This article is guest blogged by Jonas Forsberg of YouthSoccerSpeed.com
In this article I’ll share something with you that very often is either forgotten or ignored – a proper warm-up. You see, when it comes to improving soccer speed and soccer agility, we are often so caught up in what exercises, skills or drills to perform in order to get quicker on the soccer field.
You see, when it comes to improving speed, there are some things you need to work on with your body if you want maximum results.
Let’s take an example:
You need great hip mobility and strong glutes in order to be able to really fire those muscles when running. In order to continually get faster, you need to be able to produce more force to the ground, and without good hip mobility or strong glutes, you’ll never be able to do that!
I won’t go too deep into science today, instead, I’ll give you the 3 steps you must follow if your goal is to become a quicker and faster soccer player. These 3 steps are found in my unique warm-up system – The MAP-System – which is an acronym where each letter stands for one step.
1. Mobility (and Flexibility)
Mobility is according to, a little depending on which dictionary or resource you look at, the quality of moving freely or the state of being in motion. Basically, mobility exercises are where your goal is improved range of motion. Mobility exercises to mainly focus on should be:
– Hip Circuits (most young athletes have tight hips, very important to fix)
– Leg Raises (standing or laying on their backs)
– Ankle Mobility
When it comes to Flexibility, I follow the so often used term nowadays – dynamic stretching. Before practice, you only want to hold a stretch for 3-5 seconds, and then switch. After practice, you want to do passive stretching, where you can hold each position for 20-30 seconds.
According to Stephen Francis, Asafa Powell’s Sprint Coach, "a completely stretched muscle is a weak muscle", and there is something to do with it, especially before practice.
So dynamic stretching where you hold for 3-5 seconds at a time, and your goal is only to improve your range of motion and loosen up, then there won’t be a problem, but avoid stretching a muscle passively for a long period of time before practice.
A recommended dynamic stretch to include is "Wide Mountain Climbers", by some people called "The World’s Greatest Stretch". It has a lot of names, but the easiest way to describe is by saying "Wide Mountain Climbers". Think of a regular Mountain Climber, but instead of keeping your legs at chest level and between your arms, put your right leg as far up and out as possible outside of your right arm, hold for 3-5 seconds, and then switch leg.
The reason you want to do activation exercises is because you want to make sure your muscles are fired before practice – that your muscle groups are activated correctly and ready to do their job. As mentioned earlier in this text, the importance of having strong glutes and especially learn how to fire them properly will make a huge difference for a players ability to get faster.
Examples of exercises to use are Squats, Lateral Lunges, Hip-Bridges, Planks, Side Planks, and Pushups. You could do a few reps of each and everyone of these since they all target different muscle groups and different movements. Don’t perform these exercises for more then 3-6 reps per side (depending on age group and level). It should not be like strength training where the athlete gets tired from doing it!
Some people like to refer to some of these drills as Movement Preparations, but I like to think that Movement Prep is basically what the whole MAP-System is all about, and the name Pre-competition really shows what this step is about – the final step for getting the players ready for competition.
So in this phase you’ll do some:
– Heel Walk
– Toe Walk
– Side Shuffling
– Frankenstein Kicks
– 1-leg Hops, etc.
As a last part in this phase, place all the players along the side line and perform different quickness drills to really get their nervous system going and improve their soccer footwork. Drills includes quick feet over the line (back and forth), side jumps, etc. Important to remember is that these drills are being performed with low and quick contact, so the players should go as fast as they possible can for 3-7 seconds per rep.
After these 3 steps, the players have increased their core temperature, their muscles are warm and loosen up, and their nervous system has turned on. They are now basically ready to go into full contact exercises.
So the importance of getting the players prepared for practice is really what matters in terms of speed improvement.
If you can keep your players on the pitch instead of off the pitch, don’t you think they’ll get both faster and better overall soccer players? Of course they will.
NOTE: The MAP-System should take between 7-15 minutes to go through.
About The Author
Jonas Forsberg is a Swedish Soccer Speed Coach who helps soccer players to improve their soccer specific speed, without making it too complicated. Visit The Soccer Speed Blog for more info!