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National Strength and Conditioning Association

Volume 28, Number 1, pages 1418

Keywords: soccer; warm-up; dynamic stretching; mobility;

skill preparation

A Pregame Soccer Warm-up

Pam Devore, CSCS
Velocity Sports Performance, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Patrick Hagerman, EdD, CSCS*D; NSCA-CPT*D
The University of Tulsa,Tulsa, Oklahoma

A proper soccer warm-up should include components of both game-related skills and specific movements
to prepare the athlete for the optimum play. A warm-up that includes



movements and includes the entire

body is presented.

roper preparation for a soccer

game is crucial and a well organized warm-up sharpens an athletes mind and body to enable maximum effort as soon as the whistle blows.
A warm-up should increase body and
muscle temperature, activate muscle
groups, stimulate the nervous system,
and increase joint mobility thereby
preparing the player for optimal performance while minimizing risk of injury
(5, 9). One way to help insure that this
occurs is through an active and dynamic
warm-up. The warm-up should be intense enough to increase the bodys core
temperature but not so intense that the


athlete becomes fatigued. It should be

noted that flexibility training, while an
important part of this warm-up program, is not the only component. Static
stretching has its place and purpose in
improving flexibility, but the instances
of stretching for 2030 minutes before a
game as a means of warming up are very
rare today. In recent years, the importance of stretching a muscle with movement (dynamic stretching) has been emphasized (3, 7), and it has been noted
that an active warm-up may improve
certain types of performance by increasing muscle contractile performance
prior to use (1, 8, 10). The warm-up described here has 3 distinct outcomes:
general mobility, transit mobility, and
skill preparation.

General Mobility
You never want to start a warm-up totally cold, so an easy jog across the soccer
field and back a couple of times will get
the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Starting at the neck and working
down through the body, general mobility warm-ups begin with basic movements to loosen up the muscles and increase isolated joint mobility. Most of
these general mobility movements are
closely associated with some typical static stretches, but in this instance, no posi-

February 2006 Strength and Conditioning Journal

tion is held for more than 2 or 3 seconds.

Additionally, the movements isolate the
specific joints being used while incorporating a full range of motion. There are a
multitude of movements that can accomplish the general mobility goal, but
we have found the following movements, listed in Table 1 and described in
detail here, to be time efficient while accomplishing the task. Each exercise is repeated 5 times, with each position held
for 23 seconds, before moving on to
the next exercise. Completion of the
general mobility phase of the warm-up
should take about 5 minutes.
Upper Extremities
The neck clock is performed in a series of
4 movements: neck flexion, lateral flexion to the left, neck extension, and lateral flexion to the right. This takes the
place of the traditional rolling motion to
stretch the neck. The neck clock presents
a more active stretch than the passive circular movement of a relaxed neck. Follow the neck clock with the shoulder
roll, moving the shoulders in large circular motions both forward and backward.
The next movement is the arm hug.
Cross both arms across the front of the
chest in horizontal adduction as far as
possible, and then swing back in hori-

Table 1
Pregame Warm-ups. A Sample
of the Exercises That Can Be Used
in a Progressive Soccer
Pregame Warm-up
General Mobility (5 minutes)
Perform 5 repetitions of each
Upper extremities
Neck clock
Shoulder roll
Arm hug
Trunk circle
Trunk twist
Lower extremities
Body weight squat
Lateral lunge
Transit Mobility (15 minutes)
Perform each exercise within
10 to 20 yards
Crossover toe touch
Lunge forward
Lunge forward with rotation
Trail leg walking
Elbow to instep walking
Side slides
Skip and scoop
Low walk
Backward skip
Lateral shuffle
Individual Skill (10 minutes)
Cutting drills
Position Skill (15 minutes)
Forwards/midfielders: possession
games, shots on goal
Defenders: long kicks
Goaltenders: taking shots on goal,
punts and goal kicks
Team Skill (15 minutes)
Shots on goal from layoff
2-on-2 or 3-on-3 simulations
Play practice
Full-speed sprints

Figure 1. Windmill.The windmill motion is performed as a warm-up for the upper extremities. Swing the arms in both clockwise and counterclockwise full-circle

zontal abduction. Each time the arms

are adducted, the arm that goes above
the other should switch.
The last movement for the upper body is
the windmill. The hands are in opposition of each other as they both move in a
large circular motion with a straight arm
for 5 to 10 rotations, followed by the
same motion in reverse rotation (Figure
1). By now, the athlete has stimulated
every muscle around the neck and
shoulder and has moved the joints in
each plane.
Moving on to the midsection, the truck
circle mimics the movement of the neck

February 2006 Strength and Conditioning Journal

clock by flexing the hips forward, then

laterally to the left, extending backward,
and laterally to the right side. Follow
this with the trunk twist in the standing
and bent-over positions, requiring the
whole upper body to turn as the hips
and lower body stay in a neutral forward
facing position (Figure 2). The athlete
should bend at the waist, keeping the
back flat and eyes up, for the bent-over
twisting movement. Twist 5 times to
each side in the upright and bent-over
Lower Extremities
Next the warm-up moves on to stimulating the large leg muscles and loosening
the hip joints. The lateral lunge and


Figure 2. Trunk twist. Bend forward at

the hips, keep a straight
back, and rotate throughout
your full range of motion left
and right to perform the
trunk twist warm-up for the

body-weight squat both require the

same basic movements. For the bodyweight squat, keep the toes, hips, and
shoulders facing forward, while the hips
move back. Pressing the hips back keeps
the knee directly above the heel, preventing the heel from lifting and shifting the body weight towards the toe.
Coach the athlete to press down on the
heels and to bring the top of the thighs
to a position parallel to the ground. Perform 10 repetitions of the body weight
squat to adequately warm up the hip and
leg muscles.

