduction of reflexive muscular loading. What does this mean? Well, muscles have sensory receptors called spindles. 

As the muscle lengthens or stretches, it pulls on the spindle causing it to lose its spiral shape and also stretch. This signals the muscle to contract (after which, the spiral regains its shape), in turn protecting the muscle from being overstretched. This process is called the stretch reflex.1

It may signal its muscle to contract to prevent it from going too far, too quickly in the stretch. The stimulation of a reflexive muscle contraction is known as the stretch or myotatic reflex.2

The ‘bop’ before the jump helps target and emphasise this ‘stretch’, strengthening the muscles involved by loading weight (resistance) against the jump. 

Equipment needed: trap bar/weighted bar/weighted bag. 

3. Trap Bar Repeat Jumps: the third variation of these weighted jumps develops eccentric and concentric RFD. RFD is the rate of force development, the measure of explosive strength, or how fast an athlete can develop force. ‘Eccentric’ and ‘concentric’ are types of muscle contractions. In a concentric contraction, the muscle tension rises to meet the resistance then remains stable as the muscle shortens (for example, the ‘curl’ part of a dumbbell curl).  

During eccentric contraction, the muscle lengthens as the resistance becomes greater than the force the muscle is producing. Using the dumbbell analogy, this part of the curl would be the release (or ‘de-curl’) as the arm lengthens again. 

Equipment needed: trap bar/weighted bar/weighted bag. 

Watch the three exercises being demonstrated here:

Wednesday 26th July - Elasticity

Elasticity is the ability to be able to transfer force or energy from one movement into another. 

Both tendons and muscles have elastic qualities. Muscle contraction is an example of elasticity. As you jump, for example, the muscles in your legs contract as they shorten (as you squat), and then lengthen (as you propel upwards and extend your legs). The transfer of energy here is the property of elasticity. 

The action of tendons (connective tissue between muscle and bone) is also important. High levels of elastic strength can be produced by connective tissues, especially tendons.

Tendons are not just rigid cables that connect muscle to bone. They have elastic qualities by acting as “biological springs” that compress and elongate, aiding the muscles in producing power.

For goalkeepers, good elasticity is a foundational element of being able to propel into a dive, as well as come to claim crosses, and even distribute from feet off the floor. 

Exercises to help condition your elasticity:

1. SFT Hops: ‘SFT’ stands for the three planes of motion. These are ‘Sagittal’ (up and down), ‘Frontal’ (side to side), and ‘Transverse’ (rotate side to side). This exercise aids elasticity by developing rhythm and coordination through all three planes of motion and builds neuromuscular and structural foundations for elasticity. 

No equipment needed. 

2. Linear Tuck Jumps: These jumps challenge coordination through the use of locomotion (moving from one place to another). They also challenge and strengthen the two types of joint movements through a hinge joint (specifically the knee): 

A) Flexion (the bending of a joint. This occurs when the angle of a joint decreases. For example, the elbow flexes when performing a scoop save, as your arms wrap around the ball to cup it into your chest. The knee flexes in preparation for kicking a ball). 

B) Extension (the straightening of a joint. This occurs when the angle of a joint increases, for example the elbow when throwing ball overarm. The take-off knee extends when a goalkeeper takes off in a dive (the other knee is flexed).

No equipment needed. 

3. Linear Bounding: Linear bounding is an excellent goalkeeper-specific exercise as it replicates the movement a goalkeeper would take as they move across the goal and explode into a diving save, only in a forward (linear) facing fashion. The exercise also entails a high neuromuscular output. 

No equipment needed. 

Watch the three exercises being demonstrated here:

Tuesday 25th July - Stability

Stability refers to the ability of a goalkeeper to maintain balance, control, and coordination through a range of motion and movement.

Stability can be divided into two main categories:

Static Stability: This type of stability pertains to a goalkeeper's ability to maintain equilibrium (the body motionless/at rest) and balance while in a stationary or position. The set position is an example of where stability is important for a goalkeeper, requiring adequate weight distribution and particular posture/body lean to stay balanced.  

