Strength Training World Cup Soccer Workout: Oguchi Onyewu

by Nate

in Athlete Workouts, Celebrity Workouts, Workout Routines

Soccer Workout for Strength Training - Oguchi Onyewu

Our fifth installment of our World Cup soccer workout series features the strength training workout of United States National Team defender Oguchi Onyewu.

Men’s Health recently revealed the soccer workout secrets of four members of the U.S. squad, including those of Oguchi Onyewu and his teammates Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Jozy Altidore, with soccer specific workout plans for building endurancestrength, speed, and agility.

Onyewu, who goes by the nickname “Gooch,” says, “Strikers get the fame, but as a defender you do just as much work and you don’t have the luxury of making so many mistakes.”

At 6’4″ and 210 pounds Oguchi Onyewu, who plays for Italy’s AC Milan is as strong as the come in soccer.  “Gooch has to anchor himself, hold off contact, and withstand bumping,” says national team fitness coach Pierre Barrieu.  The strength Onyewu uses against opponents comes from his powerful legs and his strength training workout allows him to not only be explosive but also quick enough to make a tackle on a speedy striker or head the ball away as its screaming toward the goal.

Men’s Health reports, “Norwegian soccer research reveals that doing squats with maximal loads dramatically improves jumping ability, sprinting speed over 10 meters, and running economy. Here’s why: ‘Because of the high resistance, the movement speed is slow, but the muscular contraction when you push with your quads is fast,’ says Jan Hoff, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In other words, you’re teaching your muscles to activate faster. In Hoff’s 2008 study, participants who did three squat sessions a week for 8 weeks saw a 5 percent increase in running economy, which means they used less energy to move on the field. That translates to over half a mile more covered in a match. Another benefit to strength training: It reduces your risk of soccer injury by 50 percent, according to a University of Maine study.”

Test Your Strength

Barrieu says the best way to test your strength for a soccer workout is using the 1-rep maximum (1RM) for a barbell squat.  To determine your 1RM, warm up and then do one set with a challenging weight.  Multiply the weight used by one of these numbers based on how many reps you did.

10 reps – Multiply by 1.3
8 reps – Multiply by 1.26
6 reps – Multiply by 1.2

So if you squatted 150 pounds for 10 reps, your 1RM would be 195 according to this test.

Average Strength – 1 to 1.5 times your body weight
Great Strength – 1.5 to 2 times your body weight
World Class Strength – 2 or more times your body weight

TCW says…Depending on your experience in the weight room and the muscle composition of your body your actual 1RM may be slightly higher or slightly lower but this is a good starting point.  Its also a much safer way to test for 1RM.  However, when performing any test like this make sure you recruit at least one spotter, especially if you aren’t used to performing squats on a regular basis.

Build World-Class Strength

1. Detonate Your Big Muscles
To strengthen your quads and activate your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core, Barrieu recommends barbell squats: 3 sets of 5 reps at 85 percent of your 1-rep max, with 90 seconds of rest between sets. “Descend in a slow, controlled way, and then accelerate as you push the bar back up.” Do them twice a week.

TCW says…The basic barbell squat is great for building strong solid legs while incorporating other muscles in your body.  Its a challenging full body move which is easy to learn.  We suggest staying away from the Smith machine and grabbing a partner to do your squat routine.  The free weight version of the squat will help you work in a more natural plane of movement and reduce some of the stress placed on the lower back when using the Smith machine.  It’s important that you use proper form on this exercise before you start adding a ton of weight.  You’ll see faster gains from and less injury when using proper form, so if you need help in the gym don’t be afraid to ask.

2. Steal Some Olympic Thunder
Many soccer players do single-leg Olympic-style lifts because these exercises build whole-body strength. But they’re difficult to do without a trainer, so Barrieu recommends starting with the dumbbell high pull. Grab the dumbbells using an overhand grip and squat so the dumbbells are on the ground and your lower back is naturally arched. Raise your chest and hips until your arms are straight. Then pull the dumbbells as high as you can by explosively standing up as you bend your elbows and raise your upper arms. The dumbbells should be at chin height, and you should rise up onto your toes. Reverse the movement and return to the start. Use a weight that allows you to complete 12 to 15 reps and aim for 3 sets with 30 seconds rest in between.

TCW says…Olympic lifts, like the high pull, are great because they incorporate a number of muscle groups.  When doing this move keep the weight close to your body all the way through the exercise.  If the weight flys out away from you then you will risk injury.

3. Single Out Weaknesses
Barrieu has his players do single-leg squats to reveal differences in leg strength and range of motion. “The aim is to look the same on both sides,” he says. On a bench or box that’s knee height, balance on your left leg and hold your arms straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee and lower your body until your right heel almost touches the floor. Push yourself back to the starting position. Onyewu does 3 sets of 15 reps with 30-pound weights in each hand. You should start with no weight and do 3 sets of 5 for each leg. Aim to do them 3 days a week.

TCW says…Single leg squats are extremely challenging.  Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do them as prescribed above right away.  If you are struggling with this move you can try holding on to something to help you maintain your balance.  Another trip to help you advance quickly with the single leg squat is to put the bench behind you and lower yourself onto the bench, using it for a quick pause and push off before you stand up to complete the movement.

Peak Performance Tip from Oguchi Onyewu
To build strength without adding bulk, Onyewu uses the TRX, a suspension training system of nylon straps that anchor to a fixed object so that you can do a wide range of body-weight exercises. “It helps with power, flexibility, and balance,” he says. Indeed, this is what he used while rehabbing.

TCW says…The TRX is outstanding!  If you haven’t tried it yet search for a gym in your area that offers a class and get yourself signed up.  It will be well worth the 15 dollars you spend on trying it out.  The number of exercises you can do with the TRX is limitless, and you can literally take it with you anywhere you go.

For the rest of our World Cup soccer workout series be sure to check out our previous posts on Jonathan Bornstein, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, and Clint Dempsey.
The United States, which won its World Cup group for the first time since 1930, takes on Ghana in the round of 16 on Saturday.

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