Last year, I ended up on the treatment table due to a pulled thigh muscle – an injury I incurred in the first 30 seconds after kick-off. Although nothing serious, it was significant in that it was the first muscle injury I have experienced throughout my playing ‘career’, and something that I feel I could have avoided if I had performed a proper warm up.
So, I decided to make time for a good warm up prior to playing, and I would like to share my regular routine with you all.
Why Warm Up?
Imagine your muscles are like a piece of toffee – if cooled, any pressure/movement applied to them will result in a ‘snap’! However, slowly working them and applying heat will make them more pliable, so when applying pressure they are more likely to bend and stretch. Therefore, it is dangerous to go from ‘cold’ right into vigorous exercise, and this is where most muscle injuries will occur.
You need to transition them from a state of relative rest, and prime them ready for full-on exercise. Like the toffee, you need to apply ‘heat’, but this doesn’t mean running your groin muscles under the hand-dryer in the gents. Heat is applied through the movement of blood into the muscles from the increased heart beat and metabolic activity.
This is where the progression of exercises, or a warm-up, over a period of 5-10 minutes comes into play.
Look around most five a side pitches prior to kick-off and you will see that a lot of player’s warm-ups will consist of a few bends/stretches, a flurry of arm windmills and the booting of a ball off the side hoardings (and the odd cigarette!).
However, to get the blood flowing and moving into the right muscle groups, start your warm up with some gentle jogging around the pitch, doing a couple of laps/widths at about 40% intensity (100% is a full-on sprint for your life).
Over a couple of minutes, start to increase the intensity until you feel your heart start pumping and your breathing rate increase. Then you can move onto stretches.
Dynamic Vs. Static Stretching
When you think of stretching, most people think of bending over and touching your toes, pulling your foot up to your backside to stretch your quads, and holding these for 5-10 seconds – this is static stretching.
Although this form of stretching has its uses, I would recommend dynamic stretching, which more accurately replicates the types of movements you will be making during the game.
This involves moving (tensing and releasing) specific muscle groups, rather than holding a stretch over a period of time. For example, I recommend performing some walking lunges, moving from one leg to the next, rather than holding a lunge on each leg. Try to perform a series of dynamic stretches focussing on your quads (thighs), hamstrings and groin muscles.
If after a few minutes jogging and dynamic stretching you still have time and you are itching to get a touch of the ball, introduce some movements with the ball to finish off your warm up.
Pass the ball between you and another couple of players, working your way up to longer and longer passes, and take a couple of strikes at your hapless goalkeeper.
Try to replicate the types of moves you will make during the match, all the while increasing the intensity and speed of your movement.
The Warm-Up Plan
I try to stick to the plan below prior to a match as it brings together these three aspects of the warm up –
- Jog around the pitch – 40% intensity, increasing to ~80% intensity
- Dynamic stretches (click link for instructional video) – Ball work – passing (short-long), shooting etc.
- hip circles
- trunk twists
- lunge with twist
- alternate toe touches
It is important that any pre-match warm up is applied slowly, working up to full intensity over 5-10 minutes. The warm up plan in this article is suited specifically to the amateur futsal player.
For larger sided games, where greater areas of pitch are to be covered and the duration of the game is longer then the duration of the warm up should be increased appropriately.
I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible, to make it easy for you to fit in before a game without looking too ‘enthusiastic’ in front of your mates! Give this a try before your next match and let me know how it works.