Football Warm Up
The warm up is vital before any game of football, or indeed any training session, in order to avoid injuring oneself. Football is a game that regularly places considerable strain on the joints and muscles and therefore it is extremely important to complete a thorough warm-up regime. Its worth is reflected in the series of drills devised by the best coaches over the years to get the team ready.
Before starting any sport your muscles are cold and subsequently prone to being overstretched in any drastic bodily movement. Such movements are repeated continuously in any game of football; an overstretched leg in a tackle, or a quick 360º turn to evade an opposition player.
The aim of a warm-up is to gradually warm the muscles, avoiding any drastic movement of the limbs. After that, the objective is to statically stretch the muscles in preparation for the type of movements that you will do during the game. Stretches may therefore be quite different for a forward compared with a defender or, indeed, a goalkeeper.
A warm-up must be initiated by a gentle jog, probably in an area of 15-20 yards, maintaining a normal, gentle stride pattern. Later on in the warm-up this stride pattern can be varied. Common to most football warm-ups are the following running exercises that begin to stretch and to prepare the joints for the changes in pace that are frequent in any game of football:
To stretch the hips and stabilise the strength of the muscles and tendons around the ankle joints that are particularly vulnerable to injury in football. This exercise requires the lifting of the knees in turn as you run until the thigh is in a parallel position to the pitch.
To flex and strengthen the lower leg and achilles area, that is very vulnerable to injury. As you take each step, extend the ankle.
This exercise is used to loosen up the hips and involves moving the legs in a long and exaggerated stride pattern in time with the arms. The torso must be maintained straight and erect.
The aim of sideways running is to stretch out the hip and inner thigh area, that are frequently over-strained in football.
Running gently backwards helps to prepare and strengthen the quads and calf muscles for rigorous working during the game.
Such striding warm-up exercises can be followed by static stretching to isolate individual muscles such as the hamstring or calf, all of which require individual attention.
Very young players will probably not require such a rigorous stretching workout – some light running at varying speed levels should prove adequate. However, older players must warm-up and stretch as thoroughly as possible to avoid those pesky injuries that keep you on the sidelines.
After a game player should take part in a cool down session to help the muscles.