The best soccer warm up drills and routine

A soccer warm-up is vital to ensure your players are mentally and physically prepared for the game ahead, an effective warm-up has been shown to boost longer-term player performance. Typically coaches will use a mash of soccer warm-up drills from their own experience and figure out what works or doesn’t through trial and error, with some drills which will negatively influence a player’s performance.

Why would you not want to give your players a competitive edge?

This post is going to give you give the most effective soccer warm-up drills and strategies that will ensure your players are firing on all cylinders come the start of the game.

As a coach, the quickest way to improve the quality of your players is to improve yourself.

The most effective way to do this is through reading, these are my recommended soccer coaching books to read.

The science behind the benefits of soccer warm-ups

The benefits of a warm-up. Click here for reference

There are 4 main reasons why you should perform a warm-up before your sporting event:

  • Injury prevention
  • Increase VO2 max
  • Activate muscles to improve performance
  • Dialing in techniques that will be used in the sporting event.

An active warm-up (increasing body temperature through movement) will lead to larger improvements in short-term performance (less than10 seconds) intermediate performance (greater than 10 seconds but less than 5 minutes) and long-term performance (greater than or equal to 5 minutes).

This shows that an effective warm-up will help get your soccer players in the zone to perform better in their soccer game.

In this next section, I will go over the 4 phases of warm-up that should be incorporated into your warm-up routine.

Make sure you have all the necessary soccer coaching equipment for the soccer warm-up.

The 4 phases of soccer warm-up

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Phase 1

The activity in this phase should be used to increase blood flow, warm the muscles up and increase oxygen consumption while keeping the physical demand on the athlete’s body low.

This first initial warm-up phase should start with an activity that favors increasing the participant’s VO2 max.

The best initial warm-up phase drills would be soccer tagging games.

Tagging games are a great way to increase blood flow, warm the muscles and increase oxygen consumption.

These soccer warm-up drills are fun, and engaging and players are practicing functional skills that they would be using in a game of soccer.

Fun soccer games such as mud monsters or bug splatter would be perfect for kids, find the games with all the instructions here.

For older players here is a simple tagging game that can be set up and explained in seconds:

  • Create a 10 x 10-yard area and divide it in half
  • Designate 2 players to be the taggers in each half without a soccer ball (this is where they will stay)
  • The other players will all have a soccer ball
  • The taggers aim to tag the players in their area, once they have tagged the player they will dribble to the opposite area
  • This process will continue and whoever has the least amount of players in their area at the end of the 1 minute round will be the winner.

Studies suggest that this warm-up activity should last around 5 – 7 minutes.

Phase 2

The next phase is the dynamic warm-up phase.

This phase should be used to get the athlete’s body prepared for the sporting event ahead with more intense and explosive exercises.

It has been shown that a moderate to high-intensity dynamic warm-up can lead to increased power production in children.

The dynamic stretches should be linked to movements or motions players will be using for the sporting event.

Explosive movements would include jumps and sprints (a high burst of energy in a short period).

In soccer, movements such as acceleration and jumping are usually preceded by an activity that involves the stretch-shortening cycle ( the process of a muscle lengthening, quickly followed by the same muscle shortening). thus increasing the specificity of the countermovement jump exercise.

So incorporating counter move jumps and as well as more specifically bounding jumps (because sprinting takes place on a horizontal plane) would be an excellent choice to ensure your soccer players can reach top speed in the soccer game.

The dynamic stretches should gradually build into the more explosive exercises towards the end of the dynamic warm-up.

Before starting your dynamic warm-up set up 2 lines parallel to each other that are 15 yards apart.

Make sure that the lines a wide enough so that all your players can stand in one line, shoulder to shoulder, facing the line parallel to the 15 yards away.

Here is the dynamic soccer warm-up routine I would use (follow the link to see the exercise):

The dynamic soccer warm drills should last about 7 – 10 minutes

Phase 3

This phase should include a game-relevant activity that has similar demands on the body to that of the sporting event the athlete is preparing for.

Small-sided games such as 3v3s or 4v4s or small-sided possession games are an effective strategy during this phase, the numbers may have to alter depending on the size of your squad.

However, you will want to closely monitor your players and the intensity that they are playing because players will find it hard to gauge the intensity when in competitive scenarios.

As mentioned previously a moderate to high intensity is beneficial for players before a game but if the warm-up is too intense and this intensity occurs over a longer period then this could negatively affect the performance of your players.

A good-sized area for your possession game would be a 20 x 30-yard area.

This will also be a good time to ask players to start focusing on certain techniques and behaviors that will help them in the game, such as, checking their shoulders or receiving in a side-on body position.

This should last around 7 minutes.

Phase 4

The final phase of the soccer warm-up routine is the rest phase.

Players should have a maximum of 10 minutes rest before the event and a minimum of 2 minutes rest before the event.

If the players do not have enough rest they will go into the sporting event fatigued, equally if a player is waiting too long before the event then the benefits of the warm-up will be negated.

It is also suggested that players wear heated garments while resting before the event as this had better performance outcomes than just simple rest.

But if the transition from the warm-up is longer than 15 minutes it is recommended that performing a short warm-up with explosive tasks was the most beneficial way to reactivate the muscles.

This rest period should be 2 – 10 minutes long.

common warm-up questions

How long should soccer warm-up be?

A soccer warm should last between 21 minutes and 34 minutes going by the accumulated recommended times by the studies in each phase.

Depending on how intense the warm has been you may need to give players a longer rest period before the event.

Remember to make sure that the timings and intensity of the activities are appropriate for the age you are coaching.

Should you use static stretches for soccer warm-up?

No, static stretches should not be part of your soccer warm-up routine.

Studies have shown that static stretches can be detrimental to a player’s performance and they recommend sticking to dynamic exercises before a sporting event.

However static stretches do have a place in a post-game cool down and the rehabilitation of athletes coming back from injury.

warm-up drills conclusion

An effective soccer warm-up can lead to an increase in performance in soccer players as long as it is at the correct intensity, time frame, and rest before the sporting event.

Warm-ups are also essential for injury prevention.

It is important to remember that short-term performance can be hindered through activities being too intense and/or not allowing players to have significant rest before the sporting event.

This post should have hopefully given you soccer warm-up drills you can use for your teams that are quick, simple, and effective.

Your warm-up drills don’t have to be anything fancy, by keeping it simple and consistent players can easily get into a pre-match warm-up routine as they already know what to do.

As a coach trying to explain a new warm-up routine every week will eat into the time you should be using to help the players prepare for the game ahead.

If you have any other warm-up drills that you use with your teams please let me know with a comment below or if you know a coach that would find these soccer warm-up drills helpful then please share it with them using our social media buttons.

Thank you,


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References used to help write this post:

Physiological Effects Of Warm-Up And Problems Related To Team Sports

Acute effects Of Different Warm-Up Protocols On Fitness Performance In Children

Performance Changes Following Active Warm Up and How to Structure the Warm-Up

Effects of Warm-Up, Post-Warm-Up, and Re-Warm-Up Strategies on Explosive Efforts in Team Sports: A Systematic Review

High-intensity warm-ups elicit superior performance to a current soccer warm-up routine

Acute Effects of Different Warm-Up Methods on Sprint, Slalom Dribbling, and Penalty Kick Performance in Soccer Players

The Acute Effect of Different Warm-up Protocols on Anaerobic Performance in Elite Youth Soccer Players