Soccer warm up exercise is very important. It helps to prevent muscle strain and injury when playing for full 90 minutes. There will be many times where you might have to run flat out and it might just happens in first few seconds. If you are stationary and cold 1 minute, then running full out of next, you are going to be asking for trouble.
A good soccer warm up meets 3 objectives.
- Decreases the risk of injury.
- Increases agility, skill, power and performance.
- Allows player to mentally prepare and focus on the game or at the session at hand.
A cold muscle is stiff and rigid. Sudden twisting, turning and stretching can place greater tension on muscles and connective tissue than they can handle. Warming up and stretching the muscles in soccer can decrease the risks of strains, sprains and muscle tears.
Muscles can also produce energy faster when they are warm. This can effect speed and power, not to mention the ability to perform complex skills and movements with accuracy and precision.
The Physiology of Warming Up:
A formal warm up has not been a tradition in the soccer community. The practice of warming up prior to playing matches was introduced into English soccer once it was evident how opposing European teams organised themselves in the hour before kick-off. Their appearance in the pitch for ‘ calisthenics’ and a ‘kick-about’ was a source of amusement at first, until it was realized that there was a distinct purpose to their behavior. It seems strange now that a practice which had a long history in other sports, most notably in track and field athletics, took such a long time to become accepted into the culture of soccer. Nowadays all professional teams in the English Leagues and in the major footballing nations have a warm-up ritual prior to their matches. They also place importance in the conduct of warm-up exercises before undertaking the more strenuous parts of their training sessions.
Besides, there is a sound physiological rationale for warming up before exercise. First, the term itself signifies that the objective is to raise body temperature so that performance potential is enhanced. As muscles use up energy in contracting, less than a quarter of the energy goes towards producing mechanical work, the remainder generating heat within the muscle cells. Muscle performance is improved as temperature rises, but only up to a point. An increase in body temperature of one degree Celsius is sufficient to get the maximum ergogenic effect on the active muscles. The easiest means of generating the necessary internal heat is by running.
There is also a role for injury prevention within the warm-up regimen(Shellock and Prentice, 1985). In this respect the type of activity is important. Stretching the main muscles due to be active later, that is by producing so-called eccentric contractions, gains a transient increase in flexibility. This enhanced range of motion improves the capability of the muscle to yield under the anticipated strain. Stretching the main thigh muscles is especially important before evening matches and in cold winter conditions. Particular attention is directed towards the hamstrings and hip adductor muscles. Tightness in these muscle groups is often found in soccer players and is associated with a predisposition to injury.
Injury prevention strategies are most effective when the warm-up is specific to the sport (Reilly and Stirling, 1993). This principle implies that the warm-up routines should include unorthodox running (backwards, sideways, agility runs with sharp turns) and game-specific motions such as jumping.
There are specific effects of the warm-up on the neuromotor system. Among the more obvious consequences are the likely psychological benefits of rehearsing well-practiced skills such as controlling and passing the ball. There is also the ‘potency effect’ of stimulating the nervous system by means of brief but highly intense muscular efforts prior to competition. Post-tetanic potentiation refers to the phenomenon whereby the size and shape of a muscle twitch are affected by previous contractile activity: the effect is thought to decay after 10–15 min. This practice has come from track and field athletics, most notably the ‘explosive events’, whereby maximal stimulation of skeletal muscle about 15 min or so prior to the main event seems to benefit performance in the subsequent anaerobic exercise. Only a small number of such pre-event efforts is advocated; for example, 2–3 all-out 15–20 m sprints included in the body of the warm-up should be sufficient. The so-called ‘fast-feet’ drills do not provide the necessary forceful stimulus as these routines emphasize speed rather than force but they are nevertheless useful for preparation purposes.
HOW MUCH WARM UP IS REQUIRED?
It is important that the warm-up should be neither too long nor too intense overall. Otherwise, the regimen itself begins to draw on the body’s energy stores rather than prime it for action. Unnecessarily reducing the body’s glycogen reserves would start to negate the best laid training and nutritional preparations of the previous week. There is a balance to be struck between the ‘arousal’ and ‘activation’ benefits on the one hand and the induction of ‘fatigue’ on the other. It is feasible that all the requirements of a good warm-up can be incorporated into 20–25 min without being hurried.
The intensity and duration of the warm-up should be reduced when the weather is hot. Even at a temperature of 21.5 C, a 15-min warm-up run at 70% V O2 max for 15 min that raised rectal temperature to 38 C caused impairment in exercise performance. The performance measure was time to exhaustion on an intermittent exercise protocol that consisted of repeated runs at 90% V O2 max for 30 sec separated by 30 sec of static recovery. A passive heating procedure that produced a similar elevation in core temperature led to a more premature exhaustion.
A further benefit of warming up is the opportunity it offers to do work with the ball. In conjunction with this effect is the graded alert given to the nervous system by means of a smooth elevation in the arousing hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. There is also a chance to get a feel for the playing surface and the likely competitive ‘atmosphere’.
A final consideration is the timing of the warm-up so that its benefits are not lost before the game starts. Muscle and body temperature will remain elevated for some minutes after exercise is finished; body temperature might even continue to rise for 3–5 min or so since warm blood is still being circulated throughout the body. Players at this stage will gain advantage from the short recovery and the private respite for their final mental preparations. Irrespective of the level of play, the warm-up routine has relevance. This protocol must be modified to suit the needs and capabilities of the amateur. Both physiotherapist and fitness trainer can be involved in planning the details and accommodating any individual requirements.