The soccer warm-up before the start of a football match or training session only takes a few minutes. The warm-up can avoid serious injury, and the stretching exercises promote agility. If you pull a hamstring or get a back injury, you can be out of soccer for months, and often such injuries are avoidable. The reasons for the warm-up are to avoid injury, and to be able to play at your peak right from the starting whistle. At the same time, the stretching exercises promote agility. Any warm-up program should gradually raise the heart rate, and stretch and warm the muscles. This article is extracted from Soccer Academy , our interactive football coaching software .
Before you start, there are some important points regarding all of these warm-up exercises. Your movements should be smooth, not jerky. Don’t over stretch. Slight pain is normal; you should feel the muscle stretch. However, you should not feel any severe or stabbing pains. If you do, stop immediately. Breath normally during these exercises as there is no need to hold your breath during the stretch. Repeat each stretch several times, and hold for several seconds (5-10 seconds is a useful guide).
Soccer Warm-up For Ages 13+
Start your soccer warm-up with some gentle exercise, such as jogging. The aim is to raise the heart rate to around 120 beats per minute. Then perform some gentle stretches, holding for about 5s. The following is a sample stretching program, which illustrates the idea of working each of the major muscle groups. There are many alternative stretching programs that you could use instead of this one. The important point is to check that each of the muscle groups is being exercised.
Loosen your ankles by lifting the right leg and rotating your foot clockwise, and then anticlockwise for several seconds. Repeat with the left leg. Here are two exercises for stretching your calves. Keeping your right foot firmly on the ground, and you right leg straight, take a stride forward with your left leg and bend your left knee. You should feel your right calf stretch. Repeat for the left calf. Alternatively, cross your legs, and keeping your legs together, bend over at the hips, and put your arms behind your back calf. Try to touch the ground. Repeat for the other calf. Now stretch the hamstrings. Sit down on the ground with both legs stretched out together in front of you. Bend over and try to touch your toes. Then with your legs apart, touch the toes of each leg in turn. Alternatively, you can try this exercise standing up. The groin stretch is to stand with your feet apart, and bend one knee whilst facing forwards to stretch the opposite groin. Keep your back straight, and adjust your weight until you feel your groin stretch. A simple quadriceps stretch is to stand on one foot, grab the other foot with your hand, and bend your leg back until your foot touches your bottom. It’s important with this exercise to keep your back straight as you stretch. This completes the lower body warm up.
The stomach can be stretched as follows. Lie down with your hands by your shoulders in the press-up position. Instead of doing a press-up, lift your waist off the ground using your stomach muscles, and repeat several times. Note that this is just a warm-up for the stomach. Use sit-ups or weights to develop the stomach muscles. Stand up straight with your legs apart and muscles relaxed. Put your hands on your hips, and swing clockwise with your hips in a circular motion. Repeat going anticlockwise. Try to achieve a smooth rolling motion. Now the sides: Put your arms straight above your head, and bring your hands together. In a large arc, move your hands down to your left foot, and then over your head to your right foot. Bend your right arm behind your back, over the right shoulder. Bring your left hand to your right shoulder. You should feel your right arm stretch. Repeat for the left arm. To stretch your back, put your hands together, keep your legs apart, bend at your waist and stretch your hands out in front of you. Don’t attempt to touch the ground. Next bring your arms behind your back, keeping them together, and stretch backwards. Finally, you can loosen your neck by bringing your chin to your left shoulder, rotating your head to look up to the sky, then bring your chin to your right shoulder, and then look down to the floor. The aim is to rotate the head in a gentle, circular motion.
Continue the warm-up with more vigorous activity, and complete a second round of the stretching program. This time stretch a little more and hold for about 10s. Each player has his own preference how to warm-up for the game, but the basic idea of the activity is to get the circulation going so that you are not starting the game cold. Examples include jogging around the pitch, jogging on the spot, bicycle kicks, and running with high knees. It’s a good idea to pass the ball around between teammates to get a few touches of the ball before the match starts. Some players like to juggle the ball on their own before the game.
The recommended Football Association warm-up and most professional team warm-ups include a third stage of more vigorous activity and longer hold stretches. The objectives are to raise the heart rate to 160 - 200 bpm (beats per minute), and to make sure that the muscles are ready for the game. If you have the time and commitment, this is a good idea. However, if you are new to a stretching program, be careful not to overdo the warm-up. This phase consists of stretches with holds of about 15s duration, and some short sprints or similar exercise to raise the heart rate.
Gentle stretches after a match or strenuous practise helps to reduce stiffness and aids recovery.
Warm-up for Ages 10-12
A short 10 minute warm-up is all that is necessary, and over-stretching at this age can even be harmful. Perform the first phase of the adult warm-up consisting of jogging followed by one round of gentle stretching with 5s holds. Follow this with a few minutes practising ball control skills.
Warm-up for Ages Under 10
Stretching exercises are not necessary, and the warm-up need only be very brief. Some jogging, swinging of the arms, twists of the hips or other movements to loosen up will suffice.