Professional soccer player Jessica McDonald has been strength training since she was 14 years-old. While the soccer ball surely found her first, McDonald said weights came soon after.
When you see McDonald on the field, the forward embodies power – Her runs past defensive lines are dynamic, her ability to post-up and turn on a dime is explosive, and the force of her shot is sure to leave any goalkeepers’ hand broken.
“I would definitely say my muscles are something I am proud of. I had a child and know that is something that isn’t easy to recover from and get your body back.” — Jessica McDonald
— Jessica McDonald (@J_Mac1422) May 14, 2019
McDonald is a member of the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and just recently was named to the U.S. Women’s National Team 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Roster. The NWSL champion, and 2018 Most Valuable Player, managed to squeeze in some time before flying to France to share her strength training routine with us and the impact strength training has had on her game.
McDonald is 31 years-old and for the first time in her soccer career made a World Cup roster. Her game has only got better with age, for example last season she led the NWSL in assists with eight and finished the season with 10 goals, three of which were netted in the playoffs. So, how does she do it?
“Strength training has definitely helped improve my game,” McDonald told BarBend. “Since I’m older, I have to up keep my body in a different way than a younger player. Strength training has helped me with longevity. I feel quicker and stronger than I have before.”
Soccer is a sport that requires full body strength; you need power in your legs most obviously, but also a strong upper body for control and stability. For someone like McDonald who plays striker, having a strong upper body to muscle her way around the biggest, baddest defenders across the world is crucial.
“Pretty much anything to do with the lower body. Squats are definitely number one.”
She admits, though, that when it comes to strength training and what the most important area to build up as a soccer player, she said it’s all about the legs!
“Pretty much anything to do with the lower body. Squats are definitely number one.” There is such a range when it comes to squats too, which offers athletes like McDonald infinite squat exercises to implement in her training. Squats are also one of, if not the most universally performed movements and the benefits range anywhere from improved leg strength, to increasing someone’s daily quality of life and injury resilience.
Her favorite exercise though, are landmines. For those who may not know what this movement looks like, similar to the squat, there are lot of variations. Landmines may involve a press, also known as the landmine press, or you could do a landmine squat which is a great alternative to a normal barbell squat or goblet squat because it forces you to situate your hips back, and lower down slowly all while moving the bar up and down accordingly.
Even with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup just a couple weeks away, the team is still consistently strength training to balance out the practices, video, mental work, and more.
“Gym sessions are very long. Our strength trainings cover all parts of the body pretty much,” McDonald said. At the forefront of the U.S. WNT strength and conditioning programming is coach Dawn Scott who has been training the Americans since 2010. She has been the mastermind and one of the key reasons why the U.S. has been so successful for so long at the international level.
To give you an idea, they are the most successful in international women’s soccer with three Women’s World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, eight CONCACAF Gold Cups, and 10 Algarve Cups. Apart from their ability to control the pace of the game, their strength and fitness really has propelled the USWNT over other countries.
And, when it comes to playing strong, and looking strong, McDonald said it’s something she is undeniably proud of.
“I would definitely say my muscles are something I am proud of. I had a child and know that is something that isn’t easy to recover from and get your body back.”
McDonald will take the field in a few short weeks for the United States, and if you have the chance to watch her play you will see someone radiating pride that looks like she’s been playing the game forever, and lifting since she was a pre-teen.
Feature image from @jmac1422 Instagram page.