Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. To get to this level, I’ve spent thousands of hours throughout my life practicing individually. I’m here to share my experience with different types of training equipment, that I think are the most useful in individual practice sessions.
Individual training sessions can for soccer can be difficult to put together with only a ball and a pair of cleats.
At the same time, there are too many types of equipment to know what is worth spending hard-earned money on, and what isn’t.
To help you out, we put together a list of the most useful types of training equipment that are on the market, with in-depth descriptions of each.
We made sure that every piece of equipment will train a skill that translates to game scenarios well, to maximize the increase in your performance in matches.
All of the descriptions are based on prior experience so that you can get a grasp of their potential uses and have an easier time deciding if they are worth buying, or if there are better alternatives.
Good luck with your training!
Related Article: 6 Soccer Skills You Should Master During The Off-Season
6 Most Effective Types of Equipment For Soccer Training
Before we start the list, it is important to remember that no type of training gear will replace the hard work that is required to improve in soccer.
But what they can do, is be great tools to help you practice certain skills and techniques to increase the effectiveness of your training.
A rebounder is one of the best tools that are available on the market for soccer training.
They are predominantly used to practice passing technique, passing accuracy, and first touch.
They can be combined with pretty much every training exercise you can think of, which makes them a game-realistic tool to practice with.
Most rebounders have two main functions; to bounce the ball back flat on the ground to train passing technique, and to pop the ball in the air to practice aerial ball receptions.
Without a rebounder, a partner is generally required to practice both of these skills.
There are 3 main types of rebounders to choose from, light, heavy, and netted rebounders.
Light rebounders are generally smaller in size, and as the name suggests they are also lighter in weight.
These provide a variety of advantages, as well as a few disadvantages that you should be aware of.
- Fit in small spaces
- Small enough for indoor use
- Can move back on impact with the ball
- Smaller impact area
Portability is a great benefit because after a while it can get bothersome to pack and carry around a bulky piece of equipment when you want to practice.
Having a light rebounder eliminates this problem almost completely, because they can fit into smaller spaces, and can be moved around easily.
Another benefit is that smaller types of equipment can be used inside most garages because they take up so little space.
If the weather is too windy, it’s raining, or there are no lights at the closest field, it can be of great help to be able to practice indoors.
From my experience, the only real disadvantage of light rebounders is the fact that the rebounder can move back on impact with the ball when placed on hard surfaces.
It is really easy to solve this problem though, I usually just put my bag behind it to prevent it from moving back on impact.
In my opinion, the impact area of these rebounders should be an advantage because it makes it easy to simultaneously practice technique and accuracy.
Heavy rebounders are much larger compared to light rebounders, making them more heavy-duty.
- Larger contact area
- Better rebound (more accurate to the power you hit the ball with)
- Better quality product
- Stays in place
- More expensive
- Difficult to move around
- Doesn’t fit in small spaces/cars
There is definitely an advantage to having a heavy-duty rebounder, which is that the rebounds are accurate to the power you hit the ball with, and the rebounder doesn’t move back on impact.
Better gear can lead to higher quality practices overall, and over time this can make a huge difference.
It is a good idea to buy a heavy rebounder if you reside near a field, or the parking lot is located directly next to the field that you are training on.
This will make it less of a hassle to carry a rebounder across the field.
Netted rebounders are a balance between a heavy rebounder and a light rebounder.
They share some advantages with both, however, quality netted rebounders can cost a lot more than other types of rebounders.
- Good rebounds
- Doesn’t move on impact
- Easy to break
Most netted rebounders can be folded up so they’re easy to carry around, and they’re also really light because most are made of just rope and tubes.
They also give decent bounces, since they’re using a net to bounce the ball back.
Both of these advantages are great, but the best part of netted rebounders is the fact that they are multifunctional.
Many netted rebounders have a setting where you can use it as a juggling rebounder, so if there are no walls available to practice your touch with, netted rebounders may be your next best option.
Rebounders are by far the best tool to practice passing because it is the easiest way to use repetition to master the technique.
From my experience, I prefer the light rebounder because it is the easiest to set up, tear down and carry around.
I also have a wall near the field where I train, so I can practice juggling without a netted rebounder.
If there isn’t a wall available for practice though, I would choose a netted rebounder because they give you a really good way to practice your touch as well.
Cones are one of the best and easiest ways to improve ball skills during individual training.