Figure 3. Crossover toe touch.The crossover toe touch is a transit mobility phase
warm-up that includes elements of balance and flexibility.

knee. The leg that remains in place

should be relaxed, as all the athletes
body weight should be directed over the
stepping leg. Perform the lateral lunge
exercise 10 times on each leg. This exercise requires quite a bit of hip flexibility
and may take a few weeks of practice before it can be completed correctly.
When teaching this warm-up, make
sure that the athlete does not allow his
or her body weight to move beyond the
reach of the step, which could place
undue strain on the anterior cruciate

Transit Mobility
The lateral lunge requires a large step
directly to the side. As the athlete steps
out and bends, he or she should keep
the knee directly over the toe with the
chest facing forward directly above the


The next phase of the warm-up increases the level of intensity and focuses
more on transit movements that require
the athlete to travel a certain distance.
These are specific drills that have a di-

February 2006 Strength and Conditioning Journal

rect relationship to the game of soccer.

The average soccer player is in direct
contact with the ball for no more than
60 seconds during a 90-minute game
(2). Because of the dynamics of soccer,
certain position players will have more
time controlling the ball; at the same
time, the other players are moving in
multiple directions to gain position for
the ball. Limited substitutions at the
elite and professional levels also increase
the amount of time a player may spend
on the field. According to the principle
of specificity, the movements in a
warm-up should mimic game movements and focus on muscles utilized
during the game (6). The movements
for this portion of the warm-up are listed in Table 1 and described later in this
feature. Each movement should be performed for 10 to 20 yards and repeated

Figure 4. Elbow to instep walking. Elbow to instep walking allows the athlete to
stretch the hamstrings, lower back, and hip flexors.

twice. With the athlete performing each

exercise at a slow to moderate pace, the
entire transit mobility phase should last
no more than 15 minutes.
The crossover toe touch (Figure 3),
lunge forward, lunge forward with rotation, trail leg walking (Figure 4), and
elbow-to-instep walking (Figure 5) are
all exercises that continue to dynamically stretch the muscles while mimicking game-like movements. These are
technical build-ups that can be increased in speed to get the athlete ready
to work at full speed, as well as making
the athletes actively think about their
running technique. In addition, these
movements build upon the flexibility
increases from the general mobility
phase by increasing the range of motion of each exercise, especially in the
In addition to linear running, 20% of
game movements are performed at high
intensity (2). High-intensity activities
include all multidirectional movements
except for forward running at a speed of
at least 11.0 miles per hour and above
(2). To prepare the athlete for high-intensity activities, side slides, skip, skip
and scoop, low walk, backward skip, lateral shuffle, and carioca runs are included in this portion of the warm-up.

Skill Preparation
The last phase of the warm-up is skill
preparation. Here the players work on
their own or with a group while focusing
on the needs of their position. Typically,
before a soccer game, team members
practice individually, then together with
their respective positions, and finally together as a team. There are many types of
drills that can be used to facilitate each
component. Individually, players should
spend about 10 minutes becoming familiar with the ball, working on their touch,
explosiveness, and footwork. Juggling,
cutting drills, and dribbling with changes
of pace and direction can be used for this
warm-up. Dedicate about 10 minutes for
an individual skill warm-up.
Within the position groups, forwards
and midfielders may shoot on goal or
play a small possession game, while defenders practice long kicks of 40 or 50
yards. Goalkeepers spend most of their
time in the goal, taking shots and working on positioning, but they need to put
a few balls in the air themselves from a
goal kick and punt position. Position
drills should last around 15 minutes.
Finally, the team comes together as a
whole to shoot on goal for the last 15
minutes of the warm-up. This can be accomplished with the coach or a teammate
receiving a pass and laying the ball off to

February 2006 Strength and Conditioning Journal

Figure 5. Trail leg walking.Trail leg

walking is performed by lifting the knee up and out to
the side as the foot is
brought around to the front
of the body for the next step.

the side to set up a shot, thus replicating

common game situations. Drills of 2-on2 or 3-on-3 can also be used to simulate
certain plays and game situations. At this
time, the individuals should be feeling
very sharp, making accurate touches on
the ball and quick decisions.
The last component of the warm-up is a
series of short sprints (2030 yards) to
ensure that players have reached full
speed before it is required of them in the
game. This puts the players into the
proper mindset and allows them to focus
on the speed of play they are about to

This hour long warm-up is not by any
means all-inclusive. There are many ex-


ercises that can be used in addition to

what has been listed here. The head
coach or strength coach should use his
or her own discretion to determine the
needs of the team and how best to prepare them. It is important to keep the
exercises at a level of difficulty that are
comfortable. If athletes struggle to perform the warm-up correctly, it will
probably be difficult for them to perform during actual play. An easy rule to
follow is one shared by Vern Gambetta:
Warm up to play; dont play to warm
up (4).

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Pam Devore is a former collegiate soccer

player and current Sports Performance
Coach for Velocity Sports Performance in
Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Patrick Hagerman is a clinical assistant

professor at the University of Tulsa.

February 2006 Strength and Conditioning Journal