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Training the Vertical Jump

to Head the Ball in Soccer


Antonio Paoli, BSc, MD,1,2 Antonino Bianco, PhD,3,4 Antonio Palma, MD,3,4 and Giuseppe Marcolin, PhD1
1
Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology; 2Human Movement Sciences School, University of Padova, Padova,
Italy; 3Faculty of Sports and Exercise Sciences; and 4Department of Legal, Economic, Biomedical, Psycho pedagogic
Studies of Sports and Exercise Sciences, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy

SUMMARY a soccer player, and more specifically, It is clear how take off is a key point to
vertical jump height is primal to suc- reach a consistent jump height and
IN MODERN SOCCER, HEADING
cessfully impact the ball. Explosive needs specific training. This phase is
THE BALL IS BOTH AN OFFENSIVE
strength is fundamental for a soccer similar to a counter movement jump
TOOL USED TO SCORE GOALS player to obtain the jump height nec- (CMJ) (with both legs or with a single
AND A DEFENSIVE MEASURE essary to head the ball or, in other leg depending on the game situation),
AGAINST OPPOSING TEAMS. PRO- words, the maximal ability of a muscle where the muscles involved are first
FICIENCY IN HEADING THE BALL to exert force or torque at a specific stretched and then shortened to accel-
REQUIRES PROPER TECHNIQUE IN velocity (16). This kind of neuromus- erate the limb. As a consequence,
CONJUNCTION WITH AN EFFEC- cular quality is often assessed by the 1 storage of elastic energy in both muscle
TIVE VERTICAL JUMP. THE AIM OF repetition maximum (RM) test, but and tendon occurs, with a direct re-
THIS ARTICLE IS TO ADDRESS THE 1RM strength maybe useful only for utilization in the subsequent concentric
FACTORS INVOLVED IN VERTICAL a few athletic events like weightlifting phase, contributing to increase the
JUMP PERFORMANCE AND HOW because during the 1RM test, low jump performance (5). Another con-
THEY RELATE SPECIFICALLY TO acceleration values are usually obtained. tribution to strengthen the concentric
HEADING THE BALL. Referring to concentric movements, the action is because of the increase of
difference among strength and power muscle neural stimulation elicited by
generation is due to the velocity of the the mechanical stretch stimulus
INTRODUCTION: STRENGTH OR muscle contraction. In fact, power is (10,11). This action of the lower limb
POWER? given by the product of force and muscles, known as stretch-shortening
esearchers involved in the train-

R
velocity: the higher the force, the lower cycle (SSC) (17), involves some inter-
ing methodology to improve the velocity of concentric muscle action esting neural and mechanical processes
jump ability proposed a variety (14). This is explained in Figure 1. extensively studied in the scientific
of techniques and exercise modalities literature (5,8,10,12,23). A second train-
(22,15,4). Nevertheless, the question on ing point is the strengthening of trunk
what percentage of training should be SOCCER JUMPING HEADER: and hip flexors together with the knee
dedicated to strength and what to TECHNIQUE AND TRAINING extensors to obtain great trunk and head
power seems unresolved. First of all, CONSIDERATIONS acceleration for a powerful ball heading.
to better understand the matter, we This skill (Figure 2) begins with the In addition, the complexity of heading
have to stress the difference between loading of the leg (or both legs) in the ball requests great degree of coor-
strength and power. Generally speak- preparation for the jump, then the arms dination. As a matter of fact, explo-
ing, in athletics, the rate of force move from bottom to top, and the sive strength depends on the level of
development (RFD) is much more take off starts. At the beginning of the intermuscular coordination considering
important than strength alone; the flight, the trunk and the legs extend agonist, antagonist, and synergist muscle
average RFD (mRFD) can be esti- backward; the further back the trunk activities. In fast movements, low levels
mated as the ratio Fmax/Tmax, where extends, the greater the maximum of resistance should be recorded, and the
Tmax is the time to reach the peak forward velocity of the upper trunk relaxation of the antagonist muscles
force, whereas Fmax is the maximum and head. Force is produced by a strong should be simultaneous and well coor-
force. This ratio is also named explo- contraction of the trunk flexors, hip dinated with the agonist ones. In this
sive strength, commonly computed, for flexors, and knee extensors before
applicative purposes per 1 kilogram of impact (20). After impact, the jumping KEY WORDS:
body weight (26). Explosive strength is header finishes the movement with the heading; soccer; vertical jump
a fundamental conditional capacity for landing phase.

