How To Warm Up Before Playing Football

Cristiano Ronaldo warming up to play for Portugal
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It shouldn’t be hard to motivate yourself to perform warm-up exercises before any kind of football match. Spending 15-20 minutes doing so will put you in the best possible position to make a fast start and also reduce the risk of picking up an injury in the frantic early stages of the game. And yet for many of us “warming up” consists of taking turns blasting shots at the keeper for five minutes.

You can rectify that situation by following this warm up routine from Ross Preston, a strength and conditioning coach for Bupa UK. And when you find yourself one up after a couple of minutes in every game you play, come back and thank us.


Time 2min

Jogging across the pitch will increase blood flow to your muscles and bring your heart rate up.

Dynamic Warm-Up Stretches

Time 10min

Dynamic stretching – stretching while moving – before you play football can improve your flexibility and mobility,” says Preston, “so be sure to spend around 10 minutes doing the below exercises.”

1 Linear knee raise

Reps 15 each leg

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms resting at your sides. Slowly bring your knee up towards your chest. Pause at the top.

Walking lunge with rotation

Reps 15 each leg

Start with your feet hip-width apart and your arms extended out in front of you. Step forwards with one foot into a lunge, bending both knees, and rotate your arms and torso over your lead leg. Rotate back to neutral and stand up.

3 Carioca

Distance 10 yards

Begin with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. Cross your left foot behind your right foot, then take your right foot over so you’re back to your starting position. Then cross your left foot in front of your right foot. Continue moving until you reach the end of your planned distance.

4 Inchworm

Reps 15

Stand with your feet close together. Keeping your legs straight, stretch down and put your hands on the floor directly in front of you. Walk your hands forwards slowly until you’re in a press-up position, then walk your feet forwards until they reach your hands. Then walk your hands out to again and repeat.


Reps 15

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Your toes should be pointed slightly outwards – about 5-20° – and your shoulders should be relaxed. Looking straight ahead and keeping your back straight, bend your knees to drop down. Make sure your weight is on your heels and not on your toes.

6 Calf stretch

Rep 15 each leg

Start in a press-up position. While maintaining this position, press your right heel backwards until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for one second, then switch and press the left heel backwards.

7 Leg swing

Reps 15 each leg

Stand on your left leg and swing your right leg, progressing to a full range of motion for both side-to-side and front-to-back swings.

8 Thoracic spine rotation

Rep 15 each leg

Standing with one foot placed in front of the other, lift your arms out to your sides to shoulder height and rotate your upper body from side to side.


“Fast drills are another important part of your warm-up,” says Preston. “These types of exercises are designed to improve your agility and bring your heart rate up.”

1 Mini sprints

Reps 4 Time 30sec

Do these with your team-mates to get everyone ready for the game ahead.

2 Fast feet

Reps 4 Time 30sec

Jog 10 metres, then take as many steps as possible in the next 10-metre interval. Then jog another 10 metres and repeat.

More Advice For Footballers

How To Warm Down After A Football Match

After slogging it out for 90 minutes you’ll probably be ready to hit the showers but it’s absolutely worth spending a little time warming down.

“You should spend around 10 minutes warming down after you’ve played football because this can reduce your risk of injury,” says Preston. “Do low-intensity cardio exercise and stretch all the parts of your body that you used while playing, such as your hamstrings, calves, glutes and thighs. You can do this through static stretching, which means you slowly stretch a muscle for at least 30 seconds until you feel resistance, but not pain. If you feel any pain, stop!”

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.