Dynamic Stability: Dynamic stability, on the other hand, relates to a goalkeeper's ability to maintain balance and control while in motion or during dynamic movements. For a goalkeeper, this would come into play whilst moving around the goal at speed, sweeping, or adjusting footwork to make a save or come and gather a cross. 

Exercises to help improve your stability:

1. Standing Pronation/Supination: Pronation refers to the inward rolling of the foot, and supination refers to the outward rolling of the foot. This exercise helps strengthen the foot's ability to do both these things naturally. Likewise, the rotation of the pelvis is promoted, which is a movement commonly seen in both 1v1 and distribution movements, especially from the hands.

No equipment needed

2. Wall Supported Bent-to-Straight Leg Calf Raise: A fairly simple exercise, but one which invokes use of lots of different muscles. These dynamic calf raises target the gastrocnemius (calf muscle), an essential muscle in pushing into a dive or jump. The exercise also mimics the initial movement into a cross claim, in terms of the push and jump with the outer knee raised. 

Equipment needed: a supporting beam/something to lean on. 

3. SFT Balance Reaches: ‘SFT’ stands for the three planes of motion. These are ‘Sagittal’ (up and down), ‘Frontal’ (side to side), and ‘Transverse’ (rotate side to side). This exercise encourages stability in the foot and ankle through all three of these planes of motion, as well as the internal and external rotation of the hip and pelvis. 

No equipment needed

Watch the three exercises being demonstrated here:
Always consult a physician if you have questions before starting a new training regime, especially if you have a pre-existing or chronic medical condition. 

Monday 24th July - Mobility

Mobility can be defined as the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. It helps athletes move more efficiently, which facilitates ease of movement through a range of motion. It helps reduce injury risk when parts of the body are in motion - for example, when a goalkeeper goes to lift their kicking leg at an angle to strike a side volley. 

Flexibility is commonly misunderstood to be the same as mobility; it's not. Flexibility, generally defined in sports science as the ability to lengthen a muscle (for example, how far a goalkeeper can stretch), is only one component of mobility. 

Mobility as a concept encompasses a range of physiological factors. A key element of mobility is control through a range of motion. 

For example, somebody flexible may be able to lift their kicking leg to hip-height to execute a side volley, but does not have the connected neuromuscular ability to control this function through the entire kick (full pattern of movement), or might not have the joint mobility to ‘snap’ downward through the ball to actually kick it in such a position.  

For goalkeepers, good mobility is important in all areas of the game.  

Exercises to help condition your mobility:

1. Split Adductor Rockback with Hip Extension: An adductor muscle is any muscle in the body which draws a part of the body towards its central axis (the spine). The adductor muscles we are focusing on for this exercise is a group of three muscles that run the down the inner thigh, commonly known as the hip adductors, or groin muscles. 

The hip adductors help stabilise the pelvis, and aid rotation and extension of the pelvic area of the body. An example of when the hip adductors are at work would be during a 1v1, where the goalkeeper moves into a spread save. This exercise increases extensibility of the adductors and hip flexors, as well as training pelvic internal and external rotation. 

Equipment needed: a small raised mat or equivalent. 

2. Assisted Cossack Squat: This exercise helps emphasise the stretch through the adductor complex in the hip. It also helps strengthen the mobility of ankle dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is the backward bending of your foot, which may again occur in a 1v1 situation where a spread save movement forces the foot onto the back of the heel as the leg extends outwards. 

Equipment needed: non-elastic suspension trainer/handles or equivalent. 

3. Kettlebell Rhythm Lateral Squats: The lateral (side to side) movement of the body in this exercise once again targets the adductor complex, but also introduces an element of resistance in the form of a kettlebell weight. This aids the dynamic loading of the adductors, and introduces contract-relax loading. 

Contract-relax is form of PNF stretching. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, meaning the use of natural reflexes to further the stretching response. These types of stretches force the brain to further relax the muscle through a neuromuscular signal, allowing for 'deeper' stretches.

Equipment needed: kettlebell of appropriate weight.

Watch the three exercises being demonstrated here:
Always consult a physician if you have questions before starting a new training regime, especially if you have a pre-existing or chronic medical condition. 

1 - Information source: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Muscle_Spindles
2 - Ibid.

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