The Warm-up and Cool-down
with Jimmy Petruzzi
It is estimated that around 75% of soccer injuries are preventable by the use of appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities.
Warm-ups increase blood flow to the various muscle groups. Raising physical intensity increases muscle temperature which improves coordination and decreases the chance of injury.
Reasons for conducting a thorough warm-up prior to soccer training and games include:
- To increase blood flow to muscular tissue
- To increase muscle temperature
- To reduce muscle tightness
- To elevate body temperature
- To stimulate reflex activity related to balance and co-ordination
- To achieve full joint mobility in the specific joints involved in the activity
- To achieve full soft tissue extensibility – muscles, tendons, ligaments
- To enhance the functioning of the neuromuscular system
- To prepare the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
- To prepare the player psychologically for the coming activity
And most importantly, to reduce the player’s risk of injury.
Warm-ups should be intense enough to increase the body temperature, gradually increasing the intensity of activity. The procedure should begin with movements of the large muscle groups as these are the main areas to which blood is redistributed. You should then move on to deal with the smaller muscle groups.
After the general warm-up players can begin more specialized exercises including mobilization of the joints and dynamic movements of muscles, particularly of the lower extremity. The final stage of a warm-up concentrates on technique, and/or practicing a specific movement.
The warm up provides an opportunity to work on specific technical skills in conjunction with mobility work and may also provide an opportunity for the players to mentally focus on the session or match ahead.
A warm up should consist of:
- A gentle jog to circulate blood and oxygen supplying the muscles with more energy to work with.
- Stretching to increase the range of motion at joints (see Chapter 9: Injury Recovery and Prevention).
- Soccer-specific exercises and drills
1. Have your players face each other in four different directions behind cones 20 metres apart in equal sized groups as in the illustration.
2. Arrange 3 sets of cones 5 metres apart on each line.
3. Get the players to jog to the first cone and back, the second and back, and then the third cone and back to the end of the line. Each player jogs individually and the next player goes when the first player completes.
4. Go through the entire procedure twice.
5. When a player completes their second relay they must go to the opposite side and carry on continuously building up the tempo.
Ultimately you can introduce the ball. The players must complete the relay with the ball, pass it off to the next player and sprint to the opposite line.
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Stand on the balls of the feet and walk to stretch the calves.
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Thigh and glute stretches
Use walking lunges to stretch the thighs and glutes. With the hands clasped behind the head walk with an exaggerated forward lunging movement. Be sure to keep the trailing knee off the ground.
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Raise the knee and kick out with the foot facing forward to gently stretch the hamstring.
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Bend the leg and bring the knee up and in front of the body. Slowly move the knee outwards in a circular motion and then back down to the floor.
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The aim of the cool-down is to:
- Gradually lower the heart rate
- Circulate blood and oxygen to muscles, restoring them to the condition they were in before exercise
- Remove waste products such as lactic acids
- Reduce the risk of muscle soreness
The cool-down should consist of a gentle jog followed by light stretching.
An excellent alternative is to play a game of soccer tennis. This is also a great game for developing a player’s first touch. Players love this game and we know how important it is to be able to quickly control bouncing balls during a game. Soccer tennis will generate hundreds of quality touches while the players are having fun and cooling down. Without even trying, they will learn to receive chest balls, thigh controls, instep volleys and head touches.
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Other activities and games the players can do are as follows.
Jump and go
The players have to listen carefully!
Bring all the players into the 18 yard box.
- On GO – the players must stop still.
- On STOP – players must move around the 18 yard box either walking or running.
- On UP – players must sit or lay down.
- On DOWN – players must stretch up as high as possible
1. Players form groups of 4/5, each with a ball.
2. Players are numbered 1 to 4/5 in each group.
3. Stand each group alongside each other, facing forwards, but with a gap of at least 10 metres at the side of each group, and a gap of 4/5 paces between each player lining up behind one another.
4. Player number 4 or 5 (at the back of their line) must discard their ball.
5. The coach instructs the player to tap the underside or sole of their right foot, explaining that this is the part of the foot that will be used to roll the ball backwards.
6. On the command “now”, each player rolls the ball backwards (a drag back) to the partner behind them.
7. Now, the player at the front of the line will be the only one without a ball.
8. Players at the back of each line now have a ball; they pick the ball up and walk to the front of the line. Note: the coach should instruct that the walk must be along the right hand side of their line to the front as this will ensure maximum space is kept between each line and avoid students colliding.
The player at the back is permitted to jog to the front, initially carrying the ball, then by dribbling the ball with their feet; the exercise is then conducted with each line moving forward, so that the drag back is done whilst travelling with the ball; the coach nominates “left” or “right” to denote which foot should be used for each drag back; players at the back are instructed to sprint to the front and, finally, the exercise can become a competition, with each group seeing how long they can keep the exercise going before it breaks down when every ball is not smoothly exchanged with and controlled by a partner.
Dribble, Freeze, Tag
1. Select 4/5 players (without balls) to be ‘Chasers’, the rest must work independently in the 18 yard box, each with a ball.
2. On the command “go”, the players dribble with their heads up, to avoid Chasers and to ensure they do not collide with others.
3. When tagged, the players sit on their ball, and can only be released by being tapped on the shoulder by a teammate – that teammate must be in control of the ball they are dribbling while making the release tap.
4. Various groups of Chasers compete to see which group can tag everyone in the shortest time.
Dribble, Sit, Switch, Skill
1. Every player BAR ONE, has a ball and dribbles slowly in a free area (the player without a ball also jogs in the area) – heads up to identify space to run into and ensure they do not collide with others.
2. On the command “switch”, everyone immediately leaves their ball where it is and dribbles a ball that belonged to someone else: the player without a ball is allowed to get a ball at this time, thereby leaving someone else without a ball.
3. On the command “turn”, the players perform a particular turn they have been practising e.g. outside foot, inside foot, stop turn, drag back, ‘Cruyff turn’, hip twist etc.
4. On the command “sit” each player sits on their ball with hands on head.
5. The coach now professes confusion: when saying “sit” the group should “switch” and when saying “switch” they should do the nominated skill.
Older age groups can do some light weight work under supervision from an experienced trainer.
Many coaches like to use the swimming pool for cool downs but clearly this option will not be available to most.