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The Warm - Up

The 3 main reasons why the warm-up is essential is to protect against injury, to improve the body efficiency and to practise and improve performance...

Here are some basic guidelines for warm-up...

  • Warm up the whole body to raise muscle and blood temperature.
  • Gently stretch the muscles and connective tissue.
  • Ensure the warm up is directly related to the activity to follow.
  • Adapt the warm-up to suit each individual.
  • Work at an appropriate intensity for a sufficient duration to prepare the body without inducing undue fatigue.
  • The time lag between warm-up and competition or training should be kept to a minimum.


An effective warm-up results in: 

Increased Performance. Muscles can produce energy much faster when they are warm.

Decreased risk of injury. A cold muscle is stiff and rigid. This means the muscle finds it difficult to contract quickly. Sudden forceful movements may create more tension than a muscle can control. This results in a muscle strain.

A good warm-up routine can also provide an opportunity to practise key skills and enable players to focus mentally on the session ahead.

How long should the warm-up be? 

The muscles take about 10 minutes to reach a steady temperature. Therefore your warm-up should be at least this long. However, it can vary depending on the weather - it takes a shorter time on a hot day and longer on a cold day. A resting muscle will never be warmed up whatever the temperature, so you should always perform some warm-up exercises. It can help to wear protective clothing during warm-up.

Muscle temperature reduces rapidly when the exercise is stopped. If you do a 15 minute warm-up 20-30 minutes before kick-off, the benefits gained during warm-up may be lost by the time the match starts. If the break is short (e.g. 5 minutes), the loss in muscle temperature can be regained by performing some exercises on the field immediately before kick-off.

What intensity should warm-up be? 

Exercise intensity at the start of warm-up should be low, increasing gradually as the warm-up progresses. Final exercise intensity during warm-up should match the intensity of the match or training.

The first exercises should use the larger muscles without any explosive or sudden movements. Once the muscle has been warmed up slightly, you should go through a light stretching routine. Initially hold these stretches for a relatively short time period. As the warm-up progresses, stretches can be held for longer.


What activities can I do in warm-up? 

You should try to do part of the warm-up on your own. This may be an ideal time to use imagery or mental rehearsal in order to help prepare psychologically for the match. Strike a balance between individual and team activities. You may want to start with simple individual exercises and build through the warm-up to team exercises of high intensity that simulate match situations

An important part of the pre-match warm-up should involve some work with a ball so that you have a feel for the ball and pitch prior to the match.Whatever tasks you choose should technically easy in order to maintain exercise intensity at a high level. If you keep stopping and starting you will lose the physical value of the warm-up.

Warming Up 

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, stretching exercises promote agility. Any warm-up program should gradually raise the heart rate, and stretch and warm the muscles.

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).

Warm Down 

A training session or match should ideally be followed by a warm-down session consisting of jogging and stretching. Light recovery exercise will help to remove lactic acid more effectively from the muscles this reducing stiffness and fatigue.


A Sample Stretching Routine
Stretches are most effective (and less likely to cause injury) when the muscles are already warmed-up. An increase in core body temperature increases the pliability of muscles and tendons. It takes about 5 minutes of moderate exercise to raise the core body temperature. Therefore, before you begin the stretching routine, let the players do a pass-and-move type exercise or some other football drill of moderate intensity involving continuous motion.

The reason to stretch pre-adolescent athletes is to begin good training habits. Therefore, emphasis should be placed upon developing a consistent routine, rather than which individual stretches are performed. Although the order of stretching is probably not very important, establishing a consistent routine (i.e., doing the same stretches in the same order each practice) is important.

Joint Rotations (3 minutes)
Begin the routine with some simple, slow joint rotations:

Ankles and Knees:
hands on knees; knees bent; rotate knees in a circle in one direction 5 times; repeat in the opposite direction

stand straight; hands on hips; rotate hips in exaggerated fashion in a circle in one direction 5 times; repeat in the opposite direction

stand straight; lock hands in front of body; bring hands forward so they touch the chest; use arms to twist body in one direction (try to look at something behind you and hold the position for 5 seconds); repeat in the opposite direction;

stand straight; Right arm extended straight up and Left arm at side; rotate arm in a circle in one direction 5 times; then repeat in the opposite direction; repeat for Left arm/shoulder

stand straight; rotate head in exaggerated fashion in a circle in one direction 5 times; then repeat in the opposite direction
Lower Extremities (5 minutes)
Since it is the muscles of the lower extremities that are more commonly injured in football, focus the remainder of the stretches on the following leg muscles: calf, thigh (quadriceps, adductors and hamstrings), and the hips. All of the muscles can be stretched while in a standing position (there is no need, therefore, for players to get on the ground). Players should be instructed to bend only to a point where they feel their muscle being stretched (if the stretch becomes painful, they have bent too far).

Lunge (stretches calf muscles of the front leg and the quads of the rear leg)
Stand straight up and extend (lunge) the right foot forward as far as possible. The toes of both feet need to be pointed forward. Bend the right knee slightly while keeping the truck upright. The left heel needs to stay on the ground. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with left foot extended.

Toe Touch (stretches hamstrings)
Stand straight up with feet shoulder width apart and the toes of both feet pointed forward. Bend forward and touch toes (if a player cannot touch her toes with the knees unbent, let her bend her knees first and then slowly straighten her legs as much as possible). Hold for 15 seconds.
Stand straight up with feet double shoulder width apart and the toes of both feet pointed forward. Bend forward and touch the ground between the legs. Hold for 15 seconds.
Stand straight up with feet double shoulder width apart and the toes of both feet pointed forward. Bend to the right and try to touch the right foot with both hands. Hold for 15 seconds. Straighten up. Repeat for left side.

Groin Stretch (stretches adductors and quads)
Stand straight up with feet double shoulder width apart and the toes of both feet pointed forward. Keeping the right leg straight, bend the left knee and try to sit on the left heel. Hold for 15 seconds. Straighten up. Repeat for left side.

Standing Quad Stretch (stretches quads)
Stand straight up. Put left hand on a partner's shoulder. Grab the right ankle with the right hand (NB: many people prefer to teach players to use the opposite hand, which is more likely to keep the player's knees together and avoid stressing the knee joint) and pull upwards toward the buttock, keeping the knees together, the hips rotated forward, the trunk fully upright and the standing foot pointed forward. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat for left side.


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