Goalkeeping 101 – Building A Strength Foundation

Football keeps evolving. Everyone gets fitter, faster and stronger. We as goalkeepers have to follow the same trend – otherwise we do not stand a chance on game day. What I am going to present here is a basic program that covers all of the major muscles with a slight focus on the legs; and leg strength is absolutely vital for goalkeepers’ balance, footwork and jumping skills.

In order to build maximum strength you need to focus on simple exercises that work. That is why we are turning our heads towards barbell exercises: They allow us to move big weights and thus build some proper strength. I am going to recommend two programs that work – as simple as that. They both focus on the same five exercises and both feature the same combination of exercises (on a basic level). Starting Strength (SS) and Strong Lifts 5×5 (SL5x5) are two brilliant programs for people starting out or for those who have not had a solid program in the gym. Personally I followed SL5x5 when I started taking strength training a bit more serious than I had previously and I saw the weights keep getting bigger and bigger while still going up.

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The basic difference between the two is the number of sets per exercise. SS uses 3 sets with four warm-up sets and SL5x5 uses 5 sets with three warm-up sets. But the similarity between the two just speaks for the quality of the exercises and setup. Both programs have three training days a week with a minimum of one day of resting between each session (for instance: Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and five primary exercises: The squat, the deadlift, the bench press, the overhead press and the bent over row.

These exercises are split into two workouts for three training days a week and you should alternate these each training day.

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If you follow this plan you will start off in week 1, you’ll start with workout A on Monday, workout B on Wednesday and workout A again on Friday. Week 2 will be the opposite.

These two programs, however, are not perfectly sculpted for goalkeeping: There is no abdominal work, no specific adductor work and there is a slight imbalance in regards to pull vs. press movements (bent over row vs. overhead press and bench press). To even this out I suggest adding chin-ups (preferably weighted) to workout B, leg raises to workout A and crunches and/or an ab-wheel to both sessions. Also you might consider swapping squats on workout B if you’re in season or in pre-season.

When you start out you should begin with just the 20 kg Olympic bar and nothing else for every exercise but the deadlift where you start with 40 kg. From then on out you should look to add 2.5 kg to each exercise each session and 5 kg on deadlift (in the table below you’ll see that there is only one work set of deadlifts – that is why you should be able to add 5 kg each session). If by any chance you cannot complete your repetitions of an exercise, be it 3×5 or 5×5, you should try again the next two workouts, if you still cannot complete the exercise take 10% of the weight off for next workout and start over with adding the weight.

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The progression of the first four weeks should look like the table above. If you stall on any of these exercises in the first 3-5 weeks while following the table’s linear progression you should consider taking a look at your food intake as that will most likely be the limiting factor. It should be possible to have linear progress on the weights (especially squats and deadlifts) for quite some time. But eventually you’ll have to look at other programs to gain that competitive edge.

As a final note: While you should push yourselves during strength training there is no need to be rash or stupid with your training; form is critical when lifting and you should get someone knowledgeable to look at your form while you’re starting out to correct any errors. Also if you have any further desire to get to know about these lifts, programming and further help your work outside the pitch consider getting a hold of the book “Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training 3rd Edition” by Mark Rippetoe.

If you have any questions regarding the programs, form or anything else leave them in the comments below.

goalkeeping, the pep talk

Posted on January 29, 2013

Comments on “Goalkeeping 101 – Building a Strength Foundation”

  1. Din commented on January 30, 2013 Reply

    Hey Mads, love your articles (so far lol)! Anyway, I’m wondering if I can do these exercises while I’m in pre-season, considering my training days are every Monday Wednesday and Friday ?

    • Mads Thomasen commented on January 30, 2013 Reply

      Hi din! Thank you very much I will definitely try my best to keep it that way!
      As for your question: If you do the program on the same days it is possible but very tough (especially SL5x5). If I were you I would try to do one of the programs Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, that way you your strength training should not interfere too much with your cardiovascular training (I am guessing that is what you are doing in pre-season). But be aware that high intensity aerobic training will interfere with a strength training program and vice versa.
      Do consider swapping squats on workout B with cleans as I suggested in the article as they should help you develop a bit of explosiveness!
      Remember to follow the program – even if it seems light. Because in two months you will already have added 60 kg to your squat.
      Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, keep your form clean and squat deep. There is nothing better than deadlifts and squats for strength, but if they are done incorrectly (any of the exercises really) they can injure you quite badly.
      Stay safe, train hard and please ask if you have any further questions!

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