ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Recovery and Performance: Best Stretches for Soccer Players

Recovery and Performance: Best Stretches for Soccer Players

Reading Time: 5 minutes 10 seconds


Date: 2022-04-15

If you play a sport, warming up and cooling down are essential to performance. Implementing stretching routines decreases injury risk. Flexibility can be achieved through different types of stretching. This includes two popular stretches: static stretching and dynamic stretching.

Static stretching refers to holding a stretching position for a time with no movement. Static stretches should be performed at the end of a workout. Dynamic stretching involves movement-based stretching. This involves active movement for muscles and joints. Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching should be performed prior to a workout. This often serves as a warm-up routine for soccer players.

Other types of stretching, like ballistic stretching, are less common. Ballistic stretching utilizes a bouncing method and involves quick movements for momentum-based stretching. The goal of ballistic stretching is to stretch a muscle through a further range of motion. This type of stretching should only be considered if recommended by a physical therapist. 

Soccer players are required to be strong, agile, conditioned, and flexible. As an athlete, a stretching routine determines these sports requirements. A proper stretching program can benefit muscle recovery and strength improvements. Maximize your workouts with a proper warm-up and cool down routine with these stretches. 

The Importance of Stretching for Soccer Players

Muscle injuries are common at all levels of soccer. Maintaining flexibility is an important aspect of the sport. Soccer players must focus on leg muscles due to a high amount of running on the field. This includes tackling and striking the ball constantly in many planes of motion. 

Stretching is important not just for flexibility, but also for joint strength and health. Lack of stretching leads to muscles shortening and becoming tight. This decreases muscle activity and weakens performance. Improving range of motion leads to greater performance on the field. Stretching frequently helps increase range of motion by increasing blood flow to working muscles. Be sure to not lock out your joints when stretching. 

Use dynamic stretches prior to a workout to warm up and static stretching at the end of each workout to cool down. Stretching can also be performed at any time during the day. Aim to complete 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching and another 5-10 minutes of static stretching to cool down. On rest days, you can benefit from stretching for up to 10 minutes. This helps reduce muscle tightness and soreness.

Dynamic Stretches for Soccer Players

Dynamic stretches are active movements. This type of stretching is best performed before a workout. It will help prime the body for exercise movement. Dynamic stretching helps loosen muscles and promote blood flow without holding a stretch in one position. Try this dynamic stretching routine for your pre-workout warm-up. 

#1 World's Greatest Stretch

In a high plank position, bring your right leg up next to your right hand. Keep both hands on the ground with your left leg extended back. Lower your hips towards the floor and stretch your hips and groin. Intensify the stretch by reaching your right hand up towards the ceiling. At the same time, rotate your body towards the right leg and look towards the ceiling.  

#2 Hip Circles

Get into a quadruped position or on all-fours on the ground. Begin by gently swinging your right leg outwards and make small circles. Perform reps on both legs moving in the forward and backward direction. Repeat on both sides. 

#3 Skipping Arm Swings

Start in the standing position. Begin skipping for a set distance. As you skip, swing your arms across each other in front of the body. They should swing up and over one another as if you were giving yourself a hug. As you reach the set distance, skip in the reverse direction and continue swinging your arms in and out. 

#4 Lunge with a Twist 

Take a step forward while dropping your back knee towards the ground. Pause as your knee reaches right above the ground. Rotate your torso to the right and left. Then use the front leg to push and stand back up. Repeat for a set distance while rotating legs each step. 

#5 Leg Swings

Hold onto a secure object to balance on one leg. Swing your opposite leg back and forth across the body. This is an effective lower-body warm-up to target the adductors and abductors. Repeat on both legs for time. 

#6 High Kicks

Kick your right leg up as high as you can. At the same time reach your left arm out in front of your body. Keep your leg straight and extend your opposite arm out for your toes to hit your hand. Alternate each side as you walk for a set distance. This will warm up and loosen the posterior chain, mainly the hamstrings. 

Static Stretches for Soccer Players

The goal of static stretching is to hold a stretch as far as you can for 15 to 30 seconds. Static stretching is best after a workout. This is because the body is warm and has adequate blood flow. Try this static stretching routine for your post-workout cool down stretch. 

#1   Kneeling Hip Stretch

Start in a half-kneeling position with your right foot out in front of you. Rest your left knee on the ground with the top of your foot facing down. Push your pelvis forward and allow your hips on the left side to stretch. Repeat on both sides.  

#2 Seated Hamstring Stretch

In the seated position, extend both legs out in front of the body. Lean forward and reach with your arms for both feet. Fold your body in half and hold for a specified time. You can also bring one leg to rest on the inside of the opposite leg. This allows you to stretch one leg at a time. 

#3 Lying Glute Stretch

Lie flat on your back and bring one knee into your chest. Place your hands on the top of your leg right below your knee. Pull your leg farther into your body to stretch your glute. Hold on each leg for time. Repeat as needed. 

#4 Standing Quad Stretch

In a standing position, bring your right foot up behind your body. Grab the top of your foot with your right hand and pull your leg towards your glutes. Hold while you stand up straight and stretch your quad on each leg.

#5 Lateral Lunge Stretch

Spread your feet wider than hip-width or as wide as you can. Lean to the left side so your left leg bends. You should be in a lateral lunge position with your right leg straight. As you lean to the left, push your hips back to stretch the hamstrings, hips, and groin region. 

#6 Wall Calf Stretch

Place both hands on a wall in front of you. Position your left leg in front of you as close to the wall as possible. Bring your right foot away from the wall until you can barely reach your heel to the ground. Now push your right heel towards the ground, stretching out the calf. Switch and repeat on the opposite leg. 

Performing regular soccer stretches improves a player's flexibility. This, in turn, will reduce injury risk and improve recovery time. Soccer players can expect to see an increase in strength, speed, and body control. Stretching is crucial to help prevent muscle strain and improve performance. 

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