Warm-Up Exercises for Soccer to Reduce Knee Injuries

Sydney Leroux of the U.S. women's team warms up.
i Stanley Chou/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

It’s fun to fly the coop to play soccer, but not so cool to return to the Nest with a bag of ice on your banged-up knee. Knee injuries tend to plague female players, with multiple members of the U.S. national women’s team, for example, undergoing surgeries -- sometimes more than one -- for torn anterior cruciate ligaments. You can stay away from the surgeon and prepare your knees for the rigors of soccer with 20 minutes of warm-up exercises.

First Six Running Exercises

    FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, recommends a set of 15 warm-up exercises to protect your knees. For the first six, you run across the width of the field. Run straight across and back, and then repeat swinging your knee up and out to open your hip, followed by a round-trip where you reverse the motion to swing your knee up and in as you run. Buddy up with a teammate and run cross field and back, circling each other, and then run with jumps every 10 yards to bump shoulders, taking care to land gently. Amp up the speed by sprinting facing forward across the field and then backward on your return.

Middle Six Warm-up Exercises

    Switch your focus to core work for the next group of knee-protection warm-ups; a strong core helps you land safely after jumping and avoid injury. Perform regular planks and side planks -- three repetitions of each. Pair off again with a partner to perform a partner-assisted hamstring drop. Kneel with your arms crossed in front of your chest. Have your buddy hold you down by pressing on your calves. Lower yourself to the ground, extending your hands to cushion your drop, and raise back up by enlisting your glutes and hamstrings, as well as a slight pushup, for three to five reps. Next, hold the ball in a single-leg stance, followed by squats with toe raises and vertical jumps.

Final Three Running Exercises

    It’s back to running across the field to finish your warm-up. Run at about 80 percent of your maximum across and back, then run with high bounds for another round-trip. Conclude with jogging a few steps, planting your foot and cutting to change direction, FIFA recommends. Sprint, decelerate and plant again. This final exercise may be the most crucial one, as correct deceleration plays an important role in avoiding injuries.

For Intermediate and Advanced Players

    As you become more proficient, you can up the challenge of warm-up exercises seven through 12. Alternating leg lifts makes the regular plank more difficult, as does raising and lowering your hip while performing the side plank. Work up to a full minute of a partner-assisted hamstring drop. Add a ball throw to your single-leg stance, performing walking lunges and jump laterally. FIFA also recommends tweaks for advanced players, who can add leg lifts to the planks, single-leg stances while pushing your partner’s shoulder, one-legged squats and box jumps.

the nest