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Soccer Warm Up Exercises
Why Warm up?
Warming up as the term implies, does mean, warming the body in preparation for physical activity. Muscles and joints will perform better when warm and you will be less susceptible to injury.
Warming up doesn't just mean stretching. Stretching should be part of the warm up and something that follows a gentle activity that actually warms the body up. There have been various studies and research on the benefits of stretching and whether or not it has any benefit in helping to reduce injuries. The general consensus however, is that it has some benefit and I believe that the whole process of warming the body up and stretching does not only have physical benefits but it also has some mental benefits in helping the individual prepare mentally for the game or activity ahead.
How to Warm up?
For soccer training and matches, I like to get my players to do some gentle jogging and running with various drills that help get muscles and body warm. This part of the warm up can last from 4 minutes to 10 minutes, depending upon the time we have, the activity that will follow and the temperature. Here is an example of this part of the warm up.
Once the running section of the warm up is completed, we start some gentle stretching. There are three main types of stretching:
Static stretching is what we should use to start with. This means holding a stretch for around 15-20 seconds, while holding the stretch, don't bounce and don't force the stretch. I suggest, starting at the bottom of your legs and then move up:
- lower back
We then move onto some dynamic stretches, which take the body through the types of movement that it would do during the activity. For soccer this means, leg swings, front and back, as well as across the body. These can be done standing up, using a partner to lean on, or as part of some running drills.
PNF stretches, tend to be used more to get extra flexibility and is common with gymnasts and martial artists who need exceptional flexibility. I don't like to use these stretches with youth players as they require a lot of supervision and there is the risk of over stretching and possible injury.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted. This type of stretching is done with partners. Where the partner assists the person who is stretching by holding and then pushing a bit to get more of stretch.
If playing a match then some short sprints should be done to get the body and mind working sharper, followed by ball work, otherwise follow with the training session.