There are endless cone variations to practice different types of touches on the ball while dribbling, such as inside of the foot, outside of the foot, the soles, and various cuts and turns.
Additionally, different types of cones can be used in various ways, though, it is possible to use one type for all uses.
Large cones are the best for marking an enclosed area for practice because they are large and visible from a distance.
Small cones are best when used as an obstacle to train dribbling skills because they are easily avoidable with your feet while dribbling past.
There are also agility poles, which can be around 6 ft tall and are used to train agility during dribbling.
These are great because you have to avoid them with your entire body and there is no way to cheat going around them.
I recommend using agility poles once you have got the hang of controlling the ball with all parts of your feet, that way you will see the most improvement in your agility without your dribbling skills holding you back.
Since cones can be a highly in-depth topic, I encourage you to check out our article that dives much deeper into why cone exercises are important for your soccer development.
#3: Agility Ladders
Agility ladders are another great tool that can improve skills that translate perfectly to game scenarios.
The purpose of agility ladders in soccer is to improve quickness, coordination, and balance.
Consistent practice with agility ladders will help you develop quickness with your feet, which crucially, will help you become comfortable with sharp changes of direction.
Among many things, this will make you a faster and more agile player on the pitch, helping you beat opponents with fast changes of direction and explosive bursts of acceleration.
Another benefit of agility ladders is that while they do improve your coordination, they improve your space and depth perception as well.
These two skills will translate to improving other aspects of soccer, such as ball control, dribbling, ball receptions, and any movement that requires a sense of coordination.
So training with an agility ladder is crucial because not only can it have a positive impact on your off-ball skills, but it can help you to quickly improve on-ball skills as well.
#4: Ball Bag (with soccer balls)
If I was to recommend anything on this list to buy for training, it is a ballbag full of balls.
Having many soccer balls at a session can be of great help because whenever a ball bounces away, you can get right back into the exercise by just grabbing another ball.
This can help you keep the frustration out of your mind and stay locked in, leading to a higher quality training session.
When learning a new skill or practicing something you haven’t before, having several balls can be especially helpful since you’re more likely to make a mistake and lose a ball.
But even just practicing certain skills such as long passes, crossing, or shooting, having more soccer balls available can make sessions considerably more effective, and enjoyable.
You will be able to spend less time gathering your only soccer ball every time you kick it, and a whole lot more time practicing and repeating the correct technique.
More repetitions will help you learn skills a lot faster, which is mainly why you will have a substantially more effective session.
And even if after all of these benefits it still sounds like a luxury, believe me, I felt the same way.
I wouldn’t have put it on this list if my mind hasn’t changed.
Outside of all of these benefits, the one thing that trumps all of them is that it makes sessions so much more enjoyable that it’s almost like a cheat code.
I became more confident on the pitch, simply by enjoying my training sessions and being motivated to practice more often.
Over time, confidence can compound into having a higher learning curve because you won’t have any doubt in your mind about your abilities.
And confidence is priceless for a player’s performance and development in soccer.
#5: Futsal shoes
Futsal shoes are great all around for a few reasons, which are not limited to individual sessions.
Firstly, they allow you to practice on hard surfaces such as concrete or rubber, allowing you to practice virtually anywhere you go.
This means that you do not have to travel if you don’t have a field near you, and indoor soccer becomes an option for rainy days.
Another way to look at the use of futsal shoes is that training on hard surfaces, like concrete, is very challenging given the nature of the ball.
It moves significantly faster and doesn’t slow down, testing your dribbling skills to the limit every session.
Mastering ball control on concrete will boost your skills on soft surfaces such as grass or turf, because soft surfaces allow more time between touches compared to concrete, making it easier to control the ball.
A great alternative to futsal shoes is tennis shoes or just generic running shoes.
They work just as well as futsal shoes, and you might even save some money.
#6: Weight Vest
Weight vests for training have a similar function to a parachute that is designed to hold you back while running.
They are designed to increase the intensity of conditioning workouts by providing additional resistance to movements.
The extra weight that the vest carries puts more stress on your muscles which forces the body to work harder.
The main benefit that weight vests provide for soccer players is that they increase muscle endurance as well as fitness.
I recommend using weight vests for conditioning at times in the season when you have several days off because they make conditioning sessions difficult, so it is important to recover well to be at peak performance in training and matches.
Before using weight vests it is important to know that they can highly increase the risk of injury.
The reason is that they can easily overstress the body, which can lead to muscle strain or injuries, or maybe even joint-related issues.
