How to Warm Up for Soccer: Step-by-Step Process

Warming up before a soccer game is essential if you want to perform at your best from the first minute of the game. Some people undervalue the importance of warming up, but preparing your body to go from rest to playing soccer, is crucial. Here’s how to warm up for soccer.

The best way to warm up for soccer is by performing specific activities like lunges, squats, jumps, and running drills to get your body ready for the type of movements you will face during a game. You should also include some stretches in the warm-up to improve your athletic performance.

Warm-ups are essentially a less intense version of the activity you are about to do. They involve targeted activities that resemble the type of activity involved in a soccer game. Knowing the steps to follow in preparation for a game is essential!

So let’s look at how to do it.

Title image of soccer player warming up

Step-by-Step Warm-Up Process For Soccer

Getting ready for a game or even for practice involves warming up. It is necessary, as it’s the way to prepare your body for arduous activity.

I also find it’s a great way of getting your mind focussed and ready for the game ahead.

Just make sure you start the warm-up 15-20 minutes before the game. You don’t want to run out of time before the game begins!

1. Start by Rotating Your Joints

Rotating your joints is a low-intensity way of getting your body moving.

You will want to do neck rolls, shoulder rolls, and ankle rolls.

You can also include:

  • Side bends,
  • hip swings,
  • trunk rotation,
  • hip rolls,
  • hamstring stretch,
  • and quadriceps stretch.

All of these are great for joint rotation.

Don’t rush these. Nice and slow rolls are effective here to get your body moving.

2. Continue With 5 Minutes of Cardiovascular Activity

After you’ve got your joints moving, you should get your heart pumping with some cardio.

This part of the warm-up aims to increase heart rate and blood flow, loosen up stiff muscles and improve oxygen efficiency.

It should consist of around 5-10 minutes of activity.

A simple option here is jogging for 5 minutes, jumping rope, or doing a mix of jumping jacks and burpees.

Any continuous activity that raises your heart rate will work.

3. Next, Do Some Static Stretching

You can then move on to static stretching.

Static stretching involves stretching a muscle to your most able and distant point and then holding that position for 15-20 seconds.

This type of stretching has a limited threat of injury. It helps to lengthen the muscles you will use during the last activity.

The benefit of static stretching is that it increases your flexibility and prepares you for all the stretching involved in any soccer game.

Some great options here that I find effective are::

  • Hip/Knee Stretching, with hip flexors, quadriceps (standing), inner thigh/groin, and hamstrings.
  • Back Trunk Side Bend, with the single-arm standing.
  • Back Mid-Back, with a rotation stretch.
  • Piriformis Stretch, with hips stretching.
  • Ankle/Foot Stretching, with the gastroc stretch.
  • Side reach,
  • Shoulder stretch,
  • and Runner’s stretch.

Whatever stretches you choose, make sure you hold the position for at least 15-20 seconds.

4. Work Through Some Drills

Once we have got the body moving, heart rate up, and stretched those muscles, it’s time to lift the intensity a little.

At this point, you want to be preparing for the specific activity you’re participating in. In this case – a soccer game.

The aim here is to imitate the same movements that playing soccer involves but at a low-intensity level. You’ll want to use the same body parts at a slower rate.

Just remember not to go all-in straight away. Instead, start slow and increase the intensity. 

Some options you can consider here are:

  • running drills;
  • sprinting drills;
  • change of directions drills with and without a partner;
  • running drills while passing the ball,
  • or running drills while dribbling with the ball

I like to alternate drills for variety and to keep the warm-up interesting.

If you want a list of my favorite drills to give you more ideas, check out my article – Ten Best Soccer Drills.

Remember, you want to simulate the type of movements your body will be doing soon while playing soccer with any of these activities.

5. Lastly, Do Some Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches involve stretching while moving.

Dynamic stretches are different from static stretches because, with dynamic stretches, the positions are not held for a period of time.

It is vital that the stretches performed are related to the activity ahead. For soccer, this can be one of the most critical parts of a warm-up as it can significantly improve performance.

Some dynamic stretches that I include in my warm-up, and you may want to consider are:

  • Side shuffle; helps protect against groins and hip injuries;
  • Carioca stretches; help with flexibility in the leg muscles;
  • The back-pedal jogs; warm up the hip flexors and abs;
  • Walking knee to chest; helps with the muscles from the shoulders to the tight area;
  • and straight leg kicks to help with the hamstring.

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Why Warm-up Before Soccer?

Before playing a soccer game, the body is cold. So it needs to be brought up to the speed of the activity it is about to undertake.

Warming up before soccer is important because it prepares your body for what is ahead. Warming up raises your body temperature, increases your heart rate, and increases blood flow to your muscles. Each of these ensures you are ready for the game from the moment it begins.

If you want to get your body up to speed and ready for what’s ahead, you need to warm up.

Soccer player stretching
Soccer player stretching

Warm-Up Vs. Stretching

Here it’s worth pointing out the difference between warming up and just stretching as people often get warm-ups and stretching confused, thinking that they do the same for the body.

Warming up increases the body temperature, but stretching helps with the body’s range of motion for the upcoming activity.

With warm-ups and stretching, you must do a warm-up activity first, even if it’s not related to the exercise you’ll be performing later on.

Only after you’ve brought your temperature up and the blood flowing can you start stretching.

If you stretch on cold muscles, you risk hurting yourself; plus, not warming up at all can put unnecessary stress on your heart and lungs.

What About Cooling Down After the Game?

Once the game is over, and your team has (hopefully!) won, you feel exhilarated, but more than anything, your body feels completely beat.

The thoughts running through your head at that moment may be to lie down on the grass and do nothing else, but cooling down is part of the overall process—the last step, but part of it nonetheless.

Precisely like the warm-up where you were preparing your body for a strenuous workout at a slower pace, now you need to perform activities simulating the ones you just did, also at a slower pace. 

To warm down after soccer, take a light jog for two laps of the soccer field. Then work through some stretches.

Give the body a chance to cool down and allow the blood to run back to your heart. Your body will feel less sore if you allow it to cool.

Game On: Final Words

Whether you are playing a game in the park or for the soccer season, warming up is mandatory.

A player can avoid many injuries if proper preparation of warm-up exercises and stretches are done before getting into the field.

If you consider you need to work on a problematic area, take more time to warm up that part of your body.

Choose the correct exercises to work the muscles you’ll be using the most. Then, if you start feeling pain, stop and rest before continuing.

Your body starts up cold and then gets warm, don’t forget to cool down once finished!

For more helpful information on soccer fitness, I recommend checking out one of my other articles:

Article References:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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