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Soccer is an extremely intense sport. Those who don’t play regularly will feel the burn after a few minutes on the field. But just because you play on a team or work out regularly doesn’t mean you can forego a good stretch or pregame workout.
We stretch before games and practices to warm up our muscles, reduce the stress on our bodies and prevent injuries. There are several series of stretches that are vital for any soccer player to ensure their bodies are ready for the game. They include:
These types of movements are all typically done at the beginning of the warm-up. Dynamic movements get the blood flowing and prepare your body for the work you’re about to put it through. Some examples of dynamic movements you should do before warming up include:
Arm circles in both directions. Pro-tip: start with smaller movements and gradually make your circles bigger. This movement loosens up your shoulders.
Swinging arms from side to side will get rid of any tightness in your midsection. While swinging your arms, you can also gently tap your kidney area of your back to help energize your body and promote the secretion of your adrenal glands.
Replicating a kicking motion by swinging your leg from front to back will also help loosen up your joints and help prevent injury on the field.
Once you’ve done a few minutes of dynamic movements, it’s time to move on to static stretching. This series of stretches is designed to improve flexibility and warm up your muscles, so you don’t pull something during the game or practice. Most reputable fitness routines suggest holding stretches for at least 30 seconds and repeating each stretch at least twice or three times in a row.
Some of examples of beneficial stretches for soccer players include:
Hamstring Stretch: Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, tuck your chin and reach your arms to your shins or feet.
Quadriceps Stretch: This can be done either standing or lying down, with your legs straight, bend one leg and grab your foot, gently pulling your foot toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch.
Groin Stretch: Sit with your feet touching in front of you, gently lean forward and push down on your knees until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs and groin area.
Calf Stretch: Using a wall as support, stretch your one leg out behind you while bending the front leg. Apply pressure to the front leg as you work to keep the back leg’s foot flat on the ground.
Other areas of your body to always stretch include your shoulders, back, chest and glutes.
Best Practice Tips for Stretching
Here are some practical tips to get the most out of your stretching routine:
Breathe! When you exhale, you are actually able to get a little deeper into the stretch and improve flexibility. Don’t forget to breathe while stretching.
Stretch at least 3-4 times per week. Even if you aren’t warming up for a game or practice, try stretching on its own to improve your flexibility.
Never hold a painful stretch. Stretching is meant to be gentle and passive, not painful.
Trying doing a little light cardio before stretching, 5-10 minutes of running or skipping can warm your body up before starting to stretch.
By paying attention to your body and focusing on each muscle, you can properly prepare yourself for a game and ensure you don’t injure yourself on the field.