80 VOLUME 34 | NUMBER 3 | JUNE 2012 Copyright National Strength and Conditioning Association
after impact. The authors concluded
that movement of the legs was
the single most important factor in
the skill. Because of the body jackknife
movement around the pelvis, the
authors suggest developing muscle
strength in the stomach, back, and
pelvis and to put no restrictions on
head and arm movement to optimize
the jumping header (20). Marcolin and
Petrone (21) proposed a functional
evaluation method considering the
height of the jump, the ball velocity,
and its angle after impact. In particular,
they identified a maximum efficient
heading elevation of the header related
to the ball speed increments and to the
correct ball angles useful to evaluate
Figure 1. Force/velocity and power relationship for skeletal muscle. Vm, maximal
training effects during the season.
velocity; Pm, maximal power output; Fm, maximal isometric force output.
Furthermore, they introduced an eleva-
tion index defined as the percent ratio
direction, specific training may reduce characteristics in jumping headers with between the jump elevation and the
agonist-antagonist cocontractions, stre- particular attention to the heads anthropometric height of each subject
ngthening the coordination pattern and, velocity relative to the torso at impact and correlated it with the ball velocity
as a consequence, the role of agonist and along with the contributions of the to classify a players ability to head high
synergist muscles (23). upper and lower extremities (19). balls with high impact energy. Shew-
Literature investigations on soccer Results showed that the head acceler- chenko et al. (24) developed biome-
heading concentrated mainly on bio- ated relative to the torso throughout chanical methods and a numerical
mechanical aspects. Kristensen et al. the impact phase as a nonrestricted model to investigate head impact re-
(20) investigated the segmental free segment and that the arms had sponse and the influence of heading
little role in creating high ball speed technique. If the aim is to reduce impact

Figure 2. Jumping header technique. (a) Loading of the leg. (b) Take off and arms movement. (c) Trunk and legs backward extension.
(d) Ball impact. (e) Beginning of landing. Adapted with permission from Marcolin and Petrone (21).

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Training for Heading the Ball in Soccer

severity, their mathematical modeling trained subjects (7). According to these head and trunk in preparation for ball
suggested an increased risk of neck results, it is clear that the ability to impact (25). Therefore, weightlifting has
loads performing alternative techniques. rapidly generate force is the major an important role not only for the
contributor to vertical jump height both quadriceps but also in reinforcing the
TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS TO in presence of SSC (CMJ) and in the role of the trapezius muscle groups in
IMPROVE JUMPING HEADER absence of it (SJ) (6). For soccer players, heading the ball. For these reasons, in the
PERFORMANCE
both skills are important to be trained, preseason, training including crunches
Bosco and Komi (5) studied the rela- allowing development of great levels of and jackknives should be taken into
tionship between jump performance strength in short periods (Figure 3). account (18). During the transition phase
and stretch load application showing from precompetition to the com-
an increase of the jump height with Many scientists (11,3) demonstrated the
importance of mRFD for explosive per- petition period, plyometric exercises
an increase in the stretch load. This
formance and that squat training with should be mixed with series of CMJs
explains, for example, why in the drop
heavy loads (70120% of 1RM) improves (also with single leg) with the arms free
jump, the performance improves with
maximal isometric strength but not to move in such away to simulate
the increase of the drop height. On the
mRFD (13). Therefore, in soccer, in- a double or a single-leg soccer heading
other hand, a too high stimulus with
termediate loads should be preferred to take off. The use of the ball is recom-
excessive stretch loads lead to an
the heavy ones to train lower limb force mended to improve the coordination of
inhibition of the muscle contraction
and power. To support this, recent data (2) the jumping heading and should be
because of the Golgi tendon organ
showed that weightlifting and plyometric emphasized above all in the competition
reflex (10,23). It is noteworthy that period, whereas in the precompetition,
nonathletes or athletes unaccustomed exercise have different effects on muscle
activation, and knee and hip angle of the main focus of the training should
to intense SSC tasks may show better be to increase the strength and muscle
performance during a CMJ than during soccer players, suggesting that weightlift-
ing training might be more appropriate in power. An example of a periodized pro-
a drop jump, and often, their drop jump
the precompetition period improving gram for ball heading in advanced soccer
height could be lower than the squat
vertical jump height via changes in players is illustrated in the Table and
jump (SJ) (23). It also appears logical
power and technique (9), whereas the should be integrated with the other
that vertical jump performance imp-
plyometric exercises should be preferred athletic and technical training sessions.
roves more markedly after strength
training in subjects with an initial low in the competition period. As reported in CONCLUSIONS
value (1) than in previously strength- the description of the jumping header The importance of jumping heading is
trained athletes (12). In addition, com- technique, trunk and hip flexors and also well documented in the literature; a study
bined strength-power training seems to abdominals have an important role in across different soccer leagues indicated
be more effective than power or giving speed to the impacted ball. The that players impact the ball more than
strength training alone in recreationally trapezius muscle group stabilizes the 6 times per game (20). This skill can also
determine the outcome of a match,
considering that in the Japan and Korea
Federation Internationale de Football
Association world cup, more than 20%
of the goals were scored by headers (20).
Vertical jump height, along with the
ability to head the ball with power, is
the key point for an efficient jumping
heading. Vertical jump performance
depends not only on lower limb level
of strength but also on the rate at which
they are able to generate force, on the
contraction velocity, on the ability of
SSC utilization, and on the degree of
intermuscular and intramuscular coor-
dination. The increase of strength
obtained with traditional weight train-
ing appears to be effective to increase
jump height only in athletes with low
level of initial strength. With experi-
Figure 3. Time and force relationship in experts and beginners. Experts develop higher enced well-trained athletes, programs
levels of force in less time with respect to beginners. should aim to improve RFD and muscle

