STARTERS NEVER STOP 

With his grace, skill and seemingly effortless ability, one would think that Pelé was destined to dominate on a soccer field. Far from it. The worldwide Brazilian legend has often remarked that soccer stars aren’t born; they are made on the training field, day after day, when no one else is watching.

“Success is no accident,” says Pelé, soccer excellence personified. “It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

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Unlike in basketball or football, players of the beautiful game are separated not by genetic gifts such as height or weight, but by the instilled attributes of daily dedication and determination. You have to constantly crave and commit to building stamina, adding strength and imparting ball skills to muscle memory, never resting and always redefining the term “the top of your game.”

To become the best, a bit better than that yesterday again and again, you need the right frame of mind and the proper gear to help you reach and score your goals.

GOOD BACKYARD EXERCISES FOR RAISING YOUR GAME

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You don’t need a perfectly manicured field outlined in white chalk to get the desired results from training. For some exercises, you don’t even need a ball or net.

Box Jumps

As the name of the exercise would suggest, box jumps are completed when you place a two-foot tall box in front of you, swing your arms, bend your knees and leap to the land softly on the top. Stand up straight, hop down and repeat. This aids in building lower body strength, which will assist with running and power when playing long passes or shots.

Step-Ups

Find a step, roughly 18 inches in height should do, and place your right foot atop it. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, dig in your heel and raise your left foot to the top of the stair, straightening out or right leg. Step down and repeat. You can add weight with a barbell across your back or dumbbell in each hand. Step-ups build your glutes and hamstrings, which helps prevent injury and allows you to drive and accelerate more easily.

Squats

This exercise is absolutely vital for soccer players looking to increase core strength, especially in the legs, notably the quads, hamstrings and glutes. A powerlifting staple, the traditional squat begins in standing position with weights placed across your shoulders. Then, you bend your knees as far as you can, then return to a standing position.

The Bulgarian Split Squat, which is completed sans weight, is of particular help for the sport. To do it, place the forefront of your right foot on a bench, and bend your left knee until it coems close to touching the ground. Keep your back and torso as straight as possible. Repeat several times, then change legs. This will help with acceleration and endurance.

Sprints

Keep your shoulders down, your head up, your arms churning by your side and haul off sprinting 40 meters. Repeat six times with a one-minute break in between sprints. Soccer is a game based on high-intensity bursts and the ability to sprint and recover rapidly. To achieve success in games you have to raise your cardiovascular fitness everyday in training.

FIELD TRAINING EQUIPMENT

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Medicine balls: If you are searching for a complete conditioning strategy, medicine balls are a terrific prescription. Whether adding weight for push-ups, sit-ups, turns and twist, moving the ball from side to side, leg lifts, catching and throwing or executing planks, medicine balls can be used in a whole host of exercises to benefit your game.

They help you build your core, which can increase power when tackling or challenging for a header, allow for more accurate and powerful ball striking and afford more strength when trying to hold off opponents or win the ball. Medicine ball routines also help with agility, speed and injury prevention.

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DVDs: You can’t train without a plan, and training DVDs are the perfect place to get started. They bring the experts to you. There are how-to video guides for every aspect of the sport from fitness to tactics to injury prevention and proper warm-up technique.

There are over 280 options in the shop. From them you can learn off-the-ball exercises for agility, hurdling, speed, acceleration, balance and footwork. Then you can add a soccer ball to take it to the next level. Experts can point you to a bevy of medicine ball routines to give you strength. There are DVDs with drills for all youth levels: 6-8 year olds, 8-10, 8-12, 11-14, 12-15 and 15-18 year olds.

There are tips for to train to play in goal, on defense, on the flank, on the attack or on how to make the perfect turn. You can watch training sessions from clubs across the world and pick up or adapt them to your game, individually or as a team. Soccer training DVDs: See them, then believe in yourself.

Coming soon: A guide to the training apparel that makes a difference …