During my time at the MLS-Next level, to reduce the risk of injuries we were coached to ease into heavier weight by completing lighter and shorter workouts at first.
Weight vests can sound fun because they may be cool looking or just be another fun piece of equipment in your collection, but they have a fair share of drawbacks.
First and foremost, something that I didn’t even cross my mind before using weight vests, is how much wear it will have on my feet before I got used to it.
Even after a short conditioning session, my feet felt as if I had just completed a marathon.
I rarely get blisters even from cleats, but with the vest, they were pretty much unavoidable.
Bandaids will help a lot during the first few uses to help your foot get used to the stress quicker and with less pain.
I would also wear a shirt below the vest, regardless of the padding, to reduce chafing on your skin in sensitive areas.
Last but not least, I would make sure that the vest is breathable if you are planning to use it over the summer, because using it in the heat is a lot worse than you might expect.
The vest I had wasn’t very breathable so sweating didn’t help and I was only able to use it for 10-15 minutes maximum under the hot sun.
You can of course use it at a different time of the day when it’s cooler, but you never know.
There are alternatives to weight vests that exist, but they’re either more difficult to access or just don’t work as well.
The first alternative is probably the easiest to find, it is just a steep hill.
Hills have more or less the same function as a weight vest, they create extra resistance by forcing you to battle elevation while covering distance, making your workout more intense.
Treadmills with a gradient or incline setting are also similar, and they can also be used in various ways to diversify your conditioning workouts.
But they might require a gym membership and additional travel from the soccer field.
Last but not least, the equipment that resembles the weight vest the most is a parachute for running.
Instead of forcing you to carry extra weight, it uses air resistance to hold you back while running which will give the same function as the weight vest.
I’ve tried parachutes before and what I can tell you is that they do not work nearly as well as weight vests.
They take up a lot of space, are difficult to handle, and overall don’t feel as if they’re helping as much as a weight vest would.
The difference in intensity with parachutes is noticeably smaller than weight vests, so I wouldn’t recommend parachutes over weight vests.
Both the weight vest and parachute cost money, and if you end up making a purchase, I would encourage you to buy a weight vest.
Weight Vest Conclusion
With all of the drawbacks and alternatives for weight vests, it’s easy to eliminate them from your training completely.
However, I would like to emphasize that even though my experience may not have been the best, I was able to get into better shape very quickly even though I was already in match fitness.
I would definitely give this piece of equipment a try, as they can be highly beneficial for the money that they cost.
Arguably the best piece of equipment to train passing skills for soccer is a rebounder.
There are several types of rebounders, the middle ground being a netted rebounder with the most advantages and least disadvantages.
Cones, on the other hand, are the best for practicing most dribbling skills individually, which makes them a must-have in your training sessions.
Agility Ladders are one of the best and cheapest tools to improve footwork skills for soccer.
They predominantly work on coordination and balance which improve both on-ball and off-ball skills.
A Ball Bag, filled with soccer balls of course, is the best purchase you can make from this list because they make sessions more enjoyable and effective.
They save time and frustration in every session, boosting morale and giving you more touches on the ball which over time will compound into making you a better player.
Futsal Shoes are a great investment for training because they give you the ability to practice on hard surfaces, which allows you to practice indoors and challenge yourself on a faster surface.
Tennis shoes or generic running shoes work just as well as futsal shoes.
Last but not least, Weight Vests are one of the best tools for improving your fitness level, beating its alternatives in almost every way.
It eliminates travel, gym membership costs, and is the most effective piece of equipment from its competition.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Batch of Soccer Balls Ready For Practice’ by Nathan Rogers (Licensed via Unsplash)
#1: ‘Female Soccer Player Setting Up Hurdles’ by drazenphoto (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#2: ‘Female Soccer Player Training With Hurdles’ by Image-Source (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#3: ‘Using a Wall As a Rebounder’ by annvlasova (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#4: ‘Small Soccer Cones’ by ttrex (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#5: ‘Sportswoman Practicing With Agility Ladders’ by davidpereiras (Licensed via EnvatoElements)
#6: ‘Premium Nike Soccer Ballbag’ by Ambitious Creative – Rich Barrett (Licensed via Unsplash)
#7: ‘Adidas Predator Futsal Shoes’ by Fachry Zella Devandra (Licensed via Unsplash)
#8: ‘Intenza Weight Vest’ by Intenza Fitness (Licensed via Unsplash)