Soccer training shouldn’t be only about focusing on endurance and skill develop. Though important elements of the sport, flexibility in soccer is an aspect that sometimes gets overlooked.
Look at it this way: The rigors of the sport can have you running at full speed one moment, and suddenly stopping within a spilt second. Your ability to decelerate at any given time without losing control of your body will give you a distinct advantage over your opponent.
That’s where increased flexibility comes into play. When your body bends in ways not accustom to, such as the sudden stop in one direction, the ability to slow down and react and readjust to the play, of course, without coming up injured, is paramount.
Also, greater flexibility can add power to your kick, allowing for further leg recoil when hip flexor and quadricep (a group of four muscles located in the front of the leg) range of motion are at its best.
Here is a list of flexibility exercises to help improve flexibility and thus, may help prevent injuries.
Note: The following stretching program should be performed three to four times a week.
Long Adductor Stretch
Because of the quick directional change, you’ll often find yourself testing the groin area’s ability to stretch. So, I believe it’s a good idea to lengthen the groin region (hip adductor muscles—the adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineus) to allow you to roll with the sudden, fast movement, as well as prevent injury.
Sit with your feet and legs wide apart, and lean forward until you feel the stretch.
Hold for 30-40 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times.
Standing Quadricep Stretch (vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris).
As I mentioned before, increased quadricep flexibility will allow you to boot the soccer ball with more force and velocity.
Intent: This is an easy to accomplish exercise that stretches all four of the quadricep muscles.
- Stand on your left leg, and gradually pull your foot up to your posterior while feeling the tension in the front of your leg.
- Engage your abdominals to prevent your lower back from arching.
Duration and Frequency: Hold for 15-20 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times while alternating each leg.
Hip Flexor Lunge Stretch – Iliopsoas (psoas major and the iliacus)
Intent: Stretch the Hip Flexor Muscles, which become tight due to the repetitive running motion.
- Start in a kneeling position on both knees, next to a wall for support.
- Place the right foot on the floor in front of you with your knee bent at approximately a 75-degree angle and the heel placed directly below the knee.
- Lean forward without moving your back or front legs while keeping your abdominals engaged to prevent arching of the lower back.
- You should feel the stretch in the hip flexor region of the left leg.
- Please do not bounce, as it could cause injury.
Duration and Frequency:
- Hold for 30-90 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times, then stretch the opposite leg.
Lying Hamstring Leg Stretch
Intent: Stretch the hamstrings, a three-muscle group in back of the leg that often gets injured because of the sudden stopping.
- Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you while locking your knees.
- Reach with both arms as far out as you can without unlocking your knees.
- When you no longer can move forward, hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
- Switch legs, and repeat.
Note: You should be able to move forward a little more with each repetition.
Frequency: Repeat three to four times.
Supine Knee-to-Chest Stretch – Lower Back, Hip and Gluteal Area (Parts of the Core).
Due to the constant running at various speeds, the lower back tacks a pounding. So this flexibility exercise will loosen up that area along with the outer hip and gluteal regions.
- While lying on the floor, grab one bent leg, and pull it close to your chest while keeping the other leg bent or straight on the floor while relaxed.
- You should feel a slight pull in your lower back region, along with a measure of “comfortable” tension in the hip and gluteal areas.
Duration and Frequency: Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three to five times, then stretch the opposite leg.
Core (lower back and abdominal muscles)
Your core muscles are the foundation for everything you do in soccer—from running to kicking. Therefore, keeping them loose, as well as strong, is an awesome idea, if I say so myself.
The Cobra Stretch – watch video
The cobra stretch is a core exercise that lengthens the abdominal muscles while mobilizing and releasing stiff joints in the hips and lower back regions.
- Keep your hands directly underneath your shoulders, with your hips down on the ground.
- Then, press up, and arch your body back, with your head gradually gliding upwards.
- You should feel the stretch along the entire rectus abdominus area.
Duration and Frequency:
- Hold for 10-15 seconds, and perform 3-5 reps.
March 10th 2016, written by Jerry Del Priore for Bodono.
Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College in 1991. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams.
Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, which encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what!
Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Jerry is also a Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews.
In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments.