The Dynamic Warm-up: Five easy steps to reducing injuries

WendyLeBolt-HeaderWe know we’re supposed to run our kids through a dynamic warm-up before practices and games because we’ve read it can reduce the chance of ACL injuries by 50 percent or more.

But there are so many programs out there, with so many steps, and variations. How do we know which one to choose? If we’re going to spend the time doing it, we want to get it right.

+READ: LeBolt: Youth teams getting it right in pregame warm-ups, but still work to be done

Here are the five components of a quality dynamic warm-up:

  1. Introductory movement exercises increase body temperature and wake up the joints. Everything should be performed on the move, staying light on the feet and balanced right to left. I’ve listed them as paired “out and back” trips but you can add low intensity fitness work by slipping a jog-back between each step. (5-8 minutes)
  1. Jog forward
  2. Jog backward
  3. Walk on heel-heel, toe-toe
  4. Little ankle kicks/flicks/ankle rolls
  5. Slide side (facing right, moving left); NO clicking of heels together
  6. Slide side (facing right, moving right)
  7. Slide forward, alternating right and left diagonal (“Wizard of Oz”)
  8. Drop step (backward “Wizard of Oz”)
  9. MARYLAND UNITED WARMUPSKnee up and out, “open the gate” (do as 3-count: step-step-knee up and out; this results in alternating legs)
  10. Knee out, in and down, “close the gate”
  11. Carioca left with emphasis on first step across (1—2-3-4 and repeat)
  12. Carioca right (1—2-3-4)
  13. Step kick to opposite hand (do as 3-count as above; keep body upright: foot lifted to touch suspended hand)
  14. Step and “T”-lean (balanced on one leg, the other extended straight behind with toe down, arms out to the sides in a T)
  15. High knees
  16. Butt kicks
  17. Sprint to quick, multi-step stop (out)
  18. Sprint to quick, multi-step stop (back)
  1. Selected strength and balance work help stabilize the core and lower body. I’ve listed options to add in order of increasing difficulty.
  1. Forward plank/lift a leg/reach an arm (hold 30+ secs, for 1-3 sets)
  2. Side plank/arm over head/lift top leg (hold 30+ secs, for 1-3 sets)
  3. Hamstring – Russian lean OR reverse plank/reverse plank lifting one leg/support leg on ball (start with 3-5 reps, up to 12 reps)
  1. Simple plyometrics (jumping) develop dynamic balance, strength and power.
  1. The USWNT trains at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. on Oct. 19, 2012. Photo by U.S. Soccer.Single leg stance/hop/shove
  2. Basic Squat/ walking lunges/one-legged squats
  3. Vertical jumps/lateral jumps/split step jumps
  1. High intensity movement exercises simulate training and game demands.
  1. Power skips – for height, then for distance
  2. Bounding – running leaps forward
  3. Jog with springing upward – as in heading or rebounding
  4. Plant and cut – diagonal course
  1. Final pre-game sprints prepare bodies to hit top speed when the whistle blows.
  1. Backpedal to pivot and sprint
  2. Side slide to turn and sprint
  3. Run short bursts at 100 percent

Find the FIFA 11+ warm-up program home page here.

You can download the 11+cards (PDF) demonstrating the exercises, the summary poster (PDF) and even a comprehensive workbook (PDF) detailing the hows and whys of the program.

Here’s the video collection, featuring demos by Alex Morgan and Cobi Jones.

If you’re still confused by all these different programs or unsure about when and how to do the dynamic warm-up, you’ll find a condensed explanation in Chapter 5 of my book, Fit2Finish: Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game.

And here’s the Fit2Finish video demonstration of developing a dynamic warm-up for your team: