Pacific Coast Soccer League

Metrotown Orthopedic & Sports Physiotherapy ClinicSOCCER AND YOUR BODY

Proper Warm-Up and Some Suggestions

By Marc R. Rizzardo B.Sc. P.T., M.P.E., B.P.E., Dip. Sports Physio
Chief Therapist 2007 Pan Am Canadian Medical Team
Metrotown Orthopedic & Sports Physiotherapy Clinic, Burnaby, BC

Back to Index of Soccer and Your Body articles

 A good, versatile warm-up will lead to a reduction of injuries.  This article deals with the components of a good warm-up, some basic principles to follow in developing a warm-up, and some recommended drills. 

Faigenbaum et al (2005) remind everyone that "traditional stretching' is meant to relax the muscles whereas the goal of a dynamic warm-up is to excite the muscles and have the neuromuscular system fire the muscles so that they not only lengthen, but also contract within the normal range of motion.

All current research (Fagenbaum et al, 2005) indicates that dynamic warm-ups are the most beneficial to the athlete, regardless of age, to get their musculature and neurofibers to fire optimally once the session/game begins. 

Use a variety of dynamic activities in the warm-up.  The activities require and should include:  balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, and power.

Also of note, it is important that the warm-up be efficient, so it should be general in nature, but specific to the players' position as they get older.

In general the warm-up should be approximately twenty to thirty minutes in length, and finish within five minutes to the start of the game.  Warming up for longer periods of time generally leads to fatigue and that can be a contributing factor to injury.

The warm-up should follow the following principles in terms of type of movement:

        Slow —> Quick —> Quicker

        Proximal (close to the body) —> Distal (away from center of the body)

        Linear (in a straight line) —> To include rotation

        Linear and rotation —> Functional patterns

        General soccer skills (pass) —> Position Specific (shooting, heading)

During the dynamic warm-up, the player's attention to detail is very important.  In fact this point is important in not only the warm-up, but all the warm-up drills and sessions.  This is a very integral part of the mental rehearsal that should be used in conjunction with the physical warm-up.  The athlete is attempting to also create some muscle memory so that the various muscles are ready in the appropriate fashion once the whistle blows to start the game or session.

Some examples of dynamic stretches for the warm-up:

  1. Jog across the field slowly, not sprinting.
  2. Lateral shuffles - From a standing side-stance with feet at hip/shoulder width, hop and land with feet the same distance apart, and have the body lowered into a semi-squat position.  Start slow and get up to a faster pace after a few repetitions.
  3. High-knee skips - skipping forward.  Focus on high knee lifts, arm action, and increase time off the ground.
  4. Backside kicks
  5. Cross rotation - Go across the field sideways with the upper torso going one way and then the other way, with the legs going in a lateral shuffle position.
  6. Carioca (also known as Grapevine, or mistakenly, Karaoke).  Carioca is a footwork exercise. While moving sideways, the trail foot crosses in front of the lead foot. The lead foot then moves ahead of the trail foot. The trail foot then crosses BEHIND the lead foot, etc.

    Do this footwork with very quick steps or do it slow with big steps and a hip turn stretch (arms out) when the trail foot crosses the lead foot. Turn away from the direction you are moving when the foot crosses in front, towards the moving direction when the foot crosses behind.
  7. Bounding - the player jogs, then takes slightly longer steps, looking to exaggerate the stride length.  The focus is not on how high the jump is, but on the length of each step.
  8. Angled Shuffles - this is to replicate defending.  The player shuffles at an angle as if defending; then quickly the player moves the other way, as if the attacker has changed the point of attack.

This format works well if team awareness is to be brought into the equation.  Spacing and discipline is essential for the warm-up to work without incident.


Two sets of lines facing each other.  There are approximately four players in each line.

  1. Player A passes the ball forward to B and follows the ball.
  2. Player A passes the ball forward to B and runs to D (at an angle).
  3. Player A passes the ball forward to B and runs to the left (or right depending on what the case is) around C, ending at the D position.
  4. Player A passes the ball forward to B and runs around both C and D, ending up at B. This is difficult and requires some serious sprinting. 

The same is occurring at the other line (between C and D). This takes coordination, teamwork, discipline, skill and fitness.

                                          A                       C


                                          B                       D

Team Bonding, Competition and Dynamic Warm-up

The key to all these drills is that they are to be done at top speed and accurately.  Players are to do them together and work as a team.  All four lines (one player from each line, are to do them together).

  • The player jogs forward to A, then backwards to start line, jogs forward past A onto B, and feigns over the ball stepping to the left, moves forward to C and feigns to the right, small steps around D, and sprints to E. They then jog back to the start, on the outside.  The next set of players starts when the player in front of them gets to C.

The coach can make up the routines, but they need to include jogs, sprints, fakes, stepovers, backward and sideways running, and shuffles.


Muscle memory works for both specific muscle movement and functional movement.  Thus, one might extend this line of thought to the warm-up.  Try and mimic various patterns that a coach would like the players to do during the game.  Sometimes coaches call this "undefended shadow play".

For example:  

This should be concluded with some very specific positional skill warm-up.  For example, the fullbacks should pair up and knock some easy balls to each up, culminating in some long balls as if they were striking it to the striker.

Centerbacks should practice some clearance headers.  Players involved in set plays should practice those skills like taking corner kicks and free kicks.

All players should participate in the warm-up since one never knows when an injury would occur and the substitute is required to go into the game.  Players on the bench should also keep themselves warm throughout the course of the game so that they are ready to join the game if the coach requires them to play.

In summary, a couple of tips may also be helpful.  First, when taking the balls out on the field, don't take the balls out of the bag immediately.  This will stop the players from immediately taking the balls and start shooting from the eighteen yard box.  Usually this leads to strained hip flexors.

Also, let's see the end to the age old warm-up of one long line at the top of the box and the first player passing the ball into a coach at the top of the box and the player following up for a shot.  This breaks all the principles discussed earlier like team involvement, start slow and build up of the pace, constant dynamic movement, and specificity.


Faigenbaum, A., Bellucci, M., Bernieri, A., Bakker, B., Hoorens, K.   2005.  "Effects of different warm-up protocols on fitness performance in children".  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(2):376-381.

Faigenbaum, A. and Westcott, W.

Youth Strength Training.  American Council on Exercise. San Diego, CA. 2005.

Faigenbaum, A and McFarland, J. 2007. "Guidelines for implementing a dynamic warm-up for physical education".  Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance, 78:25-28.

Canada-USA Inter-City Elite Soccer for Men and Women