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Dynamic stretches before a soccer game or practice can help prevent serious injury.
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Soccer is growing in popularity in the United States -- especially among children. As with all team sports, it's crucial to maintain safety when it comes to youth soccer teams. While protective gear can go a long way toward avoiding injury, preparatory stretching can also be effective. Be sure to target the primary muscles used during soccer to ensure optimal results for young athletes.
According to the Framingham United Soccer Club, a toe walk can be an effective way to help young soccer players warm up for a game or practice. A toe walk not only helps to improve balance, but it also strengthens the gastrocnemius and aids in ankle mobility. Start with two sets of 50-yard toe walks for young soccer players when incorporating this dynamic warm-up. As strength and endurance continues to grow, athletes can attempt longer and longer distances.
Arm swings are another dynamic warm-up recommended by the Framingham United Soccer Club. While there are a number of benefits associated with performing arm swings, they can be especially useful when it comes to improving running mechanics. While standing in one place, cue players to move their arms as if they are running, bringing their hands as high as their chin and as far back as their rear pocket. For best results in this warm-up, young players should keep a 90-degree bend in their elbows at all times, starting the activity slowly, then increasing in speed.
Arm hugs develop range of motion in the shoulders and upper body, making this stretch a great choice for young soccer players. Encourage young athletes to extend their arms out to the sides, then swing them across their body -- as if they were giving themselves a hug. Players should begin this exercise slowly, increasing in speed and range of motion as their body begins to warm up. Perform this exercise for 10 to 15 seconds, take a short break, and repeat if desired.
Straight Leg Kicks
Straight leg kicks can help stretch the hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles of the core. Cue athletes to stand tall and lift their left leg off the ground, extended in front of their body, as they reach for their toe with their left hand. Players should repeat this activity, alternating legs as they walk forward across the soccer field or facility floor. For best results, ensure participants keep their legs as straight as possible and their back erect as they move through the exercise.