The 3 Best Stretches for Soccer
Improve your soccer and minimize injuries with 3 of the best soccer stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 14, 2010 | Updated May 2, 2019
According to FIFA, the Chinese competitive game cuju (literally “kick ball”) is the earliest form of soccer for which there is evidence. Today soccer (or football as it’s commonly called) is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world’s most popular sport.
Played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.
Muscles used in Soccer
Soccer performance 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
Most Common Soccer Injuries
Soccer injuries may be categorized as either chronic (overuse) or acute (traumatic). Most common injuries include:
- Hip injuries, including groin strain, hamstring strain, pull or tear and Iliotibial (ITB) Band Syndrome;
- Knee injuries, including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprain, Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) sprain, Meniscus tear and Patellofemoral pain syndrome; and
- Lower leg injuries, including shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and ankle sprain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Soccer injuries may often be the result of overuse, poor conditioning, lack of proper rest or insufficient warm-up. The following steps can reduce the likelihood of injury:
- Never begin training or play before a proper warm-up and stretching.
- Always allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after training/game stretching.
- Cardiovascular training is important to prevent the muscles from tiring during a game, which can lead to breakdown of proper form.
- Strength training will help build protective muscle tissue over the bones and joints.
- Flexibility is key when the body is twisted and contorted at different angles during tackles or when avoiding a defender.
- Practicing balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- 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, and mouth guards will help to reduce concussion and prevent damage to the jaw, mouth and teeth.
- Ensure adequate padding on soccer goals, to avoid head injury, and carefully check playing field for holes, bare areas or any obstructions.
The Benefits of Soccer Stretches
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.
Stretches for soccer training can increase a player’s athleticism by controlling muscle imbalances, which can cause muscle strain and also contribute to clumsiness, which in itself can lead to injury. And finally, regular soccer stretches can just make you feel better.
The 3 Best 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 of the best stretches for soccer; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Kneeling Hip and 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 and Groin 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 video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for soccer.
These soccer stretches are best done after your soccer training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your soccer flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, March 29). Soccer (association football), In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Wong, P. Hong, Y. (2005). Soccer injury in the lower extremities. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39:473-482.
- Chahla, J. Sherman, B. Cinque, M. Miranda, A. Garrett, W. Chiampas, G. O’Malley, H. Gerhardt, M. Mandelbaum, B. (2018). Epidemiological Findings of Soccer Injuries During the 2017 Gold Cup. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(8).
- Gizaa, E. Michelib, L. (2005). Epidemiology of Pediatric Sports Injuries: Team Sports: Soccer Injuries. Medicine and Sport Science. Basel, Karger, vol 49, pp 140–169.
- Amiri-Khorasani, M. Calleja-Gonzalez, J. Mogharabi-Manzari, M. (2016). Acute effect of different combined stretching methods on acceleration and speed in soccer players. Journal of Human Kinetics, 50(1), 179-186.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker 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 (author page) 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 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.