Pierre Barrieu has been the US Men’s National Team strength and conditioning coach since 2002. Originally from Thionville, France, Pierre is a former professional team handball player. He now holds a Masters in Sports Science as well as a number of coaching certificates. He also works at the University of Virginia, where he’s in charge of the men’s soccer program. Visit his official site, soccerconditioning.net for fitness articles and to find out about his custom designed plans and services.
What physical quality do you think that amateurs most commonly lack in comparison to pro/top-level players?
They lack in all of them to a different extent: aerobic capacity, power, higher work rate due to their superior fitness level, explosiveness and speed.
What factors do you take into consideration when designing a fitness routine?
The player’s starting level and his goals. There’s nothing worse than a “generic” program. It has to be tailored to the player’s needs.
In general, what type of fitness should players work on from a developmental perspective (pre-high school, during high school and while in college)?
During their teenage years, they should work on aerobic running. This is referred as the “window of opportunity” by the exercise physiologists. My best runners are the players who used to run cross country in middle/high school. Then the strength comes second and subsequently, the speed should increase. Running technique can be learned starting real early.
What is a good way to build soccer-specific strength/power?
Play. Work on multijoint explosive standing exercises [such as squat jumps or plyometrics] and free weights type of weight lifting.
How about speed/acceleration?
Develop leg strength and hip flexors strength/stability. You can never dissociate speed from strength from power, in the same way you do it for aerobic and anaerobic capacities.