How to Warm Up (and Cool Down) for Soccer

Soccer players are a unique set of athletes. Our warm-ups might look slightly different from other sports, but the fundamental principles remain the same: warm your muscles and increase your heart rate before heading out onto the field.

To warm up for soccer, start by activating your muscles. A light jog followed by dynamic stretching is standard. Upper and lower body dynamic stretches should be utilized. After that, incorporate a ball into the warm-up and do passing drills with a partner or dribble through sets of cones.

Read on to discover more about how to warm up for soccer and why it’s important. Conversely, I’ll cover the importance of cooldowns.

How should you warm up for soccer?

Warming up for a soccer game or practice is an important part of staying healthy and avoiding injuries. You can warm up with or without a soccer ball; just make sure your body is ready for intense exercise.

Warm up for soccer by starting with a light jog and dynamic stretching to activate lower and upper body muscle groups. Soccer players should warm up with and without the ball. Before games, you should try to get 20-30 minutes of on-the-ball warm-ups after 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching.

Begin the warm-up without a ball and focus on warming up your muscles. Start with a jog and slowly incorporate different movements into your warm-up. After your muscles are warm and your heart rate has increased, you can begin warming up with a soccer ball.

If you have teammates or a partner around, you can do short passing drills as the first ball-included warm-up. If you’re by yourself, try juggling or playing wallball after your initial warm-up.

Avoid shooting drills before properly warming up — as a striker myself, I know how it feels to have to refrain from shooting the ball on the net before I start my dynamic stretching but trust me, your muscles will thank you.

How long should a soccer warm-up last?

Your soccer warm-up should last long enough that your body and muscles are ready for intense use. You should be able to start the training or match feeling ready to give it your all.

A soccer warm-up can last between 10-20 minutes. Training warm-ups can be shorter because you generally aren’t exhibiting all of your effort and energy throughout the 45-90 minute session. For games, an initial warm-up of dynamic stretching can last 10-15 minutes with added time to warm up with the ball.

Training warm-ups are shorter to allow for more time spent on the technical aspects of practice. Compared to a game, training sessions are less intense and require shorter warm-up times.

However, if the training session requires greater physical demands, it’s best to warm up thoroughly regardless of the amount of time it takes.

Different ways to warm up for soccer

There are different ways to approach a warm-up for soccer. The most important aspect of the warm-up is getting your muscles ready for a physically demanding training or game.

Different ways to warm up for soccer include:

  • Dynamic stretching
  • Static stretching
  • Agility drills
  • Small-sided drills
  • Wallball
  • Juggling

The first thing you should do for a soccer warm-up is dynamic stretching. Static stretching can be done in short intervals after dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching is different than static stretching in that it incorporates muscle movements into the stretches and puts them through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretching prepares your body and muscles for any movements you might make during training or a game.

Other warm-ups like dribbling with a ball and short passes with a teammate are efficient for warming up your muscles and sharpening your skills before the session.

Should you use a soccer ball during your warm-up?

As I mentioned above, the first thing you should do for a soccer warm-up is at least 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching. After that, it’s up to you if you want to get some touches on the ball.

You should use a soccer ball during a warm-up for a game. This lets you get a feel for the ball and practice shooting, passing, and dribbling before you do it in the game. For training, warming up with a ball is not always necessary.

If a training session is designed to review tactics and there is not any running or playing involved, then an on-the-ball warm-up (or any warm-up) isn’t necessary.

Do kids need to warm up for soccer?

Children’s bodies are different than grown-ups’ bodies. Children can often transition from not moving to then moving at 100% in the blink of an eye. However, it’s good to get in the habit of warming up.

Kids should warm up before playing soccer. Warming up helps prevent injuries and it creates good habits for the future when warming up their muscles becomes more integral to the workout process.

Try to start with a fun activity like handball or sharks and minnows to encourage their participation in the warm-up. Ideally, a child should partake in dynamic stretching before a game or practice.

How to warm up for soccer by yourself

Warming up for soccer by yourself is not much different than doing it in a team environment. The basics remain true.

Warm up for soccer alone with 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching. Then, warm up with wallball, juggling, or dribbling before moving on to the rest of your training.

Regardless of if you’re with a team or not, it’s important to prepare your body for an intense workout.

Why is a soccer warm-up important?

Warm-ups are important for any sport or exercise. They prepare your body for the intense workout that’s about to come in a safe way.

A soccer warm-up is important because it warms up your muscles and increases your heart rate. This reduces the risk of injury and lets you perform at a higher intensity. Additionally, warming up with a ball prepares you for a training session or game by emulating movements and plays you will make during the session or match.

Loosening up before a game gets you ready for an intense workout. Make sure you’re warmed up before the game starts if you’re a part of the starting eleven.

If enough time has passed since before the start of the game, substitutes may require an additional warm-up. Players coming on as a substitute should partake in another short warm-up before stepping onto the field.

What is dynamic stretching in soccer?

Soccer players need to warm up not only their lower bodies but also their upper bodies before practice or a game. This can be done through dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching in soccer is no different than any other sport or activity warm-up. For soccer, however, the types of dynamic stretches can vary. Soccer players should incorporate things like high kicks, lunges, and hip mobility exercises into their warm-ups. They should also do arm and shoulder warm-ups.

One of the most important dynamic stretches for a soccer player is the open-the-gate and close-the-gate stretches. Soccer players require exceptional hip mobility for running and kicking the ball, and these two exercises are a way to activate those muscles before the session.

Zenia Wood from Swift Movement and Swift Coaches Academy demonstrates how to do the open and close the gate exercise.

What is a cooldown in soccer?

A cooldown is just as important as a warm-up in soccer. It signals to your body that the practice or game is over and lets itself naturally return to a pre-exercise condition.

A cooldown in soccer consists of a light jog that’s less intense than the exercises performed during training or a game followed by light dynamic stretching. The purpose of the cooldown is to facilitate faster muscle recovery, decreased soreness, and a safe decrease in heart rate.

One of the main reasons for a cool down in soccer is to reduce lactate accumulation in our muscles, which is linked to soreness. For soccer players, the cooldown reduces soreness in our legs and other muscles brought on by lactate buildup.

Cooldowns are also a safety precaution. Stopping a workout abruptly can be dangerous, as your body will continue to perform as if it’s still participating in intense exercise. This can lead to lightheadedness or even loss of consciousness.

Should you do a cool down after soccer practice?

Like the warm-up, a cooldown is an essential step to any healthy workout session, in or out of soccer.

You should do a cool down after your soccer practice or game. Cooldowns let your body know that it’s time to rest and that the workout is finished. It gives your body time to get back to its resting heart rate naturally and helps prevent new injuries.

Start a cool down as soon as possible after your primary workout and begin with a deceleration of pace or running speed, followed by dynamic and static stretching. Soccer players can benefit from using a foam roller after an intense practice or game to remedy their muscles and decrease recovery time.

Should you do a cool down after a soccer game?

When a game is finished, it can be difficult to squeeze in some added time for a cool down.

You should do a cool down after a soccer game. At any age or level of competition, it’s important to signal to your body that the game, practice, or workout is completed. Cooling down after a soccer game takes 5 minutes and includes a light dynamic stretch followed by static stretching and possibly foam rolling.

Your body requires a recovery period after running around the field. A cooldown can help reduce the time it takes to fully recover and helps prepare for the next training or game.

Sean Tinney

I’m Sean Tinney, a lifetime soccer player and Ball At Your Feet owner. This website is a hub for practical soccer advice, information, and insights from one player to another.

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