Why Soccer Players Should Never Skip Warm-Ups and Cool Downs
Oct 20, 2022
Everyone knows you should never begin a soccer practice or game without a warmup. Yet still, players skip it for some reason. Also, cool downs after a game or practice are important, but players ignore them too. Avoiding these training phases can do more harm than good. We’ll examine the importance of both phases and why they matter for players.
The importance of warmups for soccer players
Doing warm-ups doesn't make you a softie - they prep your body to work like a machine on the pitch. When you warm up, your heart rate increases, pumping more blood to your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Better blood flow to your muscles provides them with more oxygen and removes lactic acid. Additionally, warming up keeps your joints loose.
The right kinds of warm-ups will also activate your nervous system so that your muscles contract forcefully and efficiently. Ultimately, these internal mechanisms help players reduce soccer injury risk and unleash elite performance.
Soccer injury and performance-boosting benefits of warm-ups
- Prevents or reduces post-game soreness (due to lactic acid removal)
- Reduces risk of muscle strains and sprains (due to loosening of tissues)
- Increases power and coordination (due to neuromuscular activation)
- Increases mental focus and decreases distractions (due to better flow and mind-muscle connection)
- Improves aerobic and anaerobic endurance
How to incorporate warmups into your soccer training routine
“Warm-ups” in itself is a vague term. There are plenty of different exercises you can throw into a soccer conditioning routine. But there are some go-to exercises you should incorporate into your pre-game and practice sessions.
Recommended soccer warmups
- Dynamic stretches - These movements simulate movements players execute in the game. Common dynamic stretches include jogging, skipping, jumping and sprinting drills.
- FIFA 11+ neuromuscular warmups - These movements incorporate a mix of plyometrics, strength exercises and balance training to help strengthen neuromuscular efficiency. They include forwards and backwards running, squats, single-leg raises and bounding.
The forgotten step of soccer training - cool-downs
Let’s be honest - many of us skip cool downs. After all, what's the point of cooling down if you’re going to rest anyway?
Well, cool downs are nothing to scoff at.
Cool downs train your heart rate to decrease gradually instead of dropping rapidly. That results in a more robust and a more efficient cardiovascular system.
Cool downs also appear to help remove lactic acid from your muscles. That helps reduce post-game soreness, including Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which often appears 1-2 days after a game. Needless to say, players are going to crush their performance the less sore they are.
How to incorporate cool downs into a soccer training routine
- Light jogging - A light jog lowers the heart rate and keeps your muscles activated with less strain.
- Static stretches - These stretches isolate a muscle group and require the athlete to stretch that muscle to its farthest point and hold it for a brief duration. Common static excercises include hamstring stretches, standing quad stretches, and standing calf stretches.
A final word on warm-ups and cool downs for soccer players
Just about all players should practice warm ups and cool downs after practices and games. However, if one group of players can skip them, it would be younger players. That means players age eight and under since they’re flexible and coursing with energy. But it doesn’t hurt to add one or two warm up (and cool down) exercises to get them in the habit sooner than later.
Also, remember that warm-ups and cool downs are just one component of injury prevention and enhanced performance. Arm your players with soccer protective gear ranging from concussion headgear to turf-burn-resistance gear.
Many of them protect against hard impacts that conditioning exercises can’t prevent alone. But the combination of exercises and protective gear will help keep your players battle-hardened for whatever happens on the field.
Looking for more tips on safety and performance in soccer? Check out our blog for more insights.