82 VOLUME 34 | NUMBER 3 | JUNE 2012


Table
Weightlifting training program for vertical jump improvement in soccer headers

Preseason: Phase 1 (4 weeks) traditional lifting

Day A Day B Day C Day D

Bench press 4 3 8 RM* Squat 4 3 8 RM Lat pull-down 4 3 8 RM Technique of Olympic-style lifting;


only barbell without added loads
Incline bench press 3 3 10 RM Deadlift 4 3 8 RM Seated row 3 3 10 RM (snatch pull, clean pull, push press,
Biceps barbell curl 3 3 8 RM Leg extension 3 3 10 RM Triceps pull-down 3 3 8 RM push jerk, overhead squat, power
clean, clean and jerk, snatch)
Biceps dumbbell incline bench 3 3 10 RM Seated leg curl 4 3 8 RM Triceps extension 3 3 10 RM
Jackknives 33 max Shoulder press 3 3 8 RM Vertical calf 3 3 8 RM
Lateral raises 3 3 10 RM Jackknives 33 max
Crunches 33 max
Precompetition: Phase 2 (4 weeks) traditional lifting and Olympic-style lifting
Day A Day B Day C
Power clean 5 3 5 RM Clean pulls 5 3 5 RM (floor) Snatch pulls (waist) 5 3 5 RM
Snatch pulls (knee) 5 3 5 RM Push jerks 5 3 5 RM Push press 5 3 5 RM
Bench press 4 3 6 RM Squat 4 3 6 RM Lateral pull-down 4 3 6 RM
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Push press 5 3 5 RM Stiff leg deadlift 4 3 6 RM Overhead squat 4 3 6 RM


Competition: Phase 3 (4 weeks) Olympic-style lifting and plyometric training
Day A Day B
Clean and jerk 5 3 5 RM Snatch 5 3 5 RM
Push jerks 5 3 5 RM Squat jumps (30% 1RM) 5 3 5 RM
Drop jumps 3x8 Snatch pulls (waist) 5 3 5 RM
Competition: Phase 4 (4 weeks) Olympic-style lifting and specific heading technique
Day A Day B
Clean and jerk 5 3 3 RM Snatch 5 3 3
Power clean 5 3 3 RM One leg ball heading jumps 5 3 5
Drop jumps with ball heading 5 3 5 Two legs ball heading jumps 5 3 5
* RM = repetition maximum.
83
Training for Heading the Ball in Soccer

power output. Because of the multifac- various stretch-load conditions. Int J Sports
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Marcolin is
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