Soccer Warm-Ups: Are They Important?
Warming up before a soccer match or any physical activity is incredibly important because it allows you to better perform in the workout, practice, or game. Warming up before activity should be exclusively done with dynamic stretches and movements. When you think of something being dynamic, it means that there is motion within the stretch or exercise. The opposite of this is something that is static where you are just holding a stretch for a period and only inching a little further into the stretch with each exhale. Dynamic/ballistic stretches are better before a game to get the synovial fluids in your joints and blood flowing to your muscles. Examples of dynamic movements are shaking your legs out, swinging your legs in different directions, walking, jogging, jumping jacks, jumping, or even doing lunges. Professional teams typically spend a minimum of 30 minutes of their training sessions on a quality warm-up. The soccer warm-up impacts soccer players in 3 crucial ways:
1. Improved Focus
Performing a similar warm-up or even the same warm-up before each practice and game that appropriately stretches all of the muscles in your lower body, as well as providing some increased blood flow in your upper body will get you in the mindset that you're about to begin performing. Controlling the time before your performance on the field will lead to an increased feeling of control during the actual game itself. So what does that mean? Well, by being habitual with your time before the game, you will have more confidence during your game. Following a comprehensive warm-up routine before each game will mentally relax you to better play in each game. Doing quality warm-up drills does not mean you should allow yourself to get into the mindset that your pregame warm-ups are so strict, that if there is any deviation, you will not be able to compete as efficiently because "your warm-ups were messed up." However, having a general warm-up game plan that you perform relatively habitually before exercising, practicing, or playing in games will allow you to focus exclusively on your task at hand, which is winning that game. The pregame focus will enable you to push aside other thoughts or other things that people have said to you so that you can have all of your concentration on being the best soccer player that you can be. Some professionals will take several hours to do their pre-game rituals. It is not recommended to do this either as it takes too much time away from your other vital areas of life.
2. Avoiding & Reducing the Severity of Injuries
Our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints can easily be our best friends or our worst enemies. It all comes down to how well you take care of them. Using your body without several warm-up drills, it can quickly get injured and increase your time on the bench. Proper warm-ups are more and more important the older you get in soccer. If you are 16 years old or younger, you can typically get by with a quick 5 to 10-minute warm-up because your body is naturally more supple and flexible. Once you become an adult, your body tends to deteriorate instead of getting better with age. Bodily aging means that if you want to keep playing the game that you love, you should make the decision now (no, not later) if you wish to spend the extra few minutes during a warm-up to increase the amount of time that you can be playing soccer while avoiding physical pain and injuries. Think about what a muscle is using a fundamental concept. Your muscle is essentially an elastic band that when it is stretched slowly (warmed up correctly), the elastic band will be able to stretch without problems. However, if you pull it in one aggressive motion (such as kicking a soccer ball as hard as you can), there is a risk it might rip a little or tear completely. This is why soccer warm-up drills include the previously mentioned stretching exercises, which slowly gets your body to exert maximum effort.
3. Increased Performance
By performing soccer warm-ups, you prepare your body, which includes the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments mentioned previously, as well as your lungs and heart. A quality warm-up will increase your body's capacity to perform consistently on the field. Though each workout, practice, or game does not make too big of a difference, when you realize your efforts compound (where 1+1 no longer equals 2 and starts to equal 3,5 10, or even 100) over an extended period, those compounded efforts together are what makes the difference. The difference between players that have given it all and are outstanding and the players that are pretty good or okay, but have not always given 100%, which made it so they not they are not in the top 1% of soccer players. There are many things in soccer and in life that you can't control, but the effort you expend is one of those things you definitely can control. Knowing that you are fully prepared, both mentally and physically for the game, practice, or training session by understanding there is minimal risk of injury, you will be a lot more focused on the game and excelling in every minute you are on the field.
If you are a soccer player that wants to give his or her best in a game, your first focus should be to give your best in a warm-up before the game.
Check out the book Soccer Training to read more on these areas and other areas relevant to the soccer player such as foot skills, shooting, mindset, passing, defending, and many more.