These questions are the firsts when a kid begins to play soccer. If we ask a player why he/she usually warms up it’s probable that he/she doesn’t know the answer. I’m used to talking with players about warm up and realizing that they don’t understand the necessity of a warm-up before a training session or a competition. Even when they get older, they know that the warm-up is mandatory, but they don’t know why it is so important.
My main objective here is to clarify everything related to the warm-up.
Before starting, let’s define warm-up:
It is a combination of exercise performed any physical activity, whose main purpose is to prepare our body physically and mentally to perform at a maximum level reducing risk of injuries.
So the first question is, why do we warm-up? And it is related to the second question, is it necessary?
To answer these questions we have to think about warming up in two different ways:
- As a physical process
- As a social process
As a physical process:
We need to prepare the body for what is coming next (training session or match). To prepare it, we have to know what the activity will require from our bodies.
A training session will demand from our body that:
- Our heart rate increases (it depends on ages but it will fluctuate from 120 to 180 beats per minute). This is the way the body uses to transport energy and oxygen to our muscles.
- Our lungs are prepared to get as much oxygen as possible, so we can run faster and longer. It means that our breathing cycles are going to increase substantially.
- Our joints are lubricated so they allow fast and precise movements. We need to move quickly, a lubricated joint will facilitate it.
- Our nervous system is activated so we can move and activate muscles properly. The nervous system sends orders to our arms and legs when to move and how to do it.
- Our nervous system is ready to direct precise skills with or without the ball.
- Our muscles get extensible and elastic so we can move in all our range of motion easily. A muscle works better and easier when it has been prepared to do this. We only have to imagine ourselves trying to sprint just when we get out of bed.
- Our muscles are ready to contract quickly and strongly to produce great amounts of power.
All these reasons together will help us to improving our performance, but moreover, it will help us to prevent from injuries. In fact, one of the reasons described in a large number of scientific studies that cause sport injuries is an incorrect or an absence of a warm-up.
As a social process:
We usually relate warm to physiological reasons, but a warm up is more than that. Warming up helps players to concentrate and get focused. <<Click To Tweet This Awesome Quote>> It’s a period of time when players start to think about the session or the match that is coming after. It also helps to activate social relations between teammates, something very important for the performance of the team. As we saw in a previous post one of the most important reasons of a team performance is the relationships created among players and the decisions they take during a game.
As we understand soccer, it’s not only about technical skills or physical capacities. It has to be more about tactical concepts (as a team and as an individual) and reading the flow of the game. It’s like learning how to read Egyptian scripts, we have to know the meaning of each picture but, moreover, we have to translate this to understandable sentences.
Right now, we understand why we should warm up. But this is not enough!
Now we need to know how to perform a correct warm up.
If we want to do it correctly, first we have to know that there are different stages.
- Cardiovascular activation
- Stretching and joint mobility
- Proprioception plus muscle activation and reaction
- Passing and general skills
So let´s Go With a Step by Step Guide to do a Correct Match Warm Up.
*The vídeos are cut to show just the specific part.
1. Cardiovascular activation
The objective in this stage is to raise our heart rate, to make our blood run and to increase our body temperature. It generally consists of a slow running around the pitch or from side to side for a few minutes.
2. Stretching and joint mobility
After raising our body temperature, we look for our maximum mobility in our joints. To get this use have to work in two different ways. First, we will perform active mobility that helps us to work in all of our range of motion so we can move through it easily. The usual joints we work on are neck, shoulders, low back, hip, knees and ankles. Goalkeepers keep an eye on wrists, elbows and fingers too.
The stretching routine is not done to improve our range of motion. It is done to prepare our muscles to receive that kind of tensions. They are done both static and dynamic. For static stretching, we maintain the position for 6-8seconds (no more than 10 seconds). If we stretch statically longer than 15 seconds, we take the risk of decreasing our muscles performance. For dynamic stretching, first we perform them slowly to progress gradually in velocity, trying to move all the range of motion.
It usually takes 5 minutes to get everything done.
3. Proprioception, muscle activation and reaction
At this point we focus on our nervous system, we want to be sure that it works properly and it will transmit our decisions as quick and as precise as possible. Our proprioception system helps us to maintain our balance and to prevent from joint injuries.
We can prepare a ladder drill or some exercise combining jumping, changes of direction and running technique.
This task will not take longer than 5minutes.
Stretching and proprioception exercises are usually performed by all group together, sometimes in a circle position or sometimes in two rows.
4. Passing and general skills
Here is where the ball becomes the main character. Usually performed in pairs or groups of three, players pass the ball in all the possible ways they can. It helps them to get used to the ball, control it, run with it, pass it, and dribble with it. The progression consists in beginning with short passes to progress to long passes and shooting.
After this exercise there’s a group exercise that consist in a 4v4 or 5v5 in a small space. This is a mid-intensity exercise that makes the player think, decide and move fast to keep the ball for his team, or to recuperate it.
This exercise also helps to reinforce social relationships among players that will be necessary later during the activity.
These tasks don’t take more than 10 minutes.
This is the last exercise before the competition or the main part of the training session. What we want to accomplish is to get sure that our body will respond to quick movements from short-time decisions.
Usually all players in circle or in two rows, they have to perform what the coach says as fast as possible. All the commands said by the coach will be easy to follow and short tasks because we want our players to do it correctly and quickly, and we don’t want to exhaust them.
It takes around 2 or 3 minutes to be done.
To summarize, a warm up is composed by 5 different stages each of them with a specific purpose, and it shouldn’t take longer than 25-30minutes to be done.
Here we have a typical warm-up session before a match:
- Running around half field three times
- In a circle, joints mobilizations from head to feet.
- Dynamic mobility, slow movements (shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankles).
- Static stretching of Iliopsoas, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Adductors and Calves (5-10 seconds each and 1-2 sets).
- Dynamic mobility (& stretching), fast movements. The same muscles and joints as before.
- Jumping and landing with 1 foot, in the same place, jumping forward, both sides, backwards and multiple jumps.
- Start and stop runs, in different directions.
- In pairs or groups of three short and long passes. Practicing different control and passes skills.
- 4v4+2jokers (one in each side). Try to get the ball from one side to the other
- 5-6 sprints and reaction exercises. For example, knees up and when we say, sprint in straight line for 5 meters.
And some rewards for you 😉
I’m sure that you have perfectly understood my post but to be sure of it, here you have some links with FC Barcelona warm up videos that will clarify all the explanation I’ve done previously.
This is another example of a warm up (a little bit different of what I explained to you) proposed by UEFA. This warm up doesn’t take into consideration group exercises and reactivity.
And the last one is a warm up that I didn’t explained but it is worth to watch it, considering that the main character is Maradona!!!
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Writed with Love by:
Jordi Escura, Cofounder and Phisycall Development Director coach of Barcelona Soccer Excellence
-International soccer player with Andorra National Team
-RCD Espanyol (Spanish first division) Physiotherapist
-UEFA A Licensed Soccer Coach.
-Sport Science & Physiotherapist College Professor
-UEFA PRO Soccer Coaching Degree Professor
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BARCELONA SOCCER EXCELLENCE is a soccer academy founded by professional players and coaches with vast experience and expertise instructing younger players, as well as a past related with FC Barcelona youth teams.