TRX Exercises to Become a Better Soccer Player

To train effectively for soccer, it's imperative to remember that it is a multi-planar sport, which requires you to train how you play. Too often this principle is forgotten and this is when players become prone to recurring injuries, due to a lack of strength and fitness in the three planes of the human body.

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What are the three planes in the human body?

According to the American Council on Exercise, the human body is made up of three distinct planes of movement.

The first plane, the sagittal plane, divides the human body into right and left halves, vertically through the mid line of the body. This is the plane that receives the most attention from traditional strength and conditioning programs, through exercises such as bench press, squats and Olympic lifts.

The second plane, the frontal plane, divides the human body into anterior and posterior halves. Most athletes tend to include some frontal plane movements into their strength and conditioning program, with such exercises as lateral lunges being the most common.

The third plane in the human body, the transverse plane, which divides the body into an upper and lower half, however, is the plane which receives very little, if any, attention, from traditional training programs.

What impact does this have on soccer players?

As with almost any sport, soccer requires a great deal of movement, flexibility and strength in all three planes, the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes. Soccer is a sport where players are asked to not only move in one direction, but instead move forwards-backwards, side-to-side and even rotate.

The reality is that most soccer-specific strength and conditioning programs tend to ignore the strengthening of the transverse plane, the very plane in which most injuries tend to occur.

Most elite level football clubs have come to recognise the importance of ensuring that their players are strong in all three planes, adopting an approach in line with the mantra of Robin Sadler, physiotherapist at Manchester City FC, "Football is a multi-planar sport, so you train how you play."

Following a multi-planar approach to training improves the on-field performance of a team's players, is effective as an injury prevention tool, and, most importantly, contributes to a team's ultimate goal of winning more games.

What is the characteristic of multi-planar exercises and how do they differ from traditional workouts?

Multi-planar exercises are training methods that ensure all three, or at the very least two, planes in the human body are all worked at the same time.

This method of training manifests itself in the adoption of complex exercise routines, where rotations, flexions and extensions are all combined during one movement. The intention is to replicate a sport-specific movement as closely as possible, strengthening multiple planes simultaneously.

While multi-planar exercises can be conducted with traditional gym equipment, many of the world's most elite soccer clubs, including Liverpool FC, are turning to TRX as a means of fulfilling their desire to conduct these strengthening exercises, as TRX offers a full body, multi-planar, training solution.

What is TRX?

TRX (initials derived from the words Total Resistance eXercise) is an approach to bodyweight training that is based on the concept of suspension training. The TRX straps place the body in a state of instability during each exercise, ensuring that the entire body receives a workout during each movement.

TRX exercises are designed principally to provide a full body, multi-planar workout that is perfect for sports such as soccer. By using gravity and the weight of your own body as resistance tools, the TRX Trainer helps to effectively build strength, balance, flexibility and core stability that is directly transferable to the soccer pitch.

What is the TRX philosophy?

Built on the principles of suspension training, a method of bodyweight training initially developed by the United States Navy SEALs, the TRX training philosophy is focused on manufacturing an unstable environment for an athlete, placing the whole body under tension, rather than isolating just one specific muscle group or plane.

Who uses TRX?

TRX is being used by some of the world's most elite athletes, and is proving extremely popular within the sport of soccer in particular.

Within soccer, TRX is currently being used by Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, A.C. Milan, Corinthians, Santos FC, and the German National Team.

In addition to some of the world's most elite level clubs using TRX, a number of prominent individuals have also been quick to extol the virtues of TRX training.

U.S. professional soccer player Heather Mitts raves about the impact that TRX training has had in the development of her core stability. She is someone who prefers to stick to body weight training during the soccer season and asserts that the TRX gives her a wide variety of exercise options, as well as the TRX Trainer being an extremely convenient tool that she can take anywhere with her.

Darren Burgess, Head of Fitness & Conditioning at Liverpool FC, furthermore appreciates the usefulness of TRX training as a means of replicating game situations in the gym, allowing for the effective development of multi-directional agility, speed and power.

A huge supporter of TRX training, Scott Moody, CEO of the Training & Research Institute for Athletic Development, cites the effectiveness of TRX training in developing mobility and strength in the hips and shoulders of soccer players of all ages, from professionals, right down to 10-12 year old children.

What are the benefits of TRX and how do they relate to soccer?

TRX is the perfect training method for soccer. The TRX Trainer allows you to replicate in the gym the multi-planar movements that one undertakes on a soccer field.

TRX can help to develop the core strength and explosive power that is essential during a soccer match, as well as improving your mobility and flexibility, greatly reducing your risk of injury. TRX is being used by professional soccer teams all around the world as a means of greatly improving the on-field performance of their players.

The TRX Trainer takes the guess work out of training for soccer. A TRX workout ensures that every training session develops core stability, owing to the manufactured instability that the TRX Trainer creates, while the TRX Trainer's adjustability and versatility mean that it is suitable for all fitness levels, from the complete beginner to some of the world's best soccer players.

The practicality of the TRX Trainer is one of the primary reasons that more and more soccer players are turning to it for a full body, multi-planar training solution. Made to carry in a small bag, the TRX Trainer can be taken with you wherever you go.

