A good soccer warm up meets three important objectives...
A cold muscle is stiff and rigid. Sudden twisting, turning and stretching can place greater tension on muscles and connective tissue than they can handle...
Warming up and stretching the active muscles in soccer can decrease the risk of strains, sprains and muscle tears.
Muscles can also produce energy faster when they are warm. This can affect speed and power, not to mention the ability to perform complex skills and movements with accuracy and precision.
By also practising some short, sharp drills, an effective soccer warm up can get players into the right state of "readiness" right from the kick off. How often do teams and individual players take 15 minutes or so to get into the pace of a game?
Even if you are warming up for a training session, it's good idea to follow a set warm up routine.
Also bear in mind that a resting muscle is never warmed up no matter what the outside temperature! It takes physical activity to achieve the desired outcome.
So what does an effective soccer warm up consist of?
Include some light, general aerobic exercise - jogging, skipping, running backwards, side stepping etc. at the start. Avoid explosive movements at this stage and any sudden turning and twisting actions.
You can then move onto to some light stretches...
Focus on the groins, hamstrings, quads and calves. Try doing some dynamic stretches first - making circles with the arms and ankles, gently kicking the air as if to kick a ball, turning from side to side at waist and so on.
Progress to static stretching exercise holding each stretch for 10 seconds or so.
Prior to a match these light, general warm up activities should become more soccer specific...
Short sprints, some twisting and turning movements and jumping should start to feature. It's also a good idea to add a ball or two. The emphasis however, is still on the physical component (rather then touch and skill).
A ball is not necessary if you are simply warming up for a training session.
Some skill work and passing drills can follow as intensity drops for a few minutes. This is when players should as focus as much on mentally preparing as physically warming up.
A soccer warm up should finish with some demanding drills that mirror the intensity of a competitive game...
Keeping this section short (5 minutes at most) won't tire the players for the game but it will kick start their body's ability to buffer and remove lactic acid.
So many players (especially in the company of team mates) immediately start shooting at goal, jumping for crosses, and kicking the ball long across field as soon as they step on the pitch.
Shooting and kicking long requires a maximal force of contraction and a wide range of movement. In short...
Shooting repetitively at goal before warming up is a sure-fire way to pull or strain something. If you're a coach it's a good idea to keeps soccer balls hidden until the latter stages of the warm up.
Before a match a good 10-15 minutes is required at least. Although anything longer than 20 minutes can become too depleting on the body's energy reserves.
If the warm up is for a training session, 10 minutes is fine - maybe 15 minutes on particularly cold days.
Makes sure the end of the warm up is close to kick off...
Talking tactics for 20-30 minutes for example, will cause warm muscles to cool almost completely. Keep the break after a warm up to 5 minutes and then just prior to kick off, do some knees to chest, skipping or 5 yard sprints etc.
Group Drill #1
This is a good drill to start a session off and makes a change from simply running widths of the pitch.
Group Drill #2
This drill can be used in the middle or towards the end of the soccer warm up.
Group Drill #3
This drill is useful towards the end of a soccer warm up.
With a group of more than 12 players, it is better to split them in to 2 smaller groups. In this case only 2 players go in the center and must work together to dispossess the players on the outer edge of the circle who have the ball.
It's fairly easy to design your own soccer warm up. Be creative. Change the drills to keep it fresh.