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HOW TO WARM UP
 
INTRODUCTION
 

The warm-up session is an extremely important part of the training process. This article describes the structure of the session and the individual components. The diagram below outlines the major steps involved in the process and these are discussed further on in the article. The difference between training and match warm-ups is also discussed.

 
GENERAL WARM-UP
 

Firstly, it should be mentioned that the duration and intensity of the warm-up session must be adjusted according to the environmental temperature and conditions. For example, if the temperature is hot and humid then less time will be needed to heat up the muscles. Also, the period between the warm-up and the training session/game should be extremely short or at worst a few minutes in length. If this period is greater, the benefits of the warm-up will be reduced. This is important as well during the half-time period where players should not be allowed to get cold.

The general warm-up includes gentle rhythmic exercise followed by static stretching.

Gentle rhythmic exercise - 5-10 minutes slow jogging, half spent dribbling with ball, half without. Also, the larger muscle groups can be warmed by 2-3 minutes of standing exercises such as gently rotating arms/hips forwards, sideways and backwards and running on the spot with gradual gentle high knee lifts. Try as well to include skipping, side jogging and running backwards.

Static stretching - 10 second stretch for the calfs, hamstrings, lower back, hip, groin, side, stomach, shoulder and arms. Muscles should only be stretched to the point of mild tension (Please note that illustrated diagrams on how to stretch as well as general information on stretching/flexibility will soon be available in the Fitness section of the site).
 
SOCCER SPECIFIC WARM-UP
 

Although soccer is a game requiring a high level of fitness, good technique is all important. Thus, the soccer specific part of the warm-up should include lots of activity with the ball. The general warm-up has prepared the players for such ball work and it is up to the coach to decide the content and order in which the soccer specific section takes place. The following is an example of what can follow the static stretching session.

Technique work: 3-5 minutes of practising the basic techniques, passing, control, juggling... At no time should the player stretch for a loose ball as he may risk pulling a muscle.

Specific running/jumping drills: 5 runs of 30 metres where the players steadily reach 3/4 maximal speed (jogging in-between runs). The players can alternate these runs with and without the ball. Follow this with jogging and several high jumps in the air (also useful for keepers).

Specific stretching (Ballistic & PNF) - The Ballistic type of stretching must be undertaken only if the player is comfortably warmed-up and the coach must use their experience and judgement whether to include it as recent evidence argues against the use of this type of stretching. The player undertakes 5 controlled swinging stretching movements for the desired muscles (resting 10-20 seconds between each repetition). PNF stretching involves the use of something to work against such as a partner or an apparatus. Perform the desired PNF technique 5 times for a 10-30 sec duration for each given muscle group (resting 10-20 seconds between each repetition).

If the coach does not want to use these particular stretching techniques, he can ask players to repeat their static stretching exercises but this time encouraging them to stretch a little bit further and for a little bit longer (20-30 secs) whilst emphasising safety and good technique.

Group warm-up 1 - Players are placed in groups of 6 and small passive 5 minute games played in pre-marked areas. The aim is to keep possession but no hard physical contact (e.g. tackling) should be permitted.

Running drills 2 - 10 short maximum sprints (15m) involving stops and changes of direction. Try using cones to run through and around.

Group warm-up 2 - Same as the first group warm-up but under realistic game conditions.

 
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRE-MATCH & PRE-TRAINING WARM-UPS
 

Both the pre-match and training warm-ups should follow the same guidelines mentioned earlier. However, the pre-match warm-up should continue right until the kick-off although this is not always possible in professional football where players often return to the dressing room. When returning to the pitch, players should try to perform activities to regain muscle temperature (if they feel they have gone "cold"). The same goes for the half-time match period. Furthermore, the warm-up routine must be systematically employed by players before every match to ensure correct preparation.

The warm-up session is also a good moment for each player to prepare psychologically and to get a feel of the ball. Overall, 15 minutes should be spent on individual or personal warm-ups, then 10 minutes for the team as a whole and finally another 5-10 minutes for each player to prepare by themselves (personal technique, further stretches, motivation etc.).

Training can often be regarded as being tedious by certain players who become less and less motivated. Thus, warm-up programs should be planned well ahead and made as creative and stimulating as possible. This is the only real difference between training and match day. As mentioned earlier, the majority of the warm-up session before training should be undertaken with the ball to ensure that players are stimulated and want to participate.

 
CONCLUSION
 

In this article we have looked at warm-up procedures. Players undertaking such procedures will be less at risk to injury and better prepared for matches and training. The session must be built up slowly and systematically and the players should above all enjoy it ! As well the coach should make sure that the players know how to prepare themselves and employ the required warming-up techniques. He can also use this moment to encourage and talk to players.

To return to the warm-up and cool down menu click here.