Importance of a Warmup
Warming up before a football practice or match is crucial for preventing injuries, preparing your body for the task at hand, and putting yourself in a proper frame of mind. A warmup usually consists of a combination of light-medium intensity cardio to get the blood flowing and your muscles warm, combined with some form of stretching.
Putting in some work during the warm up will pay out in the long run, so as long as you’re not going at 100% intensity, you usually shouldn’t be too concerned about burning out before the practice or match. What we would typically suggest is starting with about 10 minutes of light jogging, followed by some slightly more intense exercise like high knees, As&Bs, jumping jacks, etc.
This will get your blood flowing and muscles warm, which will immediately benefit the next aspect of warmup, which is the stretching. Imagine stretching a cold piece of gum versus a warm piece of gum, but in this case the gum is your muscles! Even further, getting your body moving around on the pitch will get you in the zone and will re-accustom your body to the coordination required in football.
Many athletes are now shifting away from the static form of stretching (think of the classic sit-and-reach stretch) before their activity, and instead are performing dynamic stretching. Examples of dynamic stretching are leg swings or arm rotations. This type of stretching is performed while moving, and usually involves stretching a muscle group repeatedly with short repetitions.
For example, you may see some footballers warming up and when they’re jogging they’re rotating their elevated knee out and away from their body before bringing it back down to the ground. This is a way to stretch the groin muscles and other abductors while keeping the body moving. You can also be in a stationary position relative to the pitch, and while you’re standing there, you could still be performing dynamic stretches like leg swings for your quadriceps and hamstrings.
While dynamic stretching may be a little tough to get used to at first, once you have it comfortably incorporated into your warmup, chances are you won’t go back. It feels good, loosens you up, promotes long term flexibility, and keeps your mind focused on multi-tasking and coordination.
More notably, static stretching has been shown to reduce peak power output if performed immediately before a sporting event. This is more important in sorts like sprinting or powerlifting, but regardless, the negative affect on performance due to static stretching has sometimes been noticed by athletes. In fact, the peak muscle power output has been shown to be reduced by up to 8% at times. So while static stretching represents on of the best ways to improve overall flexibility, it may not be best suited to per-competition, especially at the more elite levels.
Never skip a warm up. The time that is involved may seem inconvenient, but it’s way shorter than the time you will spend rehabbing a nagging or more serious injury. Plus, you’re taking time to play the sport, so it makes sense to take the time to be well prepared for it. Every athlete will have a different warmup routine, but as long as you keep cardio and dynamic stretching in mind, and aren’t afraid to get a little sweaty before the practice or match, then you’re already on the right track!