Besides competition itself, warming up and cooling down are two of the most important things for developing elite football players. That being said, I want to give you an efficient, dynamic warm-up that you can perform before a practice or game. It consists of several static and dynamic movements that wake up your central nervous system, improve your body’s awareness, prime your smaller muscles and joints for action, and get your major muscles ready to go as well.
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Warming up in motion enhances muscular power and performance. Also, studies show that dynamic stretching before a workout can help you lift more weight and increase your overall athletic performance compared to no stretching or static stretching alone.
I performed this warm-up on a football field, and it’s a great option for football players. However, you can use it for other sports or even for workouts. All you need is 20 yards of space, and you can perform it on your own or with a team.
This warm-up includes several dynamic and static movements, and it is easy to remember and perform. Hold all the static stretches for 10-12 seconds, and perform all the dynamic movements for 10 yards into a light jog or backpedal.
Straight Leg/Touch Your Toes Stretch
With this stretch, you begin to warm up your hamstrings. The idea is to go slightly past the point of discomfort and hold it for 10-12 seconds. It will get blood flow to your hamstrings and start to lengthen the tight muscles of your hamstrings.
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Forward Arm Circles with a Skip
This exercise warms up your shoulders, calves, and ankles in one simple movement. It’s the first part of the dynamic portion of the warm-up. Do it for 10 yards, then immediately transition to a light jog for another 10 yards.
Backwards Arm Circles with a Skip
Here, you take what you just did and reverse it. This movement further warms up the shoulders, tibialis muscles and ankles. Perform it for 10 yards, then go straight into a light backpedal.
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Split-Leg Hamstring Stretch (Right, Left, Middle)
With this stretch, you loosen your hamstrings even more and get a good stretch from a different angle. It’s a more complete stretch for the hamstring as a whole. Do this stretch on both sides, then the middle. Hold each part for 10-12 seconds.
Walking Knee Hugs
Walking Knee Hugs look exactly how they sound. For every few steps you take, reach out, grab your knee and give it a hug. Benefits include one more gentle hamstring stretch, dorsiflexion of the feet (which helps with proper running form), improvements in balance and strengthening of your ankles.
Reverse Quad Pulls
This exercise lightly stretches your quadriceps. Reach backwards and grab your ankle, pulling it closer to your butt. Raise your opposite arm straight up as a counterbalance. When you do this correctly, you will feel a light stretch in your quadriceps muscle and up into your hip flexors, depending on how tight you are.
This exercise stretches and open up your glutes and hip muscles. Perform it with your feet about twice the width of your hips, and keep your knee behind your toes. Hold each stretch for 10-12 seconds.
We’ve all done A-Skips in one form or another. Some call them High Knee Marches. They prime your running mechanics for the workout or competition you’re about to participate in. They are plyometric movements that develop leg drive and force put back into the ground.
Backwards A-Skip and Groin Openers
This is a great pair of movements that work well together. Backwards A-Skips warm up the tibialis, ankles, toes and hip flexors. Groin Openers create a lateral opening motion for the groin and produce a light stretch in the groin area. Since these are two exercises, do each one for 5 yards.
Butterfly Stretch/Groin Stretch
This static stretch opens and stretches the groin and hip areas a little more. While performing it, keep a nice straight back, pull on your toes to bring your heels in closer to your groin, and push lightly on your knees with your elbows to create a light stretch in your groin muscles.
The Pogo Hop is a dynamic activation drill that awakens the ankles, calves and toes. Lock out your knees, stay on the balls of your feet and keep your heels off the ground. With each hop, propel yourself further to cover the distance of the drill.
Reverse Pogo Hop
Another dynamic activation drill that awakens the ankles, tibialis and toes. Identical to Pogo Hops, except you propel yourself backwards for the designated distance.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This one opens up your hip flexors and provides a light stretch to your quadriceps. Get down on one knee and raise the opposite arm in the air as a counterbalance. To activate the stretch, squeeze your glute muscle and lean forward.
This drill begins the lateral portion of the dynamic warm-up. Powerfully drive your knee across your body and rotate your hip to prevent any crossover movement of your lower body. The more you emphasize driving your knee with conviction and power, the easier it will be to rotate your hips. To get the most out of this drill, go 10 yards in each direction.
Quick Feet Carioca / Tapioca
This is a fast-twitch muscle activation exercise. It’s like the Carioca Drill, but this one is all about speed. You want quick ground contacts and hip rotations. Keep your feet close to the ground and lift them off the ground as quickly as possible. Perform for 10 yards in each direction.
Prone Calf Stretch
The Prone Calf Stretch adds several benefits to a warm-up. Not only does it stretch out your calves, it also engages your wrists and shoulders. Get on all fours and point your butt up to the sky. Pump each of your feet to create a light stretch in your calf muscles. Push your heel to the ground with each pump. Don’t push this stretch too far past discomfort, just to the point where you feel a nice stretch in your calves.
Walking Lunge with a Twist
During this stretch, anchor your lead foot in the ground and twist your torso across your lead leg. This exercise is great for warming up your core, hip flexors and knees—and for increasing your range of motion. Lunges bring many benefits, so they are highly appropriate in your warm-up.
Reverse Lunge with a Reach
Like the Walking Lunge with a Twist, except an Overhead Reach replaces the Twist. It shares many of the same benefits as its counterpart, but the Overhead Reach provides a deeper stretch in your hip flexors and quadriceps.
To conclude this warm-up, run two 20-yard sprints, the first at at a pace of 65% and the second at a pace of 75-80%.
Congratulations! You have just completed a very efficient dynamic warm-up, designed to deliver a proper warm-up to your whole body and get you primed and ready to compete.