The Soccer Warm Up

A good soccer warm up meets three important objectives…

  1. Decreases the risk of injury.
  2. Increases agility, skill, power and performance.
  3. Allows players to mentally prepare and focus on the game or session at hand.

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?

Soccer Warm Up Activites and Intensity

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.

Duration of the Soccer Warm Up

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.

Sample Soccer Warm Up Drills

Group Drill #1
This is a good drill to start a session off and makes a change from simply running widths of the pitch.

  1. Have the team make a circle about 20 yards in diameter (roughly the size of the center circle).
  2. They should be be arms width apart from the player to their left and right. Place a cone in the center of the circle.
  3. Have the players jog in together to the cone then jog backwards to the outer edge of the circle.
  4. Vary the runs to the center – high knees, heel flicks, sidestepping, lunge strides, hop on one leg etc. Keep the intensity light.

Group Drill #2
This drill can be used in the middle or towards the end of the soccer warm up.

  1. With a group of 6-8 players split them into 2 smaller groups of 3-4 players.
  2. Both groups stand in a line facing each other about 10 yards apart (see below).
  3. The player at the front of group A passes the ball and follows his/her pass to run to the back of group B.
  4. The player at the front of group B who receives the ball then passes to the next player in group A and follows his/her pass to run to the back of group A and so on.
  5. Each player should focus on a good first touch, an accurate pass and then an immediate sprint to the back of the opposite group.
  6. Gradually close the gap between groups until it is just 1 yard apart. Players literally will have one touch and they must quickly get into position for the next pass.
  7. You can also lengthen the gap to 20-30 yards and have the players run with ball half way before passing and sprinting to the back of the opposite group.

Group Drill #3
This drill is useful towards the end of a soccer warm up.

  1. Have the team make a circle about 20 yards in diameter (roughly the size of the center circle).
  2. Four players get into 2 pairs and stand in the center of the circle.
  3. One pair is nominated attackers the other pair are defenders.
  4. The attacking pair start with the ball. They must keep possession between themselves while the defending pair try to intercept the ball.
  5. The attackers can use the outside players (who should be alert and ready to receive) to pass to.
  6. The objective is for the 4 players in the center to work hard – moving and closing down for 90 seconds. Change to another 4 players every 60-90 seconds.

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.