It can be set up anywhere, whether you find yourself in a gym, at home, in a hotel, or even outside. The TRX Trainer means there's no good reason to ever miss a training session again.

Three foundational TRX movements

These exercises will help you build the foundation that is necessary to play the soccer game safely and well. I am thankful to soccer coach Fraser Quelch and Carlos for demonstrating these exercises for us.

1. TRX Hamstring Runners

Hamstring Runners

Place the TRX Trainer on the surface of your choice and let it hang down vertically. Place each of your heels in the two straps of the TRX Trainer, slowly lifting your hips up, until you create a reverse plank with your body.

Bring your left knee towards your chest, and then return it to its original starting position, followed by bringing your right knee towards your chest. Alternate the leg that you bring towards your chest in a movement that resembles a cycling motion.

Workout tips: It's important that you hold your body in a perfect plank at all times. Aim for slow and well-controlled movements at all times.

2. TRX Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Attach the TRX Trainer from the surface of your choice, and let it suspend vertically. Unlike with the TRX Hamstring Runners, place your toes, and not your heels, into the two TRX Trainer straps, with your chest flat on the floor.

Create a prefect plank with your body, straightening your arms into an elevated press up position. Bring your left knee towards your chest, raising your hips as you do so.

Return your left knee to its initial starting position, bringing your right knee towards your chest afterwards. Alternate the leg that you bring towards your chest in a movement that resembles a cycling motion.

Workout tips: Keep your core and glutes tight at all times. Slow and controlled movements are best.

3. TRX Lunge

TRX Lunge

Start by anchoring the TRX Suspension Trainer to a stable surface. Standing up, and facing away from the TRX Trainer, place your right foot into one of the TRX straps, while you stand up straight on the other leg.

Bend your left leg and crouch down, until your hands are touching the floor, in line with your left leg, keeping your right knee slightly raised from the floor. From this position, stand up and straighten your bent left leg.

Your right leg will automatically come forwards slightly at this point too. From here, squat back down and perform the desired number of reps, before changing legs. This exercise improves your leg and knee stability and is perfect to help support the game of soccer.

Three soccer-specific TRX movements

Now that we have got all of our foundational movements done, we will have some fun introducing some conditioning and a ball.

1. TRX Burpees


Begin this exercise by hanging the TRX vertically from a stable surface. Standing up, and facing away from the TRX Trainer, place your right foot into one of the TRX straps, while you stand up straight on the other leg.

As with a TRX lunge, bend your left knee and squat down until your hands touch the floor. This time, however, as you reach the bottom of the squat, thrust your left leg backwards and your chest into the ground. Perform a press up, with both legs straight out behind you.

After the press up, bring your left leg back to where it started from and stand up. At the pinnacle of the rep, when you are just about to stand up, explode off the ground with your left leg and get your training partner to throw a soccer ball to you, which you will aim to head back to him. Repeat for as many repetitions as you want and then change legs.

Workout tips: Spend time perfecting the technique before increasing the speed of the exercise to work on your conditioning, as well as your strength.

2. TRX Mountain Climbers with a soccer ball

Climbers With Soccer Ball

After you suspend the TRX from the surface of your choice, assume the same position as your did for the TRX Mountain Climbers that we outlined above, with the exception that you must only place your right foot into a strap and leave your left leg free.

From the Mountain Climber position, get you partner to place a soccer ball between your hands. Bring your left knee forward in a powerful motion and aim to knee the ball back to your partner.

Change things up by getting your partner to place the ball to the left and right of your hands, still using your left leg to return it. Perform as many repetitions as you desire and then change legs.

Workout tips: When you get proficient at this, try kneeing the ball back to your partner using you suspended leg, rather than your free leg, as it increases the difficulty level greatly.

3. TRX Assisted Footwork Drills

TRX Footwork Drills

TRX assisted fast feet is a fantastic drill for the game of soccer. Before you start this exercise, lengthen the straps as much as possible, taking one of the straps in each hand, facing away from the anchored surface.

Lean forwards, until your body is at roughly 45 degrees to the floor, with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your arms straight, standing on the balls of your feet.

Move your feet up and down, performing a standard fast feet drill. As your partner rolls a soccer ball to you, trap the ball. From here twist your hips all the way to the right, moving your feet accordingly, but keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.

Then twist to the left, before passing the ball back to your partner with the foot that you initially trapped it with. Repeat for as many repetitions as you want and don't forget to switch sides.

Workout advice: Engage the core at all times.

Matthew, who is a fan of suspension training, contributed this article. Matthew is a biologist who writes about all things fitness. He recently made available a discount TRX trainer for 2013. Matthew advises that if you don't want to buy TRX, you can create your own by using a pair of straps.

Being a Greek, Matthew loves watching and playing soccer. He used to play competitive soccer but today he plays mostly recreationally. At times, soccer can place a lot of stress on muscles, joints, and tendons.

Matthew remembers the common ankle sprains he would experience when playing soccer with his friends as a teenager. Today, he prevents common soccer injuries by performing soccer-specific exercises on TRX.

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