Football Warm Up Exercises for the Weekend Warrior

Warm ups that include more than just a stretch.

So you have a game on Sunday morning and you saunter in 5 minutes late while your mates kick on without you. A couple of quad stretches and a cigarette later, you run onto the pitch to play a box-to-box role only to feel a lot of soreness at the end of the game.

A poor warm up will definitely affect your performance on pitch and increase the chances or soreness and injury throughout the game. Physio extraordinaire, Reginald Tang (or Reggie for short), from Physio Solutions, shares some easy ways to get you ready and warmed up in time for the game.

Static stretching is not a warm up exercise

Reggie shared, “As a warm up, you want your muscles to be able to what you want it to do during the next 90 minutes. Static stretching does not replicate in-game actions so you’ll want to avoid doing those. You do a lot of running and sideways movement during a game and you want to prepare it to do those particular actions. We want to look to do dynamic stretches – getting your muscles to lengthen through motion and mobility.”

Expect yourself to sweat it out just a little with these exercises and apply each static exercise for about 15 seconds per leg. Here are the dynamic stretches recommended by Reginald.

Leg swings – Forward and back

It goes without saying that football involves a lot of running but it also involves your running backwards when you’re defending against an opponent. As a start, leg swings are a good way to warm up your body and get your legs stretched.

“To simulate your running and walking motion, you’ll want to swing your leg forward and backwards (preferably with the balance support of a partner or the goalpost). This exercise stretches out your quads and hamstrings, allowing for a wider range of motion when running in a match,” says Reggie.

Leg swings – Lateral

Footballers don’t just run in a straight line. There’s a lot of lateral movement involved, usually in conjuction with a quick change in pace. Be ready for that sideways movement by incorporating lateral leg swings.

Reggie shared to “work on moving your legs from side to side to warm up your abductors and adductors. These help with rotation and mobility around the pelvic and hip areas and are necessary for stability when it comes to making pivots and sharp changes in direction.”

Calf bounces

When you’re playing football, expect yourself to go from 0-100 at any moment and your calves play a big role in that sprint. Get your calves ready for that big explosive burst with some calf bounces

“To replicate your body tilting forward and sprinting, get into a push up position and simulate a kicking motion where your knees bend. Try to push off your calves as you work get ready for those high intensity sprints for the ball,” said Reggie.

Light jogging

It’s time to get your cardio going. A light jog is easy but crucial in getting your heart pumping. Reggie concurs.

“Get your heart rate up by doing some light jogs around the pitch and get your body moving. Sweat it out just a little but don’t push yourself too hard here. On top of forward jogs, alternate by doing jogging backwards as well to get a wider range of motion.”

Side shuffles

football warm ups - side shuffle

You don’t just move forward or backward during a game but lateral movements are quite commonplace too. Whether you’re jockeying an attacker, shifting to the side to cover a vacant space or just tracking an opponent, you’ll want to be ready for any sideways shuffle. Add in the side shuffle to your warm up regime to be ready for the game.

“You want your hips and back to be able to rotate and flex freely when you’re turning, dribbling or defending against a wily opponent. The side shuffle movement can be hard to coordinate so go slow until you get the rhythm and movement right,” shared Reggie.

Vertical tuck jumps

Very important if you’re looking to head it like Ronaldo. Or at least manage the aerial bombardment from an opponent who dabbles in Route 1 football.

Reggie recommends to “jump high and tuck your knees in mid air to ready your calves, glutes and back for your aerial battles. Start low and progressively go higher as you warm up.”

Ball work

After we’re done with all the dynamic stretching, it’s time to get your legs and feet use to controlling and passing the ball. The fun part, of course. Reggie wants you to get comfortable with the ball but to take it easy.

“Start by doing some slow dribbles with the ball and explore all ranges of motion (forward, sideways, backwards). Follow up with some short and long passes. And finally, you can practice shooting and striking the ball. Because striking the ball is quite a powerful action, don’t strike at full pace. We are just looking for you to go through the motion and not exert too much force before the game.”

Reginald Tang has over 14 years of experience as a physiotherapist and is also the physio for the Singapore National Rugby Team. You can visit Reginald and his team of physios at Physio Solutions for all your physio and fitness consultation needs.

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