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Balance exercises for soccer players

Every athlete needs good balance to succeed in sports, but in soccer, maintaining stability in awkward positions gives you an absolute edge over the competition. Great players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi can dribble down the field and shift their bodies at full speed. Even when an opponent tries to knock them off the ball, they still maintain great balance. This kind of stability takes years of training, but with certain exercises, you can achieve the same type of skill. Try these out at your next practice or on your free time:

Hover step up - You will need a heavy box or platform approximately six to 10 inches above the ground. Stand on top of the platform, with the back of your feet on the edge. Slowly move your left foot toward your rear and let it dangle above the ground. Your body should move forward so most of your weight stays over your left ankle. Keep your supporting leg in an athletic, slightly bent position. Slowly lower your body using your right leg until your left foot almost touches the ground. Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds and then return to the original position. To increase intensity, you can use weights or a taller box or platform.

One-leg deadlift - Use both hands to grasp a heavy object like a dictionary, gallon of water or 10-pound dumbbell. Stand on one leg while the other hovers above the floor behind you. Slowly bend forward from your waist, keeping your back as straight as possible and allowing your leg to flex as needed. You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by holding the weight with one hand and then switching over to the other on the next set. These movements strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, ankles and hip muscles.

Standing reaches - Place small cones or soccer balls in front of you and to your side. The cones should stand far enough away to challenge your balance, but they shouldn't be impossible to reach. While balancing on one foot, try to reach the cones in a single motion with controlled speed. Remember to focus on your glutes, quadriceps and hip muscles while performing this exercise.

One-leg dumbbell squat - This movement is a variation of the lunge. Hold five-to 10-pound dumbbells in each hand. Place one foot behind you on top of an elevated surface. Lower your body using your lead leg. Keep your knee above your ankle as you lunge forward. 

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