The best warm up for Soccer?
Ever wondered before a game, a training session, how you or your kids should warm up for it?
Generally the way everyone goes about it is doing a few stretches here and there, a light jog around to loosen up, a few ball passes… and boom, ready to go.
Warming up is one of the most underrated activities, especially when it comes to amateur sports and pre-practice preparation.
Amateur and sub-elite players are the ones that cop most of the injuries because of the lesser skill and physical preparation, but also because of the less adherence to protocols (1).
Injuries always come with modifiable factors (habits and behaviours that can be changed or modified, such as body weigh, limb strength markers, lifestyle habits..), and non-modifiable factors (sex, age etc.) that are obviously out of our control.
A warm up is one of those “modifiable factors”: you skip it or do it wrong and the risk of injuries goes up.
According to a recent randomized control trial (2) with pre-adolescent soccer players, the teams who had the highest adherence to neuromuscular warm up were also the ones with fewer injuries.
However, adopting the “stretch and jog” strategy is probably not the best way to go about it; warming up is much more than that, especially in invasion sports, where collisions are an added element of risk.
We should not forget the CNS (Central Nervous System) activation, the stability and mobility of the main joints, the landing mechanic, just to name a few,
But how do we fit all this stuff when we may only have 10-15min to warm up?
As practitioners, our job is to make sure there is an easy framework for our athletes and clients to get things done!
When it comes to our youth development classes, working especially with Field and Court activities, we tend to take inspiration from the FIFA 11+ protocol.
It is a warm up injury prevention program created by FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre, in collaboration with the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center and the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center to get soccer players ready for the action.
The FIFA+ for adults is more comprehensive; also the Adult version has progressions (3 stages) and has 15 exercises that go through a strict sequence:
- 8 min of Running exercises (generally with a partner)
- 10min of Strength, Plyometric and Balance drills
- 2 minutes of more intense running (including some change of direction)
Like with all injury prevention protocols, they do not promise absolute immunity from injury and definitely it is not just about ticking the boxes; it is mainly having the correct technique while executing the exercises. Good coaching is a must to ensure movement efficiency and adherence, since evidence shows that it takes around 10-12 weeks, 2 per week to deliver results. A recent systematic review has proven that using such protocols can drop the injury risk by up to 30% (4) in population between 13 and 25 years of age.
And they have a protocol for young athletes too (3).
The FIFA 11+ for kids has 7 exercises and all come with 4 levels of progression.
- Jog and look at the coach
- Skating hops
- One leg stance
- Push ups
- One leg hops
- Roll over
When it comes to the younger cohorts, the aim of the protocols goes beyond the injury prevention; in fact, they are all about educating kids about the available tools to minimize non contact injuries, as well as drilling the habit of using those tools with intent and knowledge.
The FIFA 11+ ticks all the main boxes (Stretching, Mobility, Stability, Activation, Landing mechanic and Running/Jumping) and their posters are well put together for an easy implementations, also by amateur youth sport coaches and volunteers.
Randomized control trials (2) show that it is a great tool for injury prevention in the 12 and under years of age cohort.
In conclusion, FIFA 11+ (kids and adults) is a valid and proven way of warming up and it should not be limited to Soccer. In fact many other field based sports can adopt the same principles.
For instance I use my “adapted version” with the Rugby Team I look after at Villanova College.
Finally, also court sports such as Netball have implemented similar approaches, although creating their own standardized protocols (5) (Netball Smart Dynamic Warm up), and keeping pretty much the same structure.
- Soligard T, Myklebust G, Steffen K, Holme I, Silvers H, Bizzini M, Junge A, Dvorak J, Bahr R, Andersen TE. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomised controlled trial. Bmj. 2008 Dec 10;337.
- Hilska M, Leppänen M, Vasankari T, Aaltonen S, Raitanen J, Räisänen AM, Steffen K, Forsman H, Konttinen N, Kujala UM, Pasanen K. Adherence to an Injury Prevention Warm-Up Program in Children’s Soccer—A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021 Jan;18(24):13134.
- Rössler R, Donath L, Bizzini M, Faude O. A new injury prevention programme for children’s football–FIFA 11+ Kids–can improve motor performance: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. Journal of sports sciences. 2016 Mar 18;34(6):549-56.
- Sadigursky D, Braid JA, De Lira DN, Machado BA, Carneiro RJ, Colavolpe PO. The FIFA 11+ injury prevention program for soccer players: a systematic review. BMC sports science, medicine and rehabilitation. 2017 Dec;9(1):1-8.
- McKenzie CR, Whatman C, Brughelli M, Borotkanics R. The effect of the NetballSmart Dynamic Warm-up on physical performance in youth netball players. Physical Therapy in Sport. 2019 May 1;37:91-8.