Soccer Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Soccer stretches to improve your performance and do away with soccer injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 14, 2010 | Updated November 13, 2018
Are you following a well-organized and customized soccer training program? Is it working for you? If you want to improve your performance and reduce the chance of injuries, then it is time to incorporate a series of comprehensive soccer stretches into your daily training schedule.
Muscles used in Soccer
Soccer requires agility, endurance and speed. It is crucial to keep your leg and foot muscles conditioned to achieve success in soccer. Soccer performance also heavily depends on the core muscles of the stomach and back. Apart from muscles of the feet, the following muscles have an important function in soccer:
- Abdomen: Rectus Abdominis
- Back: Latissimus Dorsi and Teres Major
- Sides: External and Internal Obliques
- Quadriceps: Intermedius, Medialis, Rectus Femoris and Vastus Lateralis
- Hip flexor/rotator: Iliopsoas and Sartorius
- Groin: Adductor Brevis, Longus and Magnus, Gracilis
- Buttock: Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus
- Hamstring: Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus and Biceps Femoris
- Calf: Gastrocnemius, Soleus
The hamstring muscles are among the most frequently injured muscles in soccer. Regular soccer stretches will help to improve the flexibility and range of motion in the lower back, hamstrings and calves.
Most Common Soccer Injuries
Soccer injuries may be categorized as either chronic (overuse) or acute (traumatic). Chronic injuries are frequently caused by excessive stress to muscles, joints and soft tissues over an extended period of time. Initial symptoms may include nagging ache or pain, but can progress to debilitating injury if not properly attended to, including allowing adequate healing time. Acute injuries by contrast usually involve sudden, sharp, in severe cases, excruciating pain. Most common injuries include:
- Ankle Sprains: Involving the stretching or tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint – the most common ankle injury.
- Achilles Tendonitis: an overuse injury causing pain to the back of the ankle. While generally not serious, failure to address the injury can lead to rupture of the Achilles tendon.
- Pulled Groin: common soccer injury caused by overstretching of the groin (adductor) muscle. A groin pull or strain occurs when the muscles of the inner thigh are stretched beyond their limits.
- Concussion: due to a sudden traumatic impact or blow to the head.
- Hamstring Strain, Pull, or Tear: one of the most common injuries for soccer, ranging in severity from minor strain to complete rupture of these muscles, located at the back of the thigh.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome: characterized by pain on the outside or lateral portion of the knee.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) injuries: both common afflictions of the knee, often caused by frequent starts and stops.
- Torn Knee Cartilage (Meniscus Injury): may result from twisting, sudden impact, or deceleration. The meniscus is a segment of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the femur and tibia.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Soccer injuries may often be the result of overuse, poor conditioning, lack of proper rest or insufficient warm-up. Overall, soccer players require specific, targeted exercises emphasizing strength, endurance, flexibility and range of motion. This is especially true in the case of injury-prone muscle groups, ligaments, tendons, etc. The hip adductor muscles, ankles, hamstrings, and knees are all areas requiring specialized exercise. Additionally, the following steps can reduce the likelihood of injury:
- Never begin play before proper warm-up and stretching. Brief running or walking, stationary cycling, and jumping jacks help properly prepare muscles.
- Adequate footwear is particularly critical in soccer. Shoes with molded cleats or ribbed soles should be worn, and particular care must be taken on wet playing fields.
- Shin guards help protect the lower legs, which are prone to injury.
- Ensure adequate padding on soccer goals, to avoid head injury. The playing surface must be kept in good condition.
- Carefully check playing field for holes, bare areas or any obstructions.
The Benefits of Soccer Stretches
Soccer players are susceptible to both overuse and acute injuries. These include ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, groin strain, hamstring strain, and injury to the anterior cruciate ligament. Performing regular soccer stretches enhances muscle flexibility, which not only reduces the risk of injury but also helps to reduce recovery time.
Increases in strength and flexibility further enable players to efficiently handle frequent sprinting bursts. Even goalkeepers can better make quick jumps and reaches to save tough goals.
Despite the numerous benefits, it is important to bear in mind that stretching can have detrimental effects when done incorrectly. Improperly done stretches can over time cause permanent damage to ligaments and joint. When performing the stretching exercises below, be sure to warm up first and if any of the exercises cause pain or severe discomfort, discontinue immediately. Review my article on the rules for safe stretching for more information.
The Top 3 Soccer Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for soccer; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
Sitting Single Leg Hamstring Stretch: Sit with one leg straight out in front and point your toes upwards. Bring your other foot towards your knee and reach towards your toes with both hands.
Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.
Watch the Soccer Stretches below
Click on the play button below to watch the 10 minute soccer stretching exercises video.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.