There is a common misconception that a goalkeeper doesn’t need to possess the same level of fitness as their outfield team-mates, as they spend large periods of the game out of action. However, that is much like comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner – is the marathon runner isn’t more of an athlete because of the greater distance that he covers? No.
Each soccer position requires a different type of athlete and, subsequently, a different method of training. Like the sprinter, a goalkeeper must produce short periods of extreme intensity, such as coming out to meet an oncoming attacker, claiming a loose ball or pulling off a spectacular save. This is done by building their fast-twitch muscle fibres, which will allow the goalkeeper to produce those short bursts of energy.
The average person will have an equal blend of slow and fast twitch fibres, but goalkeepers should aim to target the later by performing training exercises that mimic the way that they will perform on the pitch. A sprinter wouldn’t train for their next race by running laps and neither should a shot-stopper.
“All the explosive movements and anything that works the core and important for a goalkeeper,”United States’ men’s national team Tim Howard believes. “The position is very reactionary – things are done quickly and you don’t have much time, so the explosive power is your most important tool as a goalkeeper.”
That isn’t to say goalkeepers should never perform endurance activities. Warming-up is a vital part of any exercise if you want to avoid injury and a simple warm-up routine, such as a five minute jog, should be completed as normal.
While agility is an important trait for goalkeepers to possess, so too is strength. Although, with so much to balance, a goalkeeper’s time in the gym must be carefully planned and observed. Weight lifting exercises should predominantly focus on building your lower body, such as deadlifts and squats, which will add to your kicking power and improve your jumping ability.
Any strength exercises should also try to mimic the explosive movements that goalkeepers will have to perform in match situations, with a high number of repetitions performed quickly using a low weight, which will help the keeper to build strength without gaining too much weight. Too much muscle mass can pose some big risks to a goalkeeper. Fundamentally, they will be heavier and therefore lose some of their explosive speed, but lifting heavy weights can also cause career-ending muscle injuries and reduce flexibility if too much weight is used.
A loss of speed can often mark the end of an outfield players professional career, but that isn’t usually the case for a goalkeeper. If they can still pull of a save, they can continue between the sticks, making flexibility a vital part of a keeper’s arsenal. Liverpool shot-stopper Simon Mignolet believes that goalkeepers should take it upon themselves to perform exercises which will help them to stay supple: “I always try to, even before a session, stay in the gym, warm-up, do some yoga, pilates and stretching, because flexibility is really important as well.”
Yoga isn’t viewed as a serious exercise routine – an activity for people who wish to get in touch with their spiritual side – but it’s health benefits are as clear as day. Not only will it increase flexibility, but it will also help to strengthen your core and better your cardiovascular system.
Some keepers retire at 30 and some will last well into their 40s. The Former United States shot -stopper Brad Friedel made it to 45 in the Premier League, and when questioned on his astonishing longevity his response was simple – “a four letter word called yoga.”