Every athlete knows just how important it is to warm up properly for a competitive event or match. Soccer is certainly no exception to this rule.
In this guide, we’ll be going over everything you need to know about a good soccer warm-up and teach you how to properly prepare your body for a game.
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Why Is It Important To Warm Up?
We’ve already established that warm-ups are important for soccer players, but why? What would actually happen if the players didn’t do a warm-up before the game?
Well, the answer to that question is simple: They’d get hurt!
If you’re not warmed up properly, you can easily injure yourself during a game. This is because muscles start contracting when you first begin warming up and they don’t stop until you cool down.
Warming up is the best way to improve muscle elasticity, which means you’ll avoid all the common problems of pulling or straining a muscle during the game.
The best way to avoid injuring yourself is to perform a proper warm-up routine. Aside from soccer, you should always warm-up before any physical activity or sporting event.
You might think that warming up before playing soccer is pointless since you won’t actually play for another half an hour at least.
But the truth is that even after you’ve finished playing, your muscles still continue to contract.
That’s why it’s also important to warm down after a game too. A proper warm down will help to remove the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during exercise.
This lactic acid might not do you any harm at first but could lead to long-term problems or give you some pretty bad cramps the day after a game!
Best Soccer Warm-Up Activities
Now that we understand why warm-ups are so important in soccer, let’s go over some of the best activities you can do for it.
These include stretching, light running, jumping jacks, and more.
It’s often beneficial to start a warm-up routine with some static stretches to initially relax your muscles before moving on to some more physically demanding warm-up activities.
These are some of the best stretches you can do for soccer:
- Standing quad stretch – Stand on one leg and bend your other leg behind you so that your heel is touching your butt. Use your hand to pull this leg up and stretch your quads.
- Standing lunges – Take one step about a yard in front of you with one leg, keeping your trailing leg in the same place. Then, stretch forward until your trailing knee touches the floor, but don’t rest it on the floor. Then, stand back up and repeat with the other leg.
- Opening/closing the gate – Start by lifting one knee up to roughly waist height in front of you. Then, keeping it at the same height, move it round to the side of your body. Repeat this with each leg a few times, then perform the motion backward, mimicking the motion of a closing gate.
- Upper body rotations – With your feet a shoulder-width apart, bring your elbows up to shoulder height, either side of your body. Then, simply twist the top half of your body to either side while keeping your feet and the lower half of your body still.
These warm-up activities will get you moving as well as stretch your muscles.
These types of warm-ups are much better than static stretches because it prepares your body for the high levels of movement you’ll be performing during the game.
To set up some dynamic warm-up activities, it’s often a good idea to set up two cones or markers on the field, about 30-40 feet apart.
Here are some dynamic warm-up activities you and your team can try before a soccer game:
- Shuttle runs – Have everyone stand in a line behind one cone. Then, one after another, each player will sprint from one cone to the other and walk back to join the back of the line again.
- High skips – Just like it sounds, skip from one cone to the other, then walk back to where you started. The only difference is that you should try to skip as high as you can with each stride, driving your knee up as you do.
- Backward jogging – Simply jog backward, from one cone to the other, then walk back to where you started.
- High knees – This exercise is similar to high skips but instead of skipping, take regular steps from one cone to the other. Of course, you should still try to drive your knees up with each stride.
- Side-step runs – For this exercise, side-step from one cone to the other and try to keep a fluid, rhythmic motion as you do. After each set, switch the direction you face so that your body gets evenly warmed up with the exercise.
- Samba steps – This one takes a little bit of practice to get used to but we promise it’s not actually that hard! Facing sideways, place one foot forward, then place your trailing foot forward, going around the back of your leading leg. Then, swing your new trailing leg around the front of your new leading leg. Repeat this process to move from one cone to the other while rotating the top half of your body to maintain balance. This exercise is really great for warming up your whole body at once, despite the confusing movements.
Soccer Warm-Up Games
At this point, we’ve relaxed and loosened our muscles to the point that we should be able to exercise without risk of injury.
However, before a soccer game, it’s important to get used to the feel of kicking the ball and understand how the playing surface feels under your cleats.
That’s why the next step of the warm-up process is to perform some soccer-specific games on your own or with your teammates.
Here are some of the best soccer warm-up games you can do before a game:
- Juggling – It might seem quite simple but just juggling the ball for a couple of minutes during the warm-up is a good way to get your body accustomed to the feeling of kicking a ball. All you have to do is repeatedly kick the ball to keep it in the air. You can even get a teammate involved and try to pass the ball to each other without letting it hit the floor.
- Dribbling slalom – Set up a series of cones in a straight line, with about 2 feet between each. Then, simply dribble a ball around these cones in slalom, as quickly as possible. This will help you get a feel for dribbling on the playing surface and force you to move your feet quickly.
- Crossbar challenge – This game is good for getting used to weighting your long passes properly. From the edge of the penalty area, try to kick the ball to hit the crossbar of the goal. You can make this game easier or harder by moving closer to or further away from the goal if you want.
- Shooting drill – With this game, you can help both the attackers and goalkeeper warm up simultaneously. Have the attackers stand in a line outside the penalty area. The first player in the line passes the ball to someone standing on the edge of the penalty area, who then lays the ball off in front of the attacker. The attacker can then only take one touch to control the ball before shooting against the goalkeeper. Repeat so that everyone has a few tries at this game.
- El rondo – This is one of the most effective warm-up games that managers at the professional level of soccer all use. A few players stand in a circle and pass the ball quickly to each other while one player in the middle of the circle attempts to intercept the passes or tackle a player who takes too long. This game covers all the areas of ball control, defending, and quick thinking that will help you to get prepared for a game. Of course, you can adjust the numbers of players as you like and even have multiple defenders in the middle of the circle.
Warming up is an important part of preparing for any sport. Soccer is no different, and the more time you spend warming up the better you’ll be when you play the actual game, and the less likely you will be to get injured.