(photo via FC Dallas/Facebook) FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd

The World Cup Workout

FC Dallas' athletic performance coach on how his team gets fit enough to take the pitch.

We admit it: we did it. We jinxed the United States’ chances at winning on Tuesday, because we planned to run this article the day after the national soccer team’s match against Belgium — thinking that our boys would win. But then they didn’t.

So while the Americans are out of the World Cup, that doesn’t mean you abandon your soccer spirit. FC Dallas plays its season through October, and we want you to be prepared to go watch (and even play, should the situation arise). So we asked the MLS team’s head athletic performance coach, Karim Derqaoui, for tips to get Tim Howard good.


It’s All About the Warm-up

“A proper warm-up is the biggest thing,” Derqaoui says. “Because without that, something’s bound to happen. If not in the same session, then further down the line.” Derqaoui compares himself to a motorcycle jumping over a line of cars. “I need a ramp to get me up there. Then I need another ramp at the other end to bring me back down.” The same is true for an athlete. A proper warm-up requires about 20 minutes, Derqaoui says.

Here’s what you do:

Minutes 1-5: Start with general movement, such as light jogging. There should be no jumping or sprinting. This is a time to get the mind switched on to what’s about to come.

Minutes 5-10: Ratchet up the intensity. Add in some plyometrics. Start jumping off of one foot and landing on two; jumping off two and landing on one.

Minutes 10-15: Start “reaction work.” Get sharper by sprinting, stopping, and changing direction. Build in movements that require you to jump over some items and crawl underneath others.

Minutes 15-20: At this point, Derqaoui would incorporate the soccer ball. “Pass and move, pass and sprint,” he says. This is higher-intensity work that’s a bit more demanding.


Work in Those Intervals

“Interval work increases your aerobic capacity more so than continuous work,” Derqaoui says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a kayaker, rock climber, or run marathons. Interval work in less time is going to be more beneficial for you than continuous work.”

This is especially true for soccer players, who are constantly sprinting, stopping, changing directions, and sprinting again. To get a good interval workout at home, Derqaoui recommends mixing it up by doing 10 minutes on a bike, 10 minutes on a Stairmaster, and 10 minutes on a treadmill. Break up each session with 2-minute intervals. Go hard for a minute and a half. Back off for 30 seconds, and repeat five times.

“This will challenge your body in different ways, but keep your mind engaged,” he says.


The Perfect Workout

Derqaoui is not a big fan of training specific muscle groups. “If you’re training muscles, you may forget about the movement,” he says. “If you train a movement, you won’t ever forget about a muscle.” He thinks of exercises as push and pull. “If you’re pushing things, then you’re talking about working your shoulders, chess, triceps, depending on the exercise you choose.”

Makes these moves part of your routine:

Upper Body Push
Lie down on a bench with a dumbbell in one hand, your feet on the ground, and do a bench press. This requires your core to engage for stability. Be sure to switch sides.

Squat Split
Place one foot in front of the other in a lunge position, and lower your back knee to the floor. Increase the intensity by adding a jump as you bring your back knee up. Land on both feet, ensuring you’re stable. Switch sides.

Lie down on your stomach and push up on your elbows and toes. Keep your body rigid and straight. Hold.

Do your favorite stretch routine.

Do 8-12 reps of this routine for 3-4 sets, and incorporate about 20 minutes of interval work. This should give you a solid, hour-long workout.