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The Art of the Warm Up - 4 Crucial Keys

For some coaches, the warm is a time for them to chat to their fellow staff members, while their players do a slow jog around the pitch, some dynamic stretching, and then into the first drill of the planned session.

But for those of us who want to get the most out of our players, we need to maximize that first 15 – 20 minute period, which lays the foundation for the rest of the session.

While the warm up doesn’t have to be overly complex, it should achieve a few key goals for the players.

1. Raise the heart rate

2. Activate the football brain for football actions

3. Prep for maximum explosive actions

4. Integrate your session theme

Within these parameters, you are free to be as creative as you like. I always try to work the theme of my session into the warm up, so that the players begin to have an understanding of what I am going to expect from them in the following exercises.

Before you structure your warm up, one important aspect you need to decide is if the warm up is going to be

A. Extensive (longer and slow build up)


B. Intensive (shorter and fast build up).

The decision of which to go with will be influenced by a few factors. For instance, if the team had a game or a hard session the prior day, an extensive warm up will allow them more time to build up to 100%.

An extensive warm is also a good idea the day after a day off, as sometimes it will take the players a little bit longer to get going.

Intensive warm-ups are best used the day prior to the game, when a short, sharp session is in order, or on a day where high intensity games (3v3/2v2/1v1) are planned in the early stages of the session.

We want to be sure that the players’ muscles have already hit a full sprint by the end of the warm up, so that they don’t experience this peak muscular stress during the first drill.

A few other pointers to remember.

Dynamic Mobility Exercises > Static Stretching

While coaches used to think static stretching was the best way to avoid injuries, studies have proven the opposite. In fact, static stretching can decrease power output for 6 hours following the held stretch. Instead, integrate dynamic mobility exercises during rest periods and gradually increase the range of motion.

Rondos vs Passing Patterns

Passing patterns are great for extensive warm-ups, but the issue with passing patterns is their is no football decision made (insight), there is only a technical action. This can be beneficial for a lower intensity warm up, but if we want to prepare the player for a session where a decision will be made, we need to have the player make an insight in addition to the technical execution. Adding a defender in a 4v1 or 2 defenders in a 5v2 can achieve this objective.

To recap...

First, determine whether your warm up should be extensive or intensive, depending on the circumstances.

Then, using the theme of your session, plan exercises that hit points 1, 2, and 3 as indicated above.

By the end of the warm up, players should be able to perform a maximum explosive action without risk of injury.

Last but not least, make sure you don’t just copy someone else’s warm up that you found on YouTube.

It’s good to get ideas from other coaches, but they should always be rooted in your ideas and based on your players and circumstances.

About the author:

Matt Danaher is the creator and developer of SoccerPulse, an app that allows coaches to monitor how their players are feeling, find the intensity of training sessions, track attendance, and give players feedback on their performance. Click here to